Retaining Senior Employees and Stopping Brain Drain

iStock_000017440582XSmallMy good friend John Rossheim is a fabulous writer, great person and writes about the most current employment subjects.  I thought you’d be interested in the most recent article he wrote for Monster in which I am quoted on the topic of sabbaticals.  Rather than copy/paste the article here, which is likely a copyright violation but really a diminution of the writer’s original thinking, I am embedding the link:



Abrasive Leadership: Was the Coach Coachable?

This article was first published by HR Executive Online on April 10, 2013. 

Mike Rice, the former men’s basketball coach for Rutgers University, has been plastered and chastised in the media for exhibiting abusive behavior toward his players that included homophobic slurs. After a fine and three-game suspension four months ago, he was fired when a video of his actions surfaced. No one can argue that his stunning behavior was acceptable. Yet the question remains: would addressing his behavior early on have made the difference? Was the coach coachable? Bullying Coach

Workplace bullying is rampant. According to a Workplace Bullying Institute survey, “more than a third of adult Americans report being bullied at work, and 15 percent witness it and are made miserable.”

Sadly, most of us don’t know how to counter the bully’s bad behavior. Oftentimes, the bully is a star performer, making it even harder for both management and human resource executives to confront the looming problem.  Employers frequently don’t act, even though keeping an abusive leader onboard is often more risky and costly than pursuing solutions.

But something needs to be done when abusive behaviors frighten others and create a toxic work environment. Wounds inflicted on others can linger and produce intense emotional distress.

The first thing human resource executives can do is to understand what makes a bully tick, and know when calling in an executive coach is a viable course of action.

In the case of Rice, he had two distinct problems, one of which is coachable and the other is not. The homophobic slurs are a telltale sign that certain aspects of his thinking are past the point of executive coaching. When I read about this, I immediately thought he needs to see a therapist. Coaching cannot help — coaching is not therapy.

But if the deep-seated prejudices are absent from the behavioral equation, there is a process executive coaches can apply to improve abrasive leader behavior.

We are all born with the Threat –> Anxiety –> Defense mechanism, which is the core of the problem. Bullies — whom executive coaches label “abrasive leaders” — are hyper-alert to any and all challenges to their position, success, self-perception and authority — we could say they see each threat as equivalent to being attacked by a lion in the jungle. Second, because they have misdiagnosed the threat, their anxiety levels are out of sync with the threat itself. “There’s a lion about to attack me — I should be anxious, my heart is racing for a good reason, and I had better do something quickly, or else I’ll be dead.”

From past experience, abrasive leaders learned to survive by deploying these same behaviors and will defend against any threats to the way they are accustomed to achieving success. Surely, the evidence shows their behaviors have worked — winning records, high share prices, one promotion after another, respect — so why should they change? Abrasive leaders are oblivious to the impact of their behavior on others. Usually they are not bad people. They act inappropriately in pursuit of a goal or a reaction to a threat. For them, survival and winning are everything, and they will get there through dominance.

Abrasive leaders can change once they realize what is leading to their inappropriate behaviors.

How I address these inappropriate behaviors is quite straightforward — I speak with the manager’s manager, co-workers, staff, clients and sometimes even the spouse or another family member — and ask a simple question about the subject’s behavior. As a coach, I ask: “Would you please share with me your perception of the strengths and weaknesses of Joe’s management style and the way he interacts with others?” Once I’ve completed this task, I construct themes to depict the essence of the misbehaviors. I read the edited comments to my clients (you want to edit carefully to avoid any possibility of attribution, but not so much as to lose the essential point) and gauge their reactions. For most abrasive leaders, this will be the first time they have heard what others think of them. And while the client might disavow what they hear, they cannot deny that perceptions are reality, and this is how others view them.

Once they see the damage they cause, many abrasive leaders will want to change because it was never their intention to harm anyone in their quest to achieve their goals. At this point, they are willing to engage in role-playing exercises to reshape their behavior.

An investment in coaching can help companies restore civility, avoid costly turnover and possibly even prevent litigation. Perhaps Rice is not the right candidate for coaching, but some abrasive leaders are. If an employee is instrumental to the business, executive coaching can help HR executives retain valuable talent while avoiding costly lawsuits and the loss of valuable personnel who suffer under abrasive leaders.



