Influence & Insight | August 2017

Leadership Story | Hiking in Colorado

Since my unscheduled Intensive Care Unit (ICU) stay last November, I have looked forward to again climbing several Colorado mountains. Over the past several weeks, weather and timing allowed for six hikes, targeting the Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range. A couple leadership thoughts are worth sharing. One, it's always important to look far enough ahead to keep the overall goal, or summit, in view. On the first hike of the summer my focus occasionally narrowed causing me to wander from the actual trail to a streambed or secondary path. Only after pausing and looking around did it become clear what I had done. Oops.

On another hike, which started before sunrise, I was so eager to start I mistakenly walked into multiple campgrounds rather than begin at the actual trailhead start. This realization was embarrassing, of course, but more importantly, it was an enormous waste of energy. Once my thoughts returned to energy usage and how best to reorient myself, relaxation and curiosity took over. Rather than worry about a small mistake, getting back on track by thinking first, then acting came to mind. It reminded me a bit of Jeff Boss' Navigating Chaos, whereby embracing curiosity can lead to confidence. Soon I was laughing at my minor navigation errors, restarting at the actual trailhead and using far less energy.

                           Mount Antero Summit

                           Mount Antero Summit

On my last hike, just a few days ago, Mount Antero's summit (the last 500 vertical feet) was shrouded in clouds. Rather than lose energy to anxiety, I was eager to reach the top by reasoning and double checking vertical distance to the summit. This process was both an energy saver, and a huge confidence boost. Reaching the top, it was cloudy but there was enough visibility to see this was the highest point in the area and altitude confirmed the summit via my GPS unit. Ultimately, patience was rewarded on the descent when the clouds cleared allowing a wonderful view of nearby Mount Princeton, my next planned climb.

On my last hike, just a few days ago, Mount Antero's summit (the last 500 vertical feet) was shrouded in clouds. Rather than lose energy to anxiety, I was eager to reach the top by reasoning and double checking vertical distance to the summit. This process was both an energy saver, and a huge confidence boost. Reaching the top, it was cloudy but there was enough visibility to see this was the highest point in the area and altitude confirmed the summit via my GPS unit. Ultimately, patience was rewarded on the descent when the clouds cleared allowing a wonderful view of nearby Mount Princeton, my next planned climb.

The New Alpha | Book Review

"Leadership is about becoming the best version of yourself in order to maximize your positive impact on the world." (p. xiv)

Dr. Danielle Harlan's impassioned work is a leadership course in a book. It's also a very good journal, particularly for establishing and tracking fundamental behavioral change goals. One could easily envision a well-worn New Alpha book carried by an emerging leader to a meeting with a senior corporate mentor.

Alignment | Academy Leadership

Five self-assessments in Part I align with the seven self-assessments completed in an Academy Leadership Excellence Course (LEC). Harlan's Wrap-Up and Tracking Progress are much like our What Will I Do Differently workshop end points and program follow-up Action Plans used for Executive Coaching. Likewise, each chapter closely aligns with a corresponding leadership workshop:

Chapter                                                                                                    Leadership Workshop

1       Demonstrate Character & Ethics              
2       Build Positive and Productive
         Relationships with others                         
3       Prioritize Your Health & Wellness               
4       Develop a Mindset for Success         
5       Psychological and Organizational
         Strategies to Help You Achieve
         Your Goals
6       Define Your Personal Leadership
7       Identify Your Vision
8       Develop Your Plan
9       Execute Your Plan
10     Identify the Vision
11     Develop the Plan
12     Execute the Plan
13     Sustaining Progress, Growth
         and Motivation


Managing a Leader's Style &
Energy Management
Energy Management
Aligning and Accomplishing

Your Personal Leader's
Core Values Alignment
Your Personal Leadership
Development Plan
Core Values Alignment
Your Personal Leadership
Development Plan
Effective Decision Making

This review highlights several specific areas of emphasis for the emerging New Alpha leader.                               

Identity | Your Leadership Philosophy

Influence, rather than authority, is the source of leadership. Regardless of their official title or position, people who strive for excellence in all areas of their lives and who can bring big ideas to life -- especially those rooted in a purpose greater than themselves -- are often the best and most inspiring leaders (p. xv). This reminds us of Aaron Hurst's The Purpose Economy.

Dr. Harlan's defines a Personal Leadership Identity as follows:

• Your Personal Values
• Your Character Strengths
• Your Professional Skills
• Your Interests and Passions
• Your Ideal Success Conditions

Note the Leadership Identity contains some of the elements of a Personal Leadership Philosophy. At the core, both are fueled by deeply held personal values and corresponding passion. We can consider virtue as our values in action. Harlan likewise defines five essential leadership habits (p. 6):

• Show kindness and generosity
• Be courageous and act with integrity
• Cultivate humility
• Be industrious
• Practice good citizenship and stewardship

Feedback | Your Leadership Network

Over the years, the Personal Leadership Philosophy category requiring most emphasis has been commitment to feedback. That's asking for, rather than offering feedback. Harlan calls for us to have the courage to ask for feedback plus the additional value of coaches and mentors. She describes building a Circle of Support of (p. 40):

Inspirers are people who inspire and motivate you to be your best self
Mentors are people whom you can go to for advice and guidance (personal or professional). They're often your "sounding boards."
Sponsors are like mentors, but they're more invested in you, so they regularly champion you and your work and recommend you for opportunities. They may also see you as their protégé.
Reliables are people who are reliable and always there for you.
True peers are people who share similar experiences, ways of thinking, and even challenges.
Challengers are people who aren't afraid to push back and give you constructive feedback when necessary.

Vision | Goals & Action Plans

Harlan's excellent vision board development process (pp. 152-153) reminds us of the Google Ventures Sprint process. Like a Focus and Alignment workshop, we should always start with vision and values. For increased effectiveness, she advises we think of two things [we] enjoy, and imagine what they would be like if [we] put them together (p. 98), especially if one or both are High Payoff Activities (HPAs). Also, chunk out (p. 110) your work - that is, pick the highest-leverage (the most important, timely, or relevant) item from this [your] list, and do it now.

On pages 162-163, Harlan lists a variant of SMART goals:

• Specific
• Measurable
• Attainable
• Relevant
• Time bound

which may be tracked in a Daily Achievement Plan (p. 176), very much like the Daily Energy Audit and Daily Energy Plan from an Energy Management Workshop.

Turning knowledge into action was the key finding in The Knowing-Doing Gap.

On pages 211-218, Harlan describes how in via The Six-Steps to Turn Your Vision Into a Workable Plan of Action:

• Set Your Anchors
• Identify the Main Priorities
• Identify SMART Goals
• Make a List of Tasks for Each Goal
• Note Any Other Tasks or To-Dos for the Year Ahead
• Review Your Fabulous Work

A New Alpha Tip about information sharing (p. 230) reminds us of Stanley McChrystal's Team of Teams best practice that one person on each team should know at least one individual on every other team.

Final Thoughts

Harlan offers The New Alpha Resource Guide on-line, which accompanies the book, and may be downloaded for free at:

Note: Dr. Harlan generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Idea | Couples E2L Workshop

During an in-house Leadership Excellence Course (LEC) this spring several attendees asked:

"Can we set up a 'couples E2L' workshop with us and our spouses?"

What a fund idea, why not? Well, we held the first E2L Couples Workshop two Saturdays ago at a Tampa client site. It was immediately obvious that two of the couples had very divergent profiles: Triple green no red wife - Triple red no green husband & Triple green husband - no green wife. Although my spouse was not with me, I had her profile allowing me to represent one more couple (we're also strong opposites in red and green). Each couple shared stories how they have adjusted their behaviors recognizing temperamental differences throughout their marriages. And more than once, candid feedback revealed that more could still be done. We laughed together frequently, recognizing parts of each story in our own relationships.

We paused twice during the workshop to ask how we could better help our spouses satisfy their instinctive needs, as well as how to approach each other better (expectations dimension). By sharing personal stories, we learned new "best practices" to try after the course. Perhaps the most interesting insight was we are not as good at meeting our spouse's needs as we think we are. We also learned that like the best coaching sessions, genuine two-way communication is required, with candid yet helpful feedback.

Influence & Insight | July 2017

Leadership Story | A Developmental Mindset

Ever have a lunch meeting with a colleague that just makes your day? Well that happened this month. Our Leadership Excellence Course (LEC) at the USAF Academy (there were ten of us - we called ourselves the "Velvet Hammers") kept returning to the idea that authentic leaders cultivate and prioritize a developmental mindset, whereby helping others grow, over time, becomes a way of thinking. All ten of us left that Thursday highly energized and ready to share our leadership philosophies.

At lunch in Denver the next day I reconnected with a colleague who has been through several courses in Florida and Colorado. We've stayed connected, via formal and informal coaching for several years, through multiple career progressions. Turns out my colleague, who has a very introverted and shy temperament, is launching a life coaching business (in addition to her full-time program manager role). Further, she has been reaching out to other professional women in the greater Denver area, both networking and exploring speaking opportunities. Wow!

