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. This leads to an interesting question: How many of us are challenging ourselves, or offering ideas or proposals, to lead something new? It is a fun question, and the more we think about the leadership tools we have in our toolbox, we may challenge ourselves and our colleagues to consider putting more of them to use.

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

Influence & Insight | October 2016

Leadership Story | Create a Positive Leadership Environment

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

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

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

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

Influential Reading | Lead From The Heart

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

Mark Crowley courageously explores root causes of obviously outdated leadership models, with convincing demographic research and proposes we rethink and reapply ourselves.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

Our Toxic Leadership Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Leadership Antitoxins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thank you Mark for the signed copy of your book.

Coaching Story | A Coaching Master

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

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

Influence & Insight | September 2016

Leadership Story | Don't Sweat the Little Things

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

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

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

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

Influential Reading | The New IT

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

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

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

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


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

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

Leadership Competencies

Vision and Strategy
Job Competence
Industry Knowledge
Communication Skills
Leading Change

Leadership Characteristics

Leadership Image
Developing a Following
Personal Ethics
Building Teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership Opportunities

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Coaching Story | Make Team-Building Safe

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

Influence & Insight | August 2016

Leadership Story | Millennials

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

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

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

Influential Reading | Masters of Command

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

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

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

Commander Qualities

Divine Providence

Comp | Char


360 Evaluation Criteria

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

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

Leadership Evaluation | Attack

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

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

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

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

Leadership Observations | Resistance

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

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

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

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

Leadership Observations | Clash

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

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

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

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

Leadership Observations | Closing the Net

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership Observations | Knowing When to Stop

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Coaching Story | Team Coaching

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

Influence & Insight | July 2016

Leadership Story

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

Influential Reading | It’s Your Ship


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


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

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

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

“They” is “us.” (p. 7)

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

Management and Leadership

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

Living a Leadership Philosophy

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

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

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

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

Abrashoff reflects upon clear communication (p. 43):

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

And realizes:

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

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

Core Values Alignment

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

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

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

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

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

A Leadership Toolbox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Coaching Story | The Power of a Fresh Start

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

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

Influence & Insight | June 2016

Leadership Story | On-Boarding & Culture

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

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

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

Influential Reading | Love That Boy

Evolution of a Personal Leadership Philosophy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expectations | Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expectations | Happiness | Leadership

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

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

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

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

Needs & Leaders

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership Transformation

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

“I get it, Dad.” (p. 181)

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

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

Fournier is now living his Leadership Philosophy….

Thanks to my friend Hugh Hewitt for recommending this book

Coaching Story | Enduring Value of a Personal Leadership Philosophy

Here is an excerpt from an email last week:

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

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

Influence & Insight | May 2016

Leadership Story | After Action Reviews (AAR)

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

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

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

Influential Reading | Superbosses

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Personal Leadership Philosophy

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

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

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

“Get It”

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

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

Final Thoughts

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