Winning the Super Bowl: Leadership and Management Working Together

iStock_000001066525XSmallWith Super Bowl LXVII fast approaching, it made me wonder about what makes a group of individuals perform as a superb team.

Tom Landry, famed coach of the Dallas Cowboys, said “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you’ve always known you can be.”  And the equally famous Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers said “Coaching in its truest sense is giving the responsibility to the learner to help them come up with their own answers.”

Clearly, both of these eminent men thought coaching mattered to the success of the individual and thus to the entire team.  Out of the separate efforts of each player came a team that worked together to achieve prominence.

Further, in the Financial Times of January 29th an article entitled “Can Coaching Make The Difference” attributes Andy Murray’s success in winning the US Open tennis championship to the coaching he received from former champion Ivan Lendl, ‘who has helped [Murray] to pace his performance and stay calm.’

Coaching provides caring of the highest degree, helping leaders ‘develop self-awareness and recognize blind spots in their [i.e., client’s] approach.’  Clients like Murray develop confidence to ‘…handle better the challenges that come with leading complex organizations in a rapidly changing operating environment.  Coaching helps leaders [italics added] think collectively.’

Which brings me to the age-old question of Leadership vs. Management, at the heart of why good teams, I believe, excel.

John Kotter of The Harvard Business School recently blogged about this subject in “Management is (Still) Not Leadership,” and I think reviewing his points will help us understand why men such as Landry and Lombardi were such superb coaches and leaders over the long-term.

Leadership and management are radically different and not interchangeable terms.  The two perform vitally different functions, though both have critical roles to play.

Leaders are not necessarily at the top of an organization or individuals with charismatic and endearing personal characteristics.  Likewise, managers do not always play a worker or specialist role.  Using these attributes to categorize someone as a leader or manager is a dangerous mistake.

Management is best described as adhering to or executing a ‘set of well-known processes….which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well.’  It is about producing promised products and service consistently across time.  Because it is about execution, management is a difficult task.  “We constantly underestimate how complex this task is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs,” writes Kotter.  Management is crucial he says, but it’s not leadership.

Leadership is entirely different.  “It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities.”  Kotter believes that leadership is about vision, ‘about people buying in, about behavior.’  And because we operate in a world moving at a heady pace, leadership is needed more and from more people, ‘no matter where they are in the hierarchy.’  Assuming that a ‘few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it’s a recipe for failure.’  We need superb management; we need superb leaders.  One cannot exist without the other.  ‘We need to make our complex organizations reliable and efficient.”

And so we return to football, both an elegant and brutal sport.

A football team is composed, as is any organization or team, of both managers and leaders – you have offensive and defensive team leaders, you have the head coach, and you have the quarterback.  Each of them must read the fast-moving changes and adaptations of the opposing team, meting out instructions and directions in real-time to their team mates, who we can say ‘manage the play.’

The team that wins this coming Sunday will be the one that has superb leaders making fine adjustments, empowering the men on the field , and managers who execute brilliantly in the face of constantly changing conditions.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

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Coaching Perfectionists

Last week I wrote about what I learned from Daniel Goleman and Dan Siegel, MD, at Harvard’s Institute of Coaching Professional Association conference.  This week I want to tell you about some other news for coaches from Harvard’s Medical School, specifically coaching perfectionists, from a session led by Jeff Szymanski.  Perfectionism is a behavior often addressed in coaching engagements.

Mr. Szymanski said it is important to keep in mind both the good news and bad news when coaching a proclaimed (or actual) perfectionist.

First, the good news:  “They are driven to succeed, work hard to avoid mistakes and are always striving to improve.  They persist at tasks until they reach the desired outcome. ”  Now, the bad news:  “They sometimes get caught up in strategies with poor payoffs — they are working hard but spinning their wheels.  The feedback they hear can be interpreted as catastrophic or ‘lower the bar.’  It can be a challenge to work with someone who needs everything to be perfect.”

The question to ask a perfectionist is “How do you want others to see you?”  A common response can be wanting to be seen as intelligent, independent and good at what the person does.  Really, this answer is no different from what most of us would say.  However, there is a difference which comes through further understanding — the perfectionist ‘has a harder time rolling with the punches when they have an off day, get a bad review, or make a mistake.’