Needless to say, this was both unexpected and a delight to hear. The more she shared, the more I noticed how energizing each of these new events were for her. The Velvet Hammer group came to mind, and how we agreed to help each other nurture and sustain a developmental mindset. This story is my way of reaching out to our most recent course graduates, as well as many others, as a reminder of the power and service that comes from putting others first. Keep an eye on the partner section of the choinque web site and you'll probably see an endorsed life coaching business partner soon...

The Happiness Track | Book Review

"The biggest influence you can have is to listen to your heart and your highest intention rather than letting the mind run rings around you. If you can do that, the ego takes a backseat and you can have a positive influence on others around you (p. 87)."

Dr. Emma Seppälä, Science Director of Stanford's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, offers in-depth research and many practical methods for creating a more motivational environment - at work, at home - for a better overall life.

Her reflective work is reminiscent of Hugh Hewitt's The Happiest Life and Clayton Christensen's How Will You Measure Your Life? -- challenging the modern, exquisitely busy lifestyle. Seppälä observes: Your weekdays are an endless race to complete the never-ending to-do list before you collapse into bed, exhausted, getting to sleep at a much later hour than your body would like. We have simply accepted overextension as a way of life (p. 3). Not only are we killing ourselves doing this, it's not effective.

Seppälä cites six major false theories that drive our current notions of success (p. 5):

• Never stop accomplishing
• You can't have success without stress
• Persevere at all costs
• Focus on your niche
• Play to your strengths
• Look out for number one

Have you ever worked somewhere with a prevailing culture like this? Or worse, have you fostered it? 58 percent of Americans claim that their stress is rising, and anxiety is the leading cause for mental health treatment in the United States, costing the nation over $42 billion per year (p. 7).

Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina found that happiness brings out our best potential in four concrete ways: Intellectually, psychologically, socially and physically (pp. 8-10). Recall our Personal Leadership Philosophy workshops, specifically that all of our personality dimensions require fuel for energetic leadership. Happiness isn't just about feeling good, it works. In particular, happy, friendly, and supportive co-workers tend to (pp. 9-10):

• build higher-quality relationships with others at work
• boost co-workers' productivity levels
• increase co-workers' feeling of social connection
• improve commitment to the workplace
• increase levels of engagement with their job
• provide superior customer service even if they don't stand to benefit

Stop Chasing the Future | Create Motivational Environments

Seppälä  describes "Stanford Duck Syndrome," where students look like peaceful ducks, but there is a dark underside: the ducks' legs are furiously pedaling as they struggle to stay afloat and to keep moving (pp. 17-18). Sounds like a typical prep school, especially during the college admissions semesters.

"Workaholic" is repeatedly described as one of the worst leader behaviors in Academy Leadership workshops. Research by Michael Treadway indicates the workhorse mentality -- unlike addictions involving alcohol or other substances -- is rewarded by our culture (with promotions, bonuses, praise, awards, and so on) and therefore considered a good thing despite its long-term negative impact on well-being (p. 21), specifically detrimental to health, work & relationships (p. 23).

We're terribly distracted. Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard find adults only spend about 50 percent of their time in the present moment (p. 28), and to be fully present, their study pointed to six elements of a charismatic person (p. 32):

• Empathy
• Good listening skills
• Eye contact
• Enthusiasm
• Self-confidence
• Skillful speaking

Notice each of these elements are also qualities of the best coaches. Or, we cannot coach well without being present and fully focused.

Step Out of Overdrive | Be Positive

According to the American Institute of Stress, a representative sample of Americans in 2014 shows these statistics (p. 40):

• Annual stress-related health-care costs for employers: $300 billion
• Percent of people who regularly experience physical costs caused by stress: 77
• Percent of people who regularly experience psychological costs of stress: 73
• Percent of people who report lying awake at night due to stress: 48

Nature provides us clues about how to balance short-term vs. chronic stress. Firdaus Dhabar of Stanford describes the key to a lion's resilience is her ability (p. 45):

• to quickly return to the restorative rest-and-digest state
• to remain in that state until an extreme life-threatening situation taxes her again
• to overcome the next challenge at full strength

Sounds like a SCRUM sprint, doesn't it? The fact that children and animals recover so quickly from stress shows just how naturally resilient our nervous system is (p. 46). Staying positive is also vital for energy conservation and good health. With just one or two negative thoughts, you can agitate your physiology to extremes (p. 48). And it's exhausting.

Daniel Wegner has shown in several studies that the intention to control a particular thought often breaks down under stress or mental overload and actually ends up triggering the unwanted thought, undermining our best intentions (p. 52). So, sheer willpower is not enough, we need to actually calm ourselves.

The finding that we can change how we feel by using our breath is revolutionary (p. 56). According to professor Stephen Porges, one reason slow breathing has an immediate effect is that it activates the vagus nerve -- the tenth cranial nerve, which is linked to our heart, lungs and digestive system -- and thus slows down the sympathetic (fight-or flight) and adrenal system (p. 58). Does this mean we should always be sedate, or relaxed? No, being calm and energized is not only possible through the breath but it is also the ideal state (p. 60).

Manage Your Energy | Think Energize2Lead (E2L)

Perhaps you have experienced some of the burnout symptoms outlined by the Mayo Clinic (p. 69):
• becoming cynical or critical at work
• dragging yourself to work and having a hard time motivating yourself once there
• becoming irritable or impatient with colleagues or clients
• lacking the energy needed to be productive
• lacking satisfaction when you achieve something
• feeling disillusioned about your work

Seppälä's Energy & Intensity graph is very similar to Tony Schwartz's Dynamics of Engagement diagram. Research shows that Westerners thrive on high-intensity positive emotions, and East Asian cultures value low-intensity positive emotions like serenity and peacefulness (p. 71).

Self-control is deeply exhausting, depleting our energies in four ways:

intensity quad.png

• Control your impulses. Staying on task as opposed to giving up or giving way to distractions (checking Facebook) or temptations (leaving work early to meet friends).
• Controlling your performance. Persisting and giving your best despite having worked an eighty-hour week on little sleep.
• Controlling your behavior (especially your emotional expressions). Maintaining a professional tone and demeanor even when the work atmosphere is hostile and your colleagues or manager make decisions you do not agree with.
• Controlling your thoughts. Focusing on your work despite the many thoughts that pop into your mind. For example, "I'm tired, I want to go home." Or "Maybe I should just quit my job." Or "I wonder if my significant other is upset about what I said." Or fantasizing about your next vacation (p. 74).

If we look at the left side of the graph, we don't associate either the high intensity or low intensity emotions as happy. Negativity is the ultimate enemy of both high energy and happiness.

Get More Done by Doing More of Nothing | Foster Creativity

We believe that the opposite of focus -- daydreaming, goofing off, spacing out -- is to be avoided (p. 97). It's not an accident that many successful and productive places to work have arcades and fun places to exercise. According to a 2010 IBM Survey of more than 1,500 CEOs spanning 60 countries and thirty-three industries, CEOs believe that the most important skill needed to navigate today's complex business world is creativity (p. 98). As leaders, not only do we need to foster the imagination, we need to prioritize it.

Seppälä mentions George Land, author of Grow or Die (p. 103), who found that between three and five years of age, 98 percent of the children ranked as "divergent thinking geniuses." By age twenty-five, he found that only 2 percent could think divergently. This requires a paradigm shift, and there are three ways to access our potential for creativity (p. 107):

• Learning to unfocus through diversification
• Making time for stillness and silence
• Inviting fun back into our lives

Management experts Kimberly Elsbach and Andrew Hargadon suggest that -- for maximum creativity -- you should organize your workday schedule so that it alternates highly focused and demanding tasks with more mindless ones (p. 108). This is just what we've done in our new Energy Management Workshops.

Enjoy a Successful Relationship... With Yourself | Self-Compassion

According to Seppälä our brains have competing systems: one that seeks rewards and another that fears failure. Fear of failure, when excessive, stands directly in the way of success (p. 126):

• It hurts your performance
• It makes you give up
• It leads to poor decision making
• It makes you lose touch with what you really want

Fear of failure sounds a lot like conflict avoidance, and often associated with dominant blue E2L traits. On the other hand, self-compassion involves treating yourself as you would treat a colleague or friend who has failed (p. 132). Dr. Kristin Neff pioneered research on self-compassion and has outlined its three components:

• Being kind to yourself
• Understanding that you are part of humanity, that everyone makes mistakes
• Mindfulness

Some of the strongest and most authentic Personal Leadership Philosophies include statements of compassion and gratitude. Gratitude is a source of great strength, and not only boosts your well-being but also significantly strengthens professional skills (p. 136). Seppälä recommends these methods to become more self-compassionate:

• Notice your self-talk
• Write yourself a letter
• Develop a self-compassion phrase
• Make a daily gratitude list

Understand the Kindness Edge | Be Compassionate

... a self-interested approach may get you results in the short term, but over the long term it ends up failing you. Research suggests that self-focus harms you in four ways: It creates blind spots, ruins your relationships, makes you weak in the face of failure, and damages your health (pp. 143-144).

In our feedback and communications workshops, the importance of making connections is stressed. We often overlook the importance of social connection -- a feeling of positive connection with others (p. 148).

Kim Cameron, goes deeper, defining compassionate practices as (p. 154):

• Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends
• Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling
• Inspiring one another at work
• Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work
• Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes
• Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust and integrity

Does this matter in the workplace? Yes. Research shows that people prefer companionship and recognition over a large salary (p. 160). It matters at work and in life. Unlike self-focus, compassionate and positive relationships with others are associated with (p. 160):

• 50 percent increased likelihood of longevity
• buffering against the health effects of stress
• a strengthened immune system
• reduced inflammation
• lower rates of anxiety and depression

Final Thoughts

In the end, this all ties back to leadership. In addition to becoming more successful, you significantly boost your heath and psychological well-being. Your impact spreads, as you create a culture of positivity that benefits those around you and reaps great results for you (p. 164).

Coaching Story | Manager as Leader

During a recent coaching call, a Senior Program Manager (also a Project Management Professional, or PMP) described the challenge of writing a leadership philosophy expressing a future leader role rather than a current manager role. In fact, during the call she asked from what point of view should her leadership philosophy be written: manager or leader. What do you think?

We answered the question together by looking at her LEC Action Plan, which included providing vision, mission and goals for employees. She also included coaching to develop people, and receiving feedback. So her answer really was both; she's an IT manager who wishes to grow further as a leader by developing others. Plus, she wants to be held accountable by receiving feedback. Sounds like a leader to me.

Often pursuing this path is a bit "out of the box," and certainly seems to be in this case. For our next coaching session, we agreed to set up a GoToMeeting which will allow us to look at her revised leadership philosophy together. Then we can both ask if the right balance of critical IT expectations is communicated within a broader, supportive leadership narrative. Bravo!

Influence & Insight | June 2017

Leadership Story | Networking | Level Up

Networking, connecting with people, or "leveling up" formed a recurring leadership theme over the past few weeks. This started at a high school "AlumTalk" in Land O' Lakes, Florida and eventually reached Sydney, Australia with a number of terrific speakers concluding with Naomi Simson sharing her path toward Live What You Love. What was common with each of these talks? Several things:

• Leveling up usually means getting out of one's comfort zone
• We need to understand who we really are
• Real feedback from those we trust is required
• Relationships are not transactional
• Competence is a given, and just gets us started
• Character and passion provide the energy allowing us to step up
• Curiosity leads to lifetime resiliency as we navigate a chaotic world

Underlying each talk was a strong sense of service, or that the ultimate path, the path of a leader, is not self-driven. Bravo!

Step Up | Book Review

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and happiness." (Viktor Frankl, p. 34)

Michelle Gibbings, perhaps an auditor at heart, offers a highly organized, step-by-step guide for change, both personal and organizational. Her checkpoints are found on pages 3-4, 14, 30, 71, 94-95, 104-105, 116-117, 119-120, 128-129, 154-155, 165, 173, 179-180, 191 and 206-207. In that detailed way she reminds us of Kotter's classic work Leading Change. Mirroring her own career arc, Gibbings goes deeper, sharing that at the core, change is influence and that it is only hard because we make it hard (p. xv.)

A conservative guess is that at least fifty percent of Academy Leadership Excellence Course participants are strong technically and not quite so adept at leadership. If that describes you, Gibbings book is for you, the more technically focused but at that stage in [your] career where [you] know [you] need more skills - of a certain nature -- if [you] want to advance (p. xvi).


Gibbings provides a corollary to knowing yourself first, then others second as part of crossing the Knowing-Doing Gap, the basis of an Academy Leadership experience. Her framework is centered on Mindset, the intersection of individual and organisation (x-axis) & thinking and doing (y-axis), and illustrated (Figure 3) on page 13.

Upon reflection, Gibbings realized she had traversed her own knowing-doing gap, noticing (p. 15)

"I wasn't being hired for my technical skill. I was being hired because of my ability to get stuff done, and my ability to influence stakeholders and manage and motivate behavioural change."

This review offers supporting commentary strengthening Gibbings' structure based on corresponding leadership authors and related workshops.

Know Yourself | E2L | Goal Setting | Personal Leadership Philosophy

Gibbings observes we shape our perceptions based on how things should be, or are formed by the expectations dimension of our Energize2Lead (E2L) profile colors. Assumptions about how things should be -- not necessarily how they are -- creating a gap between perception and reality giving rise to blind spots (p. 19). Extending to the preferred E2L dimension, Gibbings also subscribes we should align the right people in the right jobs doing the right things (p. 148).

Recall the Knowing-Doing Gap recommendation we view the power of knowledge as a process. In the same manner Gibbings cites Carol Dweck's (Stanford) finding that people who have a fixed mindset see intelligence as static -- a fixed trait (p. 20), frequently limiting growth especially by not seeking additional knowledge via feedback.

Gibbings describes three P's: Paradigms (choices), Possibilities (options) and Practices (actions), which intersect creating an empowered mindset (p. 35). It looks a bit like Jeff Boss' Navigating Chaos process model -- taking advantage of possibilities (p. 39) by being curious and open to what is in front of you. In order to expand possibilities, build resilience and thrive through change, Gibbings asserts it will help if you are willing to (pp. 46-47):

1.   Be curious and have an open mind
2.   Surround yourself with people who will challenge you
3.   Manage stress
4.   Take time to reflect each day
5.   Use your energy wisely
6.   Learn from your mistakes
7.   Quieten your inner voice
8.   Feed your mind with healthy thoughts
9.   Don't expect life to be easy
10. Continue to push the boundaries

Lyubmirsky, King and Diener (p. 48) examined whether happiness leads to success, and the causal factors. Their results showed that happiness is associated with and "precedes numerous successful outcomes, as well as behaviours paralleling success." More simply put by Gibbings, the happier you are the more likely you are to experience success (p. 49).

Integrity is frequently mentioned as a core value in our Leader's Compass workshops. Gibbings shows that integrity encompasses two core attributes: Having the courage to think and act, and also being conscious of the environment or situation you are in (p. 57). She goes further, describing how to navigate away from our comfort zone:

To break away from your expectations, you need to know yourself and what you want out of life. It's impossible to stay centred when you don't know your core purpose (p. 68).

Imagine you've discovered your core purpose, and written and shared your deepest values. That's a great start. Now it's time to open up, even to the point of vulnerability. Gibbings offers advice on being open (pp. 76-78):

• Welcome all types of news
• Talk to people at all levels of the organisation
• Beware of gatekeepers
• Take the time to walk the floor
• Invite differences of opinion
• Be open to learning
• Constantly be alert to the weak signals
• Don't silence the dissenters
• Be conscious that undiscovered issues are worse than discovered issues

This doesn't mean becoming less decisive or losing resolve. Gibbings offers her own variation of agility -- agile productivity -- as being decisive, disciplined and determined (p. 80). It's sounds somewhat like like Vroom's time-based decision making model, and should mesh with a well-articulated leadership philosophy.

Know The System | Communication | Motivation | Conflict

In our Creating a Motivational Climate workshop we determine leaders endeavor creating a motivational environment, rather than actually motivating people or preordaining outcomes. Gibbings in like manner informs (via Anand and Barsoux, pp. 115-116):

"Transformation journeys cannot be mapped out entirely in advance. As leaders, we must steer a course between order and disorder at the same time, leaving room for experimentation and divergent views, while simultaneously providing boundaries and key ideas so that the energy can be channeled."

Her conscious change leader approach model offers a context for describing prevailing attitudes within an organization: Accepting, contradictory, apathetic or conscious (p. 121). We can think of these descriptors as potential for leadership influence whereby a conscious environment is likely to innovate while an accepting organization may resist genuine growth.

Another indicator of openness is our tendency to solicit and receive feedback (think of the Johari Window exercise), allowing the emergence of knowledge previously unknown to emerge as insight. Gibbings distills effective, insight-based relationships from the intersection of nature, narrative and nurture (p. 139), which in turn allows us to:

• Motivate your team
• Persuade people
• Get things done
• Position yourself effectively
• Work more effectively with people

If we want to be a conscious change leader, it's our responsibility to create and nurture the right type of team environment (p. 163). Think about McChrystal's Team of Teams, whereby each high-performing team member knew at least one member of every other unit.

For long-lasting and constructive relationships, Gibbings recommends these fundamentals (p. 171):

• Take the long-term view
• Be proactive in your intentions and patient
• Pay it forward and extend support to people
• Build relationships intentionally
• Find ways to involve people and get their advice
• Hold your ground, when necessary
• Be yourself
• Show gratitude and be generous
• Genuinely wish everyone well
• Know when to give up and move on

We all hear about the importance of networking. Gibbings illustrates networking as a thoughtful and sustained process (p. 178) with the specific goals of securing both current and future support. As with effective communication, there are numerous steps which all require attention lest the influence chain be broken.