So how does one coach a perfectionist?  Giving feedback to perfectionists is a tricky business.  So here are some strategies to consider:

  • ‘Be clear about your goals and expectations.’  Because perfectionists tend to set unrealistic objectives for themselves, the coach should not fall into the same trap.  Instead, ‘share your expectations and goals explicitly and directly so the perfectionist doesn’t waste time on things that aren’t very important.’
  • ‘Encourage a perfectionist to share a work-in-progress with you.’  Since perfectionists prefer to show only finished end products, they are loathe to show you an incomplete piece of work.  ‘Working on iterations of a project together creates a sense of collaboration and reduces the likelihood that a perfectionist will get bogged down in unnecessary details.’
  • ‘Perfectionists struggle with making mistakes.’  Because perfectionists lose sight of the difference between ‘a minor mistake versus a major error,’ you can address this behavior by setting ‘clear expectations’ and working together as the activity unfolds. While perfectionists often motivate themselves via self-criticism, it can be effective but demoralizing.  Somewhat counter-intuitively, if you focus on their weakness they will view it was an opportunity to improve performance, ‘keeping them on track.  As a coach you can help reframe their mistakes by ‘highlighting the value of deliberate practice and experimentation.’
  • ‘Persistence is different from perseveration.’  By using the same strategies time and time again, they don’t realize that the strategy is at fault; they continue to execute as though something will change if they just get it right the next time.  “In this case, acknowledge the individual’s effort, but encourage a shift in strategy.”  Unfortunately, perfectionists are not able to see that ‘more is not always better and that if something isn’t paying off, it’s time to try something different.’

Coaching perfectionists is about ‘helping them learn to differentiate between intention, strategy and outcome.  It’s not necessarily about changing their intention and desired outcome; it is about learning to help them vary their strategies.’

As a coach, you want to find the ways ‘perfectionists get stuck and help them identify unhealthy perfectionism from healthy perfectionism, which sets high but achievable standards that lead to feelings of satisfaction and increased self-esteem.’


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The Brain and Emotional Intelligence — New Things I Learned

I had the good fortune of hearing Daniel Goleman and Dan Siegel speak at a recent Institute of Coaching Professional Association conference in Boston.  Mr. Goleman popularized emotional intelligence for managers and Dan Siegel, MD, is a professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s School of Medicine.  Both of them talked about the brain, and I wanted to tell you about some new things I learned.

  • Emotional intelligence is of even greater value among leadership positions vs. jobs of all kinds.  Compared with cognitive intelligence, which accounts for about a third of distinguishing competences among jobs of all kinds, EI acounts for 66%.  But when you segment the data on ‘leadership,’ the figures are now 15% and 85%.  Differences of this magnitude are not just significantly statistically; they remind us that base line intelligence is insufficient for career success, let alone significant accomplishment.
  • Brain activity and performance are related.  Mr. Goleman presented a graph showing that optimum performance is obtained when brain activity is midway between low and high.  At a low level, you’re bored; at a high level, you’re stressed.  He suggested that managers wanting to create an environment of optimal performance set clear goals, provide performance feedback and hand out stretch assignments.  (You might also want to see the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which is quite readable.)
  • The ‘Competency Framework’ is composed of four interconnect cells:  Self-Awareness; Social Awareness; Relationship Management; and Self-Management.  What binds them together is the need to give your full presence and attention and to do good work that demonstrates excellence and competence.  And when it comes to interacting with others, new research demonstrates that in conversation we, as humans, stimulate the brains of the other person we’re speaking to.  “We stimulate each other — it helps us stay on the same page and causes social coordination.  Emotions move from the most powerful person outward,” said Mr. Goleman.  It feels good, he says, to be in a state of ‘non-verbal synchronicity.’
  • Because leadership styles affect the work climate, ‘it is best when a manager uses four or more styles from among these six’:
    1. Visionary:  provides long-term direction and vision
    2. Coaching:  develops employees for the long-term
    3. Affiliative:  creates harmony in work relationships
    4. Democratic:  builds commitment through collaboration
    5. Pacesetting: pushes to accomplish tasks
    6. Commanding: demands compliance

    Which of these six do you use?  I’ve rarely used #6.