Of the five strategies for dealing with conflict, Leveraging the Power of Conflict workshops instruct us collaboration (gain-gain) is the best strategy, when time permits. Similarly, Gibbings defines a collaborative mindset (p. 205) which thinks:

• I don't have all the answers
• I'm willing to shift my position
• I'm happy to test assumptions, share ideas and find common ground

This in turn, allows for impact, or how we communicate and negotiate (p. 183), leading to lasting value.

Final Thoughts | Do The Right Thing

Gibbings has certainly traversed and captured the journey of her own leadership arc. We should remember it all starts with (p. 209):

"Feel the fear, and do it anyway."

Note: Michelle Gibbings generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | The Lousy Boss or Peer

In both formal and informal coaching sessions this month (one over an introductory dinner), stories of disrespectful and/or passive-aggressive bosses and peers surfaced. Common behaviors included abrupt and incomplete communication, throwing team members "under the bus," and lastly, an emphatic expression of disappointment or unsatisfactory performance.

Chances are we've all experienced this before, especially since most people in supervisory roles have never received leadership training. Think about that. Imagine you have been placed in a supervisory role, are untrained, and just happen to be competitive with a healthy ego. It's no surprise then that frustration and poor communication may result.

We don't have to accept lousy behavior just because a supervisor or peer lacks leadership skills. However, waiting for someone who has not received training, or at least feedback while expecting improvement in conduct is unrealistic.

An easy way to start this process is specifying requests and securing commitments (or promises). Staying calm, relaxing our breathing, and maintaining a positive attitude of wishing to help can both set up and guide clarifying conversations with our untrained colleague. It's easy to make premature assumptions, especially believing a promise has been made, and that nothing more needs to be done. Bad idea. A quick brief-back discussion, followed up with an email summarizing (and documenting by the way) each request and promise works wonders. When we are doing this, we are serving in a leader role, and over time influencing the behaviors of those around us. Give it a go next time this happens!

Influence & Insight | May 2017

Leadership Story | Living Core Values

Over several newsletters, I've chronicled the formation of normative behavioral statements with a client. While visiting their headquarters two weeks ago, several newly framed pictures were immediately visible in the hallway outside multiple conference rooms. Turns out each picture told a story of their corporate values -- safety, respect, responsiveness, creativity, integrity, initiative, teamwork -- in action.

One of the pictures depicted a specialized helicopter lowering a high-voltage electrical transmission tower onto a foundation in rugged North Dakota terrain. On the ground below, the crew dressed in safety gear and hard hats are visible, tiny compared to the soaring structure. It's message:


The ability to provide innovative solutions for the
ever changing needs of our clients and employees.

One look at that picture says it all: We'll do what it takes, we'll create a team of teams, we'll figure out how to place a tower anywhere, and we'll can do it while following the highest standards of safety. Like Tony Hsieh's story in Delivering Happiness, internal stories of what individuals and teams accomplish every day demonstrate and align their values. Bravo!

Flat World Navigation | Book Review

Kim Chandler McDonald introduces the DACE (Digital, Attention, and Collaboration Economies) with refreshing, interview-propelled stories. She smartly places Abbreviations & Common Phrases before her introduction, for example defining Flat World Navigators as (p. xxix):

Connectors and bridge builders who make and maintain
dynamic networks and business relationships.

Energetically blurring professional and personal worlds, McDonald describes these super networkers as individuals with a willingness -- often an eagerness -- to connect, communicate and explore potential adventures and ventures to share (p. xxvi).

The Future is Here | Uncertainty

The U.S. Army War College describes the VUCA - Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous age we have reached (p. 2), or according to Dan Keldsen, The Gen Z Effect:"

...companies who had been able to just run their businesses as they'd continue to do so for decades, have realized they can no longer afford to NOT take advantage of both modern technology infrastructures (networks, collaboration/knowledge systems, processes) and modern management techniques around incentivization and employee engagement, if they are going to survive.

Think about conflict leadership (the Academy Leadership workshop). McDonald insists we must have the wherewithal to aim for win-win opportunities, rather than the more traditional win-lose model coupled with inflexible business practices and engagements (p. 9). This does not mean profit is bad, rather McDonald differentiates between knowledge assets (KA) and social media where the former has high value and selective sharing vs. the latter which is freely shared (p. 11).

Reminiscent of Aaron Hurst's descriptions in The Purpose Economy, McDonald advances Tier None organizations, or a determination to be part of the growing Profit with Purpose (PoP) business paradigm (p. 13), which is very attractive to an emerging professional class. According to Richard Fry, 2015 is the first year that the Millennial Generation will outnumber Baby Boomers in the United States (p. 21).


The gap between effectiveness and efficiency is growing. In the DACE, knowledge alone is not enough; applied knowledge, the prerogative of Flat World Navigators, is where effective, directed influence lies (p. 27). Flat World Navigators and the relatively new role of the Chief Marketing Technology Officer have similarities and synergies and both go some way to refining and redefining the currently struggling position of Chief Information Officer (p. 26).

TheBoston Consulting Group has predicted that, by 2016, social media will be worth US 4.2 trillion to G20 economies, and to take (p. 32) part:

• clarify the social mission/goals of your company and/or organization;
• align your mission as a Flat World Navigator with that of your company brand and culture;
• be consistent in monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of your ROI with your stakeholders and Endusers; and
• coordinate a plan for communication, which serves the needs of Endusers, including during times of crisis.

We should all consider aligning our social media strategy with our Personal Leadership Philosophy. IBM's Sandy Carter examines relationship effectiveness via convergence, as many professionals are highly engaged yet don't monetize the shrinking chasm between our professional and personal relationships (pp. 51-52).


Two excellent DACE examples are Airbnb disrupting the Parisian hotel market (p. 57) and Uber (p. 62) transforming transportation. Table 2.1 offers a broad list of online tools, tech and sites for repertoire consideration (pp. 65-66), searching for the positions wherein human behavior is the differentiator, not an algorithm.

Mary Adams depicts a very different approach to business, co-creation of value with stakeholders with a very different path to profitability (p. 83). Regarding KPIs - Key Performance Indicators - the frontier is to measure externally. If you think about it, stakeholder feedback is the ultimate leading indicator (p. 85).

McDonald's organizational design recommendations on pp. 87-88, increasing connection and communication, reminds us of Stanley McChrystal's headquarters in Team of Teams.

Jeanine Esposito differentiates between networking and collaborating (p. 89), declaring collaboration as one of the top, if not THE top skill required for the 21st century, with key characteristics (p. 93) of collaborative entrepreneurial and individuals including:

• A determination to do better. Acquiescence to the status quo has no place here.
• A willingness to listen to, and learn from, others who have diverse areas of expertise and experience.
• An openness to communicating both with others in the same department and organization, but also to forming connections outside company walls.
• Cross-department/function transparency, which encourages an open sharing of strategically useful information that can be discussed at all levels of the organization.
• An understanding that flexibility is imperative - this is particularly true in instances when Endusers are involved in driving/directing product or process development, transformation and/or innovation.

Connection | Communication Leadership | Feedback

Paul Keen states his typical customer knows as much about a product as [his] employees do and know the comparative pricing better than [their] employees do (p. 104), and the key differentiator is level of engagement with Endusers. This is the same lesson from our Energize2Lead profiles, approach people the way they want to be approached.

The need for a leadership connection is urgent. Put plainly, CIOs are being told in no uncertain terms by their CEOs that they have no choice but to adapt to the 'digital now, digital first' era -- frankly, they need to evolve and replace command and control 'with vision and inspiration' or they'll soon be extinct (p. 134).

McDonald cites Deloitte's 'Crossing the "CASM" report' (p. 161), analyzing 84 large tech companies. Of those they found it was the organizations serving SMBs (small-to medium- sized businesses, aka SMEs), that 'consistently out-performed their counterparts in revenue growth and operating income margin' and 'experienced less volatility in revenue growth and operating margins.'

Communicating leadership is key. According to Karima Mariama-Arthur honesty and authenticity are the foundation for developing solid professional relationships (p. 163). McDonald suggests determining a list of three key goals you want to accomplish, three key competencies you are eager to promote, three positive messages you want to bring attention to and three points of recommendation you are willing to share (p. 169).

Megan Kachur, of Disney Theme Park Merchandise, describes the need for feedback (p. 18): "When you go through a traditional MBA programme, there is nothing in the curriculum regarding creative thinking. (think After Action Review) What have we learned from it? What are we going to do differently next time? These are the absolutely critical components of strong, creative -- and collaborative leadership: a willingness to take the risk, to learn from the results, and to try again." (p. 23)

Women In The DACE

McDonald's findings mirror Harvard Business Review's September 2013 Issue, The biases that still hold female leaders back, especially the belief shared by far too many women, that they must be 'perfect'  often being their own worst enemy (p. 210).

However, these women are part of what is now considered one of the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs, potential entrepreneurs and wage earners - they are the Third Billion validated in the Fourth World Conference on Women: Women have increasingly become self-employed and owners and managers of micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (p. 216).