  • Mr. Goleman ended his discussion on the competences of ‘social intelligence.’   While you might have seen these before, I’m including them here because they are worth remembering:
    • Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?
    • Do you sense others’ feelings?
    • Do you appreciate the organization’s culture and values?
    • Do you understand unspoken norms?
    • Do you coach and mentor others?
    • Do you provide feedback helpful for development?
    • Do you solicit input from everyone?
    • Do you support all team members and encourage cooperation?
  • Dr. Siegel covered three areas entirely new to me that I’d like to tell you about.
    1. “The Healthy Mind Platter” consists of Sleep Time, Physical Time, Focus Time, Time In (reflect inwardly), Down Time, Play Time and Connecting Time.  To extract the most from these states, Dr. Siegel recommends ‘connecting with gratitude and generosity to people and the planet.  It is your responsibility to be playful.’
    2. A “Triangle of Well-Being” has at its three points:  Mind (includes ‘awareness’ and ‘subjective experience’), Relationships (‘context of our mental living’), and the ‘Embodied Brain’ (that regulates the flow of energy and information).  Inextricably linked, you cannot separate one from the other if you want to feel and be well.
    3. Being fully present and open means we can and will:
      • Thrive within uncertainty
      • Be open to possibilities
      • Cultivate human connections
      • Integrate and harmonize all these elements

What I learned reinforced my belief that the brain is not just a wonderful gift to behold; it also contains so much more potential than we can even imagine.  And that if we use it to connect with others, we’ll all be better off.



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Positive Thinking Isn't Always the Right Choice

Have you ever thought about walking on hot coals and what would happen to your feet?  I always thought not getting burned was a trick.  But it seems some people gave it a shot last month in San Jose, California, and they got burned.  Are we surprised?

In the New York Times of August 4th, Oliver Burkman writes of “The Power of Negative Thinking,” referencing the walking-on-coals event called Unleash the Power Within, led by the motivational speaker Tony Robbins.  According to Mr. Burkman you can really can walk on hot coals without burning your feet as long as you know how — and that is with ‘quick, light steps’ because coal (surprisingly to me) is a poor conductor of heat.  (I’m still not going to try it.)

His larger point — and the intent of my writing — is that we hear so much about our ‘mind set’ and the ‘power of positive thinking’ that it can fool us into believing we can ‘will’ an outcome merely by believing in it.  That anything is possible as long as we think  about it the right way.

Unfortunately, that attitude can lead to disappointment and lower self-esteem when you don’t achieve the expected results.  To cite some surprising facts from Mr. Burkman’s article:

  • Positivity can be part of a larger problem where we ‘might do better to reconsider our relationship to negative emotions and situations.’
  • Using visualization can sometimes make people less likely to achieve a successful outcome because it can deprive them of their initiative.
  • Affirmations such as “I am a lovable person’ can actually make you feel worse if you already have self-doubts.  Such sayings can ‘provoke internal grouchy feelings that you’re really not lovable.’
  • “Fixating too vigorously on goals can distort an organization’s overall mission.”  Doing so can actually lead some employees to ‘cut ethical corners.’  Think Enron.

How is this all related to coaching and behavior?  While it’s important in life to balance the positive and the negative, it is more essential to approach our existence with ‘an openness to failure and uncertainty.’  By facing potential adversity, the ‘sobering picture’ reduces anxiety about the future.  As a manager, you don’t want to ‘stamp out negativity;’ rather you want to be prepared for reality, which means not everything is going to work out, nor is everything going to be a failure.  Teaching these lessons to others is included in the role of an excellent manager.


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Technologists Need Coaches Like Everyone Else

What a breath of fresh air in “IT Careers:  Do You Need an Executive Coach?” by Mary Pratt in the July 26th issue of  Clearly, the answer is yes; everyone needs a coach (see video of Eric Schmidt and a New Yorker article by surgeon Atul Gawande).  In fact, Ms. Pratt’s article begins with an IT director noting a trend among high-performing athletes to up their professional games by hiring a coach.  And with the Summer Olympics upon us, the vital role played by the coach is in even more evidence.  None of these athletes would be performing at their current levels without diligent, long-term and consistent coaching.