The DACE appears most welcoming to women. For example, Natalie Goldman when looking at the leadership competencies required to be successful, when tested across the general population of both men and women, women tend to have more of the core competencies necessary to be excellent leaders (p. 225).


Despite all this disruption, our leadership philosophy will keep us afloat, summarized by Francesco A Calabrese:

Clarity is greatly aided by the equivalent of a
'Commander's Intent Document' from the Enterprise CEO
(p. 231).

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

Coaching Story | Accountability Ladder

Over several coaching sessions, a senior leader described multiple challenges on-boarding colleagues he had worked together with in the past. One of the difficulties seemed to be related to the uncertainty of launching a new division in another country. In both cases, the former co-workers never gained full confidence in transitioning to the new division and ending up leaving. This took well over a year.

The Accountability Ladder came to mind. Listening to each of the two stories evolve, a "Wait and Hope," -- or waiting for behavioral and performance changes -- strategy prevailed for a long time, until reality could no longer be ignored. More specifically, the leader found out that the teammates had privately pursued other employment opportunities and/or never actually disengaged from their prior organization. It's as though the truth was exposed, but loyalty and friendship interfered with facing the real world.

Once the leader climbed from Wait and Hope to Acknowledge Reality on the ladder, the remaining rungs to "Make it Happen" were quickly ascended. There are multiple lessons here, especially keeping true to your organizational and personal values, as well requesting and securing commitments early in the hiring process.

Influence & Insight | April 2017

Leadership Story | Sawa Bona

At a recent in-house Leadership Excellence Course, fourteen attendees shared many individual values and stories during our three days together. Although most of the participants knew each other, one personal leadership philosophy reading stood out particularly.

With a mellifluous voice, we were introduced to the northern Natal tribe (in South Africa) greeting: Sawa Bona, which means "I see you," which centered the attendee's leadership philosophy, as a means of describing the role of a leader. We also learned the customary response to Sawa Bona is Sikhona, which means "I am here," acknowledging mutual recognition.

As we listened to the power of this exchange, and how the theme flowed throughout the leadership philosophy, we were spellbound at the humanity of this wonderful means of creating deep communication. It was a powerful reminder that our role as leaders is to connect with others in a profound, authentic way.

Sawa Bona.

The Power of Full Engagement | Book Review

Several of our leadership workshops (Energize2Lead or E2L, Personal Leadership Philosophy & Setting Leadership Priorities) describe the importance of energy as our basic leadership fuel. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz tell us why via the concept of full engagement,  in this lifetime work which should occupy any leader's bookshelf alongside Crucial Conversations

New Paradigm | Full Engagement

To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest (p. 5).

The authors summarize the new energy (leadership) paradigm (p. 6):


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                


New Paradigm

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


A good portion of the authors' research comes from working with top-performing athletes, who spend a great deal of time preparing for relatively short duration competitions. In contrast, the performance demands that most people face in their everyday work environments dwarf those of any professional athletes (p. 8). As good leaders, we should consider daily our expectations of others and the corresponding energy required for positive outcomes.

Four principles develop the engagement (pp. 9-14) model, forming the book's outline:

• Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual
• Because energy capacity diminishes both with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal
• To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same way that elite athletes do
• Positive energy rituals -- highly specific routines for managing energy -- are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance

After developing the full engagement model (about two thirds of the book), the need for underlying purpose is explored, followed by self-examination (audit) and how to develop rituals.

Engagement Rhythm

Eugene Aserinsky and Nathan Klietman discovered that sleep occurs in smaller cycles of 90-120 minute segments (p. 31), called the "basic rest-activity cycle," or (BRAC), which also extends to our waking lives via ultradian rhythms. We should therefore consider daily cadence structuring our energy management challenge. This could be challenging, since we live in a world that celebrates work and activity, and ignores renewal and recovery (p. 37).

A Dynamics of Engagement (p. 38) diagram helps, recommending both high and low energy (red and pink, respectively) descriptions of fully engaged and fully disengaged- type conditions. Put another way, our daily patterns should toggle between the red and pink squares, while avoiding the negative (gray) quadrants. If we wish to improve, or build capacity, we must expose ourselves to more stress -- followed by adequate recovery (p. 43).

An interesting nugget backs this up: The authors noticed what the very best professional tennis players did between points - they instinctively used the time between points to maximize their recovery (p. 32).


Our Four Energy Sources | E2L

Our physical energy, the size of our energy reservoir, depends on the patterns of our breathing, the foods we eat and when we eat them, the quantity and quality of our sleep, the degree to which we get intermittent recovery during the day, and the level of our fitness (pp. 48-49). This is our foundation and it's critically important. According to the National Academy of Sciences, medical errors, many of them at least partly caused by fatigue among doctors, account for nearly 100,000 deaths a year, more than from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer and AIDS combined (p. 57).

Knowing our (and others') E2L profiles can be a great help, since emotional intelligence is simply the capacity to manage emotions skillfully in the service of high positive energy and full engagement (p. 72). How can we do this? Like Covey's important but not urgent quadrant, the authors found making enjoyable, fulfilling and affirming activities priorities (p. 76). A series of useful case studies (pp. 84-89) discuss expansion of emotional capacity, similar to Flip Flippen's concept of relational capacity. Keep in mind negative emotions (think E2L instinctive dimension) serve survival but they are very costly and energy inefficient (p. 92).

The key supportive muscles that fuel optimal mental energy include mental preparation, visualization, positive self-talk, effective time management, and creativity (p. 94). Thinking burns an enormous amount of energy. The brain represents just 2 percent of the body's weight, but requires almost 25 percent of its oxygen (p. 96)! How can we wisely use our mental energy? Reflection and journaling can help. According to Betty Edwards, the highest form of creativity depends on a rhythmic movement between engagement and disengagement, thinking and letting go, activity and rest (p. 98). Does this mean time management doesn't matter? The authors tell clients clients it is not an end in itself. Rather it serves the higher goal of effective energy management (p. 106).

Recall that declaration of our values is the cornerstone our our Personal Leadership Philosophy. The connection to a deeply held set of values and to a purpose beyond our self-interest -- is the most powerful source of our motivation (p. 110). We should periodically ask ourselves (and others) how much of our leadership energies are focused beyond ourselves. More than at any other level, spiritual energy expenditure and renewal are deeply intertwined and tend to occur simultaneously (p. 113).

Purpose | Audit | Rituals

If growth and development take place from the bottom up -- from physical to emotional to mental to spiritual -- change is powered from the top down (p. 131). Acknowledging our metaphysical side takes courage. The simple, embarrassing reality is that we [often] feel too busy to search for meaning (p. 132).

Loehr and Schwartz describe positive purpose becoming a more powerful and enduring source of energy in our lives in three ways: when its source moves from negative to positive, external to internal and self to others (p. 135). As leaders, we can ask ourselves if the daily application of our and our organization's core values satisfy all three criteria.

Pages 154-155 offer an excellent cost/benefit (audit) chart with the most common (to the authors) observed expedient behaviors along with corresponding short-term benefits and long-term consequences. For example, multitasking may feel productive yet eventually leads to shallowness of connection to others.

We may audit our energy expenditure with the following questions (p. 157):

• How do your habits of sleeping, eating and exercising affect your available energy?
• How much negative energy do you invest in defense spending -- frustration, anger, fear, resentment, envy -- as opposed to positive energy utilized in the service of growth and productivity?
• How much energy do you invest in yourself, and how much in others, and how comfortable are you with that balance?
• How much energy do you spend worrying about, feeling frustrated by and trying to influence events beyond your control?
• Finally, how wisely and productively are you investing your energy?

Positive energy rituals are powerful on three levels. They help us to insure that we effectively manage energy in the service or whatever mission we are on. They reduce the need to rely on our limited conscious will and discipline to take action. Finally, rituals are a powerful means by which to translate our values and priorities into action... (p. 166). Think of all the daily activities we don't spend energy thinking about: driving a car, walking, eating, etc. Rituals conserve energy.

There are several key elements in building effective energy-management rituals but none so important as specificity of timing and the precision of behavior during the thirty-to sixty-day acquisition period (p. 173).

Conclusion | Leadership

It's all about personal energy alignment.

Coaching Story | Active Questions

Since reviewing Marshall Goldsmith's wonderful book Triggers in August 2015, active and passive questions frequently come to mind. Reflecting on this influenced a modification of my leadership philosophy, which now includes:

At the end of each day, key questions include
"Did I do my best? -- At work, at home, and at life."

Interestingly, another terrific use of active questions has emerged when communicating with our son Jack, who, as many of you know, is on the autistic spectrum. Jack prefers routines, and frequently focuses rather narrowly on his current project or task. Transitioning from a comfortable routine to small talk, or an extended conversation, is not easy for him.