Isn’t it odd that we think nothing of coaching non-IT executives, but a separate article needs to be written about the role of coaching in an IT career?

For those of you not familiar with a recent blog of mine, let me reproduce some statistics I obtained while polling listeners to my presentation on ‘A Failure to Communicate.’  I want to restate them because they are a clear indication that coaching could do wonders for the quality of not just IT management, but the business managers with whom they interact.

Is your organization content with the quality of the IT deliverable?

Completely satisfied — 0%
Somewhat satisfied — 44%
Not satisfied — 33%
Somewhat dissatisfied — 22%
Completely dissatisfied — 0%

Is communication between IT and non-IT a concern at your company?

A significant problem — 43%
Somewhat of a problem — 36%
A minor issue — 14%
Not an issue — 7%

What are the causes of the two groups not communicating? (More than one response was allowable.)

Businesses not integrated — 50%
No joint planning or goals — 88%
Strategies not aligned — 18%
Groups now sure how to speak to each other — 89%
Ineffective governance — 37%

Does your organization coach technologists?

Frequently — 0%
Infrequently — 50%
Never — 50%

Can you imagine such dismal headlines in any other function within the organization?  Why does management allow this dysfunction to continue in technology?   The money being wasted is significant.  Coaching technologists appears to be an afterthought.  A bit of coaching would have a significant impact on ROI.

Here are some highlights from Ms. Pratt’s article:

“IT professionals haven’t engaged such services [i.e., coaching] at the same pace as other senior managers…but that is changing as tech executives and their companies see that IT can gain as much from coaching as the others in the C suite.”  I would add that the returns on investment can be even higher as the failure/disappointment rate of technology projects is very high relative to other internal activities and capital and labor tend to be high too.

“In fact, IT leaders may even benefit more, particularly those who rise through the ranks on the strength of their technical expertise rather than their management experience.”  This area is a terrific opportunity for transition coaching and the coaching of soft skills and creating executive presence.

“As CIO demand for coaching services increases, they’re able to engage coaches who have experience in either IT management or coaching IT leaders.”  From my experience, coaching technologists is different because their engineering and scientific approaches and training are ‘hard’ vs. the skills of management which tend to be more art than science.

Technologists might balk at coaching because it seems esoteric, whereas their world is obvious and familiar.  In fact, a good coach can demonstrate results and improvements which are quite tangible and immediately applicable. For example, establishing solid and comfortable relationships with ‘your peers, your superiors, your subordinates’ lead to ‘better service and [they can then] recognize IT as a top organization — those are tangible.’

We all know that coaching is a ‘perk, not a punishment’ and that success at the individual level depends upon the client/coach relationship and the willingness of the client to change.  But what we still don’t recognize is that coaching can help everyone, not just the individual being coached.  The herd effect applies in coaching as well.  And when it comes to IT projects — among the largest investments a company will ever make and the ones that have the greatest impact on how everyday business is conducted — it is indeed time for organizations to bring coaching to their IT staff.





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Coaching Abrasive Leaders

A friend of mine works in California as an in-house coach, most recently specializing in the area of bullying in the workplace, which is more prevalent than most would suspect, not to mention the whole larger subject of bullying in schools.  She sent me an article on coaching abrasive leaders and I wanted to share with you some of the critical highlights.  I found every page enlightening and a real education.

Written by Laura Crawshaw and entitled ‘Coaching Abrasive Leaders:  Using Action Research to Reduce Suffering and Increase Productivity in Organizations,’ she opens the article by writing:  “Abrasive leaders at any level can inflict deep wounds and intense suffering in employees.  The organization often experiences the pain of working with an abrasive executive, manager, or supervisor as well, eroding effectiveness and paralyzing productivity.  Few of us have escaped the pain of working under, over, or with an abrasive leader…”

What is an abrasive leader?  Ms. Crawshaw defines it as someone in a managerial position whose interpersonal behavior causes ’emotional distress in coworkers sufficient to disrupt organizational functioning.’  The intensity and extent can be wide-ranging, from minor and infrequent incidents to more extreme manifestations of aggression. Above all, abrasive leadership (though I hesitate to use the word ‘leadership’) has the potential to ‘destroy individual well-being.’  Given the value of human capital, the cost of this destruction cannot be calculated.