Then it hit me. Jack prefers passive questions so much he has actually trained me to primarily ask him questions which easily allow a yes or no answer, allowing him uninterrupted focus on whatever he is happily doing! Time for an improved coaching approach. With greater frequency, active questions now begin more of our conversations, although Jack sure seems to know precisely what has changed, and more importantly, why. His countermeasures include responses such as "I'm very busy or I don't have time for this right now." My latest technique introduces an active question about the area of particular interest he is immersed in. It works a good percentage of the time now, which is terrific.

We can all connect better with others, by using active questions of interest.

Influence & Insight | March 2017

Leadership Story | Autism Speaks Walk

In late December Autism Speaks Tampa asked me to serve as fundraising chair for a one-year term. Which led to the question: What is the best way to make a difference? Has anything changed within Autism Speaks that should be shared? So I thought about all of the Autism Speaks Walk families and teams in our region. They are a lot like our little team: busy families who happen to be dealing with special circumstances... And usually are pretty quiet about their situation. It was also noteworthy Autism Speaks has greatly improved their mission statement and approach to the walk for 2017 - a very good story.

Then it hit me. Most of the Autism Speaks families have deeply moving and personal stories.

Carmine Gallo's The Storyteller's Secret and Ty Bennett's The Power of Storytelling are two books reviewed last year, each persuasively informing us the best leaders are also master storytellers. Coaching our numerous local teams to share their unique and compelling stories about living with autism is the approach I'm taking as the fund raising chair. It's a terrific way to work on my leadership skills while also living our family contract. Wish us luck!

Peak | Book Review

Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool add the terms deliberate practice and mental representations to our leadership vocabulary in their aptly subtitled Secrets From the New Science of Expertise. A central finding: Expert performers develop their extraordinary abilities through years and years of dedicated practice, improving step by step in a long, laborious process (p. 207). Further, Ericsson has investigated stories of prodigies, and reports with confidence that [he has] never found a convincing case for anyone developing extraordinary abilities without intense, extended practice (p. 211).

The implications for leaders, especially for learning and coaching, cannot be overstated. Even the adult brain -- is far more adaptable than anyone ever imagined, and this gives us a tremendous amount of control over what our brains are able to do (p. xvi). Consider the ability to create, through the right sort of training and practice, abilities that they would not otherwise possess by taking advantage of the incredible adaptability of the human brain and body (p. xix).

Peak extensively develops the term deliberate practice, culminating in the application-oriented Chapter Six, Principles of Deliberate Practice in Everyday Life; and forward-looking Chapter Nine, Where Do We Go from Here?

Getting Started | Purposeful Practice

Initially studying how strings of numbers can be memorized, Ericsson found the brain has strict limits on how many items it can hold in short-term memory at once (p. 2). Since his first studies in the 1970s, he has found that no matter what field you study, music or sports or chess or something else, the most effective types of practice all follow the same set of general principles (p. 9). Think of all the things we do routinely, day after day, at work or at home, without improvement. A vital takeaway from Peak is that generally speaking, once a person reaches that level of "acceptable" performance and automaticity, the additional years of "practice" don't lead to improvement (p. 13).

Purposeful practice (pp. 13-22), a step toward deliberate practice:

• Has well-defined, specific goals
• Is focused
• Involves feedback
• Requires getting out of one's comfort zone

Keep in mind, this is just a start, using tools we're pretty used to such as SMART goals, and if we are fortunate enough, real coaching. Ericsson cautions us that while it is generally possible to improve to a certain degree with focused practice and staying out of your comfort zone, that's not all there is to it (p. 25).

Toolbox | Adaptability and Mental Representations

Chapter two, Harnessing Adaptability illustrates the formidable London Taxi Driver licensing process. This offers appealing comparisons.  Like the taxi drivers, the bus drivers spent their days driving around London; the difference between them was that the bus drivers repeated the same routes over and over and thus never had to figure out the best way to get from point A to point B (p. 31).

Through additional studies, the authors concluded that learning a new skill is much more effective at triggering structural changes in the brain than simply continuing to practice a skill that one has already learned (p. 41). This is our first clue to extending beyond purposeful practice. With deliberate practice, however, the goal is not just to reach your potential but to build it, to make things possible that were not possible before (p. 48). As leaders, we may harness adaptable human nature in pursuit of breakthrough performance.

Ericsson also wondered about how chess grandmasters could play multiple games; simultaneously, and blindfolded. Are chess experts recalling the position of each piece, or are they actually remembering patterns, where the individual pieces are seen as part of a larger whole? (p. 55). Rather than a supernatural use of short-term memory, the masters are recalling mental representations. These are preexisting patterns of information - facts, images, rules, relationships, and so on - that are held in long-term memory and that can be used to respond quickly and effectively in certain types of situations (p. 61).

Quite different than routine practice, the experts figure out what they missed when rehearsing. Research has shown that the amount of time spent in this sort of analysis -- not the amount of time spent playing chess with others -- is the single most important predictor of a chess player's ability (p. 56). The importance of After Action Review types of activities, or more generally, daily journaling, cannot be overstated if we genuinely seek continuous growth as leaders.

Moreover, what sets expert performers apart from everyone else is the quality and quantity of their mental representations (p. 62). How do we improve them? The more you [we] study a subject, the more detailed your [our] mental representations of it become, and the better you [we] get at assimilating new information (p. 67). Having a coach greatly greatly helps. For in order to identify subtle mistakes and weaknesses (p. 77), they [we] must rely on feedback from their [our] teachers.

The Next Step | Deliberate Practice

So, let's add our two new tools to purposeful practice, creating deliberate practice. It's different from other sorts of practice in two important ways: First, it requires a field that is already reasonably well developed and second; deliberate practice requires a teacher who can provide practice activities designed to help a student improve his or her performance (p. 98). More specifically, deliberate practice (pp. 99-100):

• 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

Picking a good coach matters. Once you have identified an expert, identify what this person does differently from others that could explain the superior performance (p. 108).

Application of Deliberate Practice | Work | Daily Life

Ericsson cites that Art Turock, when working with clients, requires recognizing and rejecting three myths:

• The belief that one's abilities are limited by one's genetically prescribed characteristics
• If you do something long enough, you're bound to get better at it
• All it takes to improve is effort

It's not difficult to see how these misperceptions could inhibit formation of mental representations. He also finds a knowledge - skills gap, similar to the Knowing-Doing Gap:

When you look at how people are trained in the professional and business worlds, you find a tendency to focus on knowledge at the expense of skills. (p.131)

The hallmark of purposeful or deliberate practice is that you try to do something you cannot do -- that takes you out of your comfort zone -- and that you practice it over and over again, focusing on exactly how you are doing it, where you are falling short, and how you can get better (p. 157). Many of us, for practical or personal reasons, do not have a coach. To effectively practice a skill without a teacher, it helps to keep in mind three Fs: Focus. Feedback. Fix it (p 159).

Application | What's Next

Ericsson shares a terrific story of a deliberate practice experiment in a physics class. The goal was to get the students to practice thinking like physicists, rather than feeding information to them (pp. 243-247). The results: The difference between the two classes was an amazing 2.5 standard deviations!

According to an article in Science magazine (p. 254), in the years after the experiment deliberate-practice methods were adopted in nearly one hundred science and math classes there with a total enrollment of more than thirty thousand students.

When examining much of the training that athletes do, Ericsson found it is usually carried out in groups with no attempt to figure out what each individual should be focusing on (p. 248). Likewise, very little has been done to learn about the mental representations that successful athletes use.


But it is the coming generations who have the most to gain. The most important gifts we can give our children are the confidence in their ability to remake themselves again and again and the tools with which to do that job (p. 259). We should consider Ericsson's wisdom in our roles as leaders, coaches, and as continuously learning students.

A truly breakthrough work.

Note: Anders Ericsson generously provided a copy of their book for review

Coaching Story | A Leader's Energy

This is a tale of two client leadership teams: A senior executive team and an executive/director team, both of whom I met with in February for advanced coaching and team building workshops. Both Energize2Lead (E2L) and My Leader's Compass workshops stress the importance of a leader's energy. With both groups we went deeper last month, hosting the first two Energy Management Workshops.

Drawing upon Carson Tate's Work Simply and Tony Schwartz & Jim Loehr's The Power of Full Engagement, Energy Management Workshop attendees audit and reconstruct a new daily plan based on energy levels rather than time. Together we explore the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual sources of our energy and map them to daily activities. It was a lot of fun, and I could not resist actively participating in the first workshop. Several participants decided to start eating breakfast and working out daily just to name a few schedule adjustments. Look for updates and future stories listing new activities participants have started, and the positive outcomes.

Influence & Insight | February 2017

Leadership Story | Giving Thanks

Sunday before Thanksgiving, about ten weeks ago, I experienced a subarachnoid hemorrhage, leading to nine closely monitored days in an Intensive Care Unit. There's no explanation for what caused it, and multiple CT scans, an MRI, and three cerebral angiograms (over a month) reveal no sign of aneurysm. A clean bill of health was issued just before Christmas after the third angiogram.

All of our carefully scheduled Thanksgiving and Christmas travel plans were interrupted. Client engagements were postponed. Routines and priorities changed and were greatly simplified as my time horizon was reduced to awaiting the next dose of medication and hourly tests searching for any "deficiencies." But that was the mechanical part.

My nine-day ICU stay afforded time for prayer, gratitude and reflection. And I'm quite sure that your thoughts, phone calls, personal visits and prayers all made a great difference. Repeatedly my thoughts returned to our family contract and my leadership philosophy. Mostly I wanted to return home, mentally intact, and recommit my life to family and others. Second, a deep sense of humility washed over me as numerous nurses, doctors and caretakers endlessly observed, examined and evaluated me driven by great purpose and an abundance of caution due to the circumstances.

My deepest thanks to everyone, especially to my wife Cheryl, and for her strength.

The Soft Edge | Book Review

Tom Peters and Bob Waterman,  authors of In Search of Excellence,  consider Management by Wandering Around (MBWA) part of the "soft stuff" (p. xii). Analytically oriented, the pair discovered things they hadn't expected and that messed with their preconceptions (p. xiii). Rich Karlgaard gives voice to such stuff, adding to a growing realization that leadership and success are not solely the products of reasoning and procedures. If we imagine our skills toolbox having more depth and more implements, a sustained organizational advantage may be gained with such repertoire.

Karlgaard envisions a balanced triangle of forces: "hard-edge" (systems and processes), "strategic base" (clear strategic direction) and "soft-edge" (human values and resilience) - (p. iii), and with five chapters examines the principal components of the soft-edge: Trust, Smarts, Teams, Taste and Story.

Consider the similarities between Karlgaard's triad and the Project Management Institute's Talent Triangle:


Note the soft-edge correlates directly to Leadership.

Tectonic Forces

In Chapter two, Hard Versus Soft, Karlgaard puts his cards on the table. Read it first, then read it again:

The soft edge is the most misunderstood side of business. It also tends to be neglected and underfunded in too many companies. Several reasons: One, the soft edge is harder to measure. Two, because it is tough to measure, it's more difficult to attach an ROI (return on investment) to it. Three, most CEOs and board chairmen are not comfortable talking in the language of the soft edge. (p. 10)

Karlgaard declares trust begins with culture and values (p. 11), and companies that develop trust have a recruiting advantage. Recall if we do not understand individual needs at the deepest level (think Energize2Lead, or E2L instinctive profile), addressing everyday performance is at best a shot in the dark. So, how do we do this? Karlgaard retells a Northwestern Mutual top recruiter story (p. xix) who found his conviction and estimates his productivity increased roughly fivefold when his passion was turned on (p. xix).

Reminiscent of Team of Teams and The Purpose Economy, the battle for money and attention boiling inside most companies and among most managers is that between the hard and soft edges (p. 20). CEOs, CFOs, COOs, boards of directors, and shareholders speak the language of finance. To these left-brained titans, the soft-edge looks like a realm of artists, idealists, hippies, poets, shrinks, and do-gooders. It's almost like Mars vs. Venus (p. 21). Ask yourself about your own organization - hard-edge, soft-edge, or hybrid?

In 2005, Dan Pink asked us "Am I offering something that satisfies the nonmaterial, transcendent desires of an abundant age?" in A Whole New Mind. Like Pink, Karlgaard finds loyalty, passion, and commitment are the dividends of a strong soft-edge (p. 21), and that soft-edge excellence is the ticket out of Commodityville (p. 21). So let's consider this soft-edge and take a closer look at its five [leadership] components, and perhaps merge the hard and soft edges like W. Edwards Deming - one of those rare geniuses who saw the magical power of harmonizing them (p. 30).

E2L | Trust

We seem to intellectually accept that trust, and truly knowing others, is at the core of leadership. Yet when we are in a hard-edge board room or a program review, to speak with any degree of straightforwardness... earnestness was [is] a social faux pas that mark[s] you as a Boy Scout or a dork (p. 37). Karlgaard likes to think of trust as confidence in a person, group, or system when there's risk and uncertainty (p. 39), with two primary dimensions. One is the external trust between an organization and its customers (p. 40). The second dimension is the internal trust among employees, managers, and top-level management. Recall the paramount importance of transforming knowledge into action described in The Knowing-Doing Gap, especially how much action counts more than elegant plans and concepts. Or, as Jay Kidd, CTO of NetApp informs us (p. 42): "When information can flow easily and it's expected to flow easily -- that's what builds trust. It's the substrate for all the interactions in a company."

Hard-edged left-brainers take note: A PricewaterhouseCoopers study of corporate innovation among the Financial Times 100 showed that the number one differentiating factor between the top innovators and the bottom innovators was trust (p. 44). Karlgaard, like Comaford, finds that making and keeping promises creates trust, while breaking promises destroys it (60). Further, he believes we tend to anthropomorphize businesses, a very agreeable point when considering the emergence of purpose-driven organizations.

Leadership Competence | Smarts

Karlgaard distinguishes two major components (p. 68) of intelligence: The ability to learn new things and solve new problems -- call this intelligence-as-process; and the ability to apply outcomes of learning -- call this intelligence-as-knowledge. Perceiving knowledge as active -- rather than a static "thing" -- allows engaging questions by leaders wishing to encourage positive outcomes and results.

There's no shortage of labels categorizing knowledge: General intelligence, Multiple Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence -- and all the other types of "intelligences" theorized and promulgated by academia -- and to Karlgaard none of them matter in business (p. 69). Instead, it's about the importance of hard work, of perseverance, and resilience. Call it grit. Call it courage. Call it tenacity. Call it a can-do attitude. We should consider these distinctions, especially when composing our personal leadership philosophy or organizational core values.

Greg Becker, CEO of Silicon Valley Bank, told Karlgaard (p. 71), "when they look for individuals, they want people who are scrappy, who have been through trials and tribulations." Karlgaard concludes:

"...the smartest people in business are not those with the highest g (intelligences). Instead, they're those who regularly put themselves in situations that require grit." (p. 72)

Leadership Characteristic | Building Teams

Karlgaard noticed that at FedEx, the 11,000 Memphis hub employees represent a tiny fraction of FedEx' 300,000 total global workforce. Fred Smith balances FedEx's global scale with an intense focus built around small teams (p. 107) of a dozen people or less, whereby each team member is more likely to care about the others (p. 108). This is very similar to Stanley McChrystal's discovery in Team of Teams.

Diversity Will Fail If It's Shallow and Legalistic (p. 113)

An award-winning paper by Thomas Kochan, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Business, concluded that the financial (hard-edge) case for diversity remains hard to support (p. 114). Karlgaard advises: Stop thinking about diversity solely in terms of categories like gender and race. That kind of diversity is important for societal reasons, but isn't sufficient for higher performance. I've found the broader and more inclusive designation of cognitive diversity -- which includes age and experience alongside race and gender -- to be a more powerful concept, yet underreported in existing literature (p. 115).

Performance matters. Karlgaard (p. 125) recommends letting team members know your expectations. "Don't screw around. Don't be a passive-aggressive wimp about it. Don't be afraid to drive people, cajole them, and push them to find that last 1 percent of team performance. But do it with love."

Goodness | Taste

Karlgaard cites Dan Pink (p. 140) in A Whole New Mind "Abundance has satisfied, and even over-satisfied, the material needs of millions -- boosting the significance of beauty and emotion and accelerating individual's search for meaning." What, then, distinguishes what we do from others? Tom Peters considers taste the basic element that pulls all of the [soft-edge] components together (p. xiv).

We should keep in mind that an integral triangle has three sides; or as Karlgaard advises

But, beware, you cannot skip function and form and go straight to meaning. The road to taste is a long journey. (p. 141)

Karlgaard refers to meaning as the significance and associations customers experience with a product (p. 144). Perhaps this is what led the Google Ventures team to the Sprint process, capturing real customer inputs quickly and before significant investments are made in new products and services. Contemplate the demographics: Nest Labs' Tony Faddell finds new products are 90+ point of view or taste driven, and maybe 5-10 percent data (p. 170).

Developing a Following | Story

Philosopher and influential critic Roland Barthes expressed the centrality of stories throughout culture: "The narratives of the world are without number. The narrative is present at all times, in all places, in all societies; the history of narrative begins with the history of mankind; there does not exist, and never has existed, a people without narratives." (p. 177)

Karlgaard emphatically posits purpose is a hugely important soft-edge factor:

"Yes it takes soft-edge traits like courage and passion. But as soon as you lose that real belief in your greater purpose and fail to sell it, you begin compromising whatever it was that made your brand great." (p. 181)

Or put another way, even a hard-edge data scientist's real job is, or soon will be, storytelling (p. 205).

Coaching Story | Leaders Are Watching You

Ever wonder if sharing your personal leadership philosophy (PLP) really matters? During a series of recent coaching calls, followed by a site visit with an LEC attendee and her supervisor, the importance of sharing a renewed commitment to leadership was clearly visible. Somewhere in the middle of our three day course the client's leadership objective started changing from internal priorities (what is best for me) to energizing, delegating to and coaching others.

By the third coaching session, both client and supervisor were discussing the process of composing a PLP. The Leader's Compass book was shared, and the supervisor expressed the desire to have the client grow into the supervisor role within twelve months; that is, to replace him. This wasn't a new thought, but the timeline was greatly accelerated. There's still plenty to do: more team building, more delegation, and more coaching. The leadership course, and internal reflections stimulated seemed to create a spark, ignited by both words and actions, bringing supervisor and client closer together.

Perhaps the most interesting thing was when the three of us met recently. A mutually understood focus on leadership, and serving with purpose was already established before any of us spoke. Our conversation flowed naturally, and we seemed to know that preparing the client for the new leadership role was the right thing to do. Just wonderful!

Influence & Insight | January 2017

Leadership Story | Social Contracts and Feedback

Upon selection as one of Academy Leadership's Excellence Partner Award winners, a client recently shared her leadership case study. Here's an excerpt from her submission describing how internal communication may be improved beyond personal leadership philosophy (PLP) sharing:

When we saw the impact the PLP’s were having on our teams, Jim and I planned another on-site workshop, but this time focusing on a need that the team brought up – feedback. We did some pre-work and read Thanks for the Feedback and Crucial Conversations. The result of the workshop was a team social contract to hold us accountable for what we learned including:

1) Ask for each other’s opinions
2) Grow our safety zone
3) Solicit feedback

Without authentic, sustained feedback, it is very difficult for continued leadership growth. In this case, an environment of mutual respect began to form during initial leadership development workshops, and even more so, afterward while working together. What's great is that this team recognized deeper communication was necessary for further growth. So we put together a targeted program focusing specifically on improved feedback, with plenty of group discussion, and ultimately, documenting a team social contract. Think of the document as a signed commitment by each individual to take proactive steps encouraging accountability. Now that's an action plan!

Influential Reading | Leading with Intention

...but those who made the decision to be more self-aware and intentional achieved higher-level results in terms of both the positions they've held and the impact they've had than those who continued to operate primarily from intuition (p. 12).

Dr. Mindy Hall's tightly crafted work is a terrific companion and precursor to Crucial Conversations. Subtitled Every Moment is a Choice, Dr. Hall's work aligns well with the three days of an Academy Leadership Excellence Course (LEC): Parts I and II are similar to an LEC day one focus on self; Part III mirrors an LEC day two focus on others and in particular how to communicate and understand people; PartsIV and V correspond to an LEC day three focus on organizational excellence (accountability & coaching) and action plan follow through (p. xv).

I | Know Yourself

Dr. Hall correlates low self-evaluation scores in our Setting Leadership Priorities Workshop encountering the ubiquitous question: Who has time to think about "who they are being while they are being"? (p. 3). Her three layers of growth model (p. 5) remind us of the Knowing-Doing Gap; as both require consistency in behaviors resulting from new knowledge, and that very few translate awareness into action.

How aware are you of how you're perceived? (p. 9) Recall our LEC introductory point that 87% of leaders believe they are good communicators while only (via Tom Peters Group) 17% of corresponding subordinates agree. Decades of consulting and coaching have informed Dr. Hall nearly 80% of those [she has] worked with did not lead intentionally - they operated out of intuition, pattern, and reaction (p. 11).  She retells a story of a memorable general manager: He recognized the impact of his position, actions, and words, and aligned them with purpose (p. 16), further reinforcing that many informal leaders do not realize the amount of influence they hold in their organizations (p. 19).

Eight questions on pages 28-29 are self-evaluation or accountability questions, which foster reflection and positive reactions like the active questions Marshall Goldsmith shares in Triggers. We can go even further and share these questions as part of our Personal Leadership Philosophy commitment to feedback. This level of awareness may create an energizing place like the one Dr. Hall described: "... an energy and excitement in the air. People talked about possibilities for the future. They spoke of each other with high regard. Leaders were accessible, knowledgeable, and interested (p. 34)."

Chapter 11 (pp. 39-41) directly relates to our our truth, relationship & identity triggers (see Thanks for the Feedback) and additionally mentions how we each have stories of ourselves, as we discovered in Crucial Conversations. Dr. Hall shares ten terrific questions (p. 43) allowing self-awareness; or what you are doing while you are doing it, how you are being while you are being it, and what you are thinking while you are thinking it. On page 56 she asks the fundamental question:

"How does this philosophy show up in my actions? Is there more I can do to bring these words to life?"

II | Know Your People

Dr. Hall cites John Kotter - that communication must go beyond just informing; it must excite people by connecting to their values (p. 60). She relates a valuable 360-type coaching story: Her (the client) perception of the way she operated and the way she actually operated were not congruent (p. 64). The client was unaware until the evaluation revealed objective observations and some "tough love" feedback. Are we brave enough for this unvarnished feedback? We should be.

Where might this level of communication lead to? Dr. Hall shares an example of perhaps the ultimate crucial conversation, the story of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (p. 75) in post-apartheid South Africa. What prevents us from this level of interchange? Dr. Hall answers: Far too often when we get frustrated or bored, we opt out -- emotionally or physically -- from conversations that we deem difficult or uninteresting, particularly if there is a point of tension (p. 76). She reiterates the need for courage (p. 77):

"When you have to sense and say what is 'hanging in the air'; essentially, when you read the dynamics in a room and you must decide whether or not to share with candor what you observe."

III | Know Your Stuff | Action Plan

On page 84, Dr. Hall discusses audience [my term] and how to test perceptions by asking questions during a meeting or simply by being hyper-attuned to the conversation. An outstanding Chapter 23, Moving Beyond Functional Expertise, corresponds well with the need for (360 review) transition from leadership competencies to leadership characteristics, reflecting that much less attention is usually given to the development of skills for organizational leadership (p. 87). Dr. Hall asks "How do you impact the culture and tone of the organization? How does the culture and tone impact you?" (p. 91). Her terrific definition of culture is also a reminder of the environmental cultivation required of an effective leader:

Culture is the social energy built over time that can move people to act or impede them from acting. (p. 93)

Similar to the Kotter eight stage change process model, Dr. Hall uses the Peak Development CLEAR Model (see Figure 25.1 p. 94), which actively links an organization to its culture. She emphasizes the number one way culture is shaped is by what leaders model (p. 97). Like findings in our High Payoff Activities from the Setting Leadership Priorities workshop, as we grow as leaders we must focus on who [we] are being (p. 100) rather than what [we] have gotten done.

To do this, Dr. Hall introduces a useful four-dimensional developmental focus model consisting of interactive effectiveness, meeting effectiveness, strategic effectiveness, and execution effectiveness (pp. 107-108).


Like Stanley McChrystal's humble revelation Be a gardener, Dr. Hall's wisdom advises we Be a pebble in the pond (p. 119). She has realized all leadership is personal, and so is the obligation to affect others' lives (p. 115). It is a choice and a decision (p. 127) - bravo!

Additional Resources

Dr. Hall offers continued support with

The Leading with Intention Toolkit follow up tools;
Peak Development Radio - available on iTunes, and
Growing Your Organization - her periodic blog relevant to our workplace.

Note: Dr. Hall generously provided a copy of her book for review

Coaching Story | Promotion Opportunity | Do You Really Want it?

Sometime in the last month or so, two clients encountered significant promotion opportunities. Both have terrific jobs in reputable organizations, one as a senior program manager and one as a chief operating officer. Both wanted to share their circumstances, and understandable interest in growing further. At the same time, it also seemed there was a hint of doubt or unease about what was the right thing to do.

Seems like a great opportunity to slow down and ask a few questions, not just of oneself, but also about the organization. For example:

How aligned am I with the values, vision and mission of the organization?
Does my personal leadership philosophy need an update?
Am I committed to developing new leaders, rather than being the expert?
Does this energize me?

As we continue our leadership journey, opportunities such as these arrive, often unexpectedly or in reaction to external events. A suggestion for when they do: Don't rush to an immediate answer; slow down, and ask yourself and others good questions. It's very likely the ensuing discussion and reflection will present the answer, for all parties involved.

Influence & Insight | December 2016

Leadership Story | Knowledge as a Process

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

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

Influential Reading | Creating Iridium

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership Philosophy & Coaching

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

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

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

"Pocket phones to Handle Global Calls"

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

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

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

Understanding People | Energize2Lead Profiles

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

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

Building High-Performance Teams

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

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

Goal Setting & Setting Priorities

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Effective Decision Making

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

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


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

Thank you Durrell for the signed copy of your book.

Coaching Story | Alignment Rather Than Ambition

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

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

Influence & Insight | November 2016

Leadership Story | Take Charge of Your Development

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

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

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

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

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

Influential Reading | Connecting with Coincidence

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

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

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

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

The Psychosphere: Our Mental [ E2L] Atmosphere

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

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

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

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

Coincidences and Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be The Lucky Leader | Integrate Coincidences Into Your Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coaching Story | Starting Something New | Be a Coach

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

In both cases, it became clear (in my opinion) each client is in an ideal position to share their leadership philosophy, create alignment with multiple organizations, and essentially lead by becoming an effective coach</