From Ms. Crawshaw’s research she found abrasive leaders:

  • Perceive coworker incompetence as a direct threat to their own competence
  • Employ aggression to defend against the perception of incompetence
  • Believe use of aggression is not just necessary to achieve organizational goals, but noble as well
  • Though often aware that they are perceived negatively, they deny any role in generating those perceptions
  • ‘Are entirely unaware or only minimally aware of the nature and degree of their destructive impact on coworkers.’

Based on these findings, she concludes that abrasive leaders do not intentionally commit harm as is commonly believed, and are not fully aware of their action or the wounds they inflict.

Coaching abrasive leaders is not straightforward.  Any perceived threats to their professional competence will be ‘vigorously defended against with the fight mechanism and interpersonal aggression.’  Because they need to demonstrate their superiority, in the classic coaching process ‘they experienced immediate and intense anxiety and defended against these threats with aggression.’

By the time a coach is called in, the leader’s interpersonal incompetence ‘overshadows his or her technical competence, and the organization’s negative perceptions now threaten the leader’s professional survival.’  This leads to two difficulties for the coach:  1) Forming a trusted coaching alliance; and 2) Engaging the client despite their denial of a need for coaching.’

Since abrasive leaders are generally blind to the pain they cause, they are also ‘deaf as well — hearing very little about their conduct from others, essentially functioning in a feedback vacuum.’  So what does a coach do?

The client engages the coach as his co-researcher, interviewing coworkers to discover the negative perceptions and identifying what causes them.  ‘That data…gives the [coach and client] an opportunity to develop strategies to eliminate these negative perceptions and to manage them out of existence so that they never disrupt your [client’s] effectiveness again.’  The data collected informs the client of the nature and degree of the distress generated, helping remove ‘the blinders blocking the client’s awareness of other’s emotions.’

The key difference here versus more classic executive coaching is that we’ve moved from ‘eliminating negative client behaviors to eliminating negative coworker perceptions.’  By doing so, the leader can fight against perceived threats to his competence and help them accurately monitor their own and others’ emotions, which is also known as emotional intelligence.

Vexing Technology Management: Not Working Together

Technology management is not getting any easier, despite technology’s ubiquity, the ease with which we integrate it with our daily lives and cloud-based services, which should simplify nearly everything if you believe the press.

The primary reason why there’s a disconnect — a lack of meshing — between users who believe technology should be straightforward and the reality for corporate technology providers is that corporate technology is customized and that requires users and developers to really understand each other.  In fact, I would argue that technology is becoming more difficult to implement successfully.

I continue to see a true lack of communication between the business and technology organizations and implementation failures resulting from lack of understanding rather than anything technical.  In fact, which I’ve mentioned before, a recent McKinsey survey found a low score of 26% for technology leaders proactively engaging with business leaders on new ideas or system enhancements.  This has been a problem for as long as I recall.  I know the 26% figure can be raised.

Trouble is, the business people see the problem but don’t know what to do, while the technologists are so focused on coding and infrastructure and having a project number, they don’t realize the problem’s root cause.   Neither side wants to step into the shoes of the other.

Many ‘blocks’ exist to fixing this problem.  The ‘blocks’ I would concentrate on to solve the problem are:

  • Specifically focusing CIO/CEO discussions on the conversations that should be held between business managers for whom the technology is being developed and the technologists.
  • Understanding the daily relationship between the business managers and technologists.  Normally this is highly discontinuous – which leads to disappointment during user acceptance testing and implementation of the final release.
  • Addressing the unknown effect of outsourcing development, which further distances the business from his/her technology provider.  I think this leads to more ‘throwing it over the fence’ by the business, upsetting the technologists who see themselves more than ever as order takers.  Further, outsourcing highlights communication problems due to cultural, distance and language differences.  And it adds another opportunity for management miscommunication.
  • The dilemma of a CIO who gets kudos for executing ‘overhead’ and believes that is sufficient for creating a strong line of communication and openness with the business organization.   With all the articles and analyses on the importance and role of technology enabling strategy, it’s a shame that the relationship to create a working union still has so far to go.

The ‘blocks’ can be addressed through improved governance, enhanced communication, more mutual planning, and having all parties participate equally.  The gears of both parties need to engage and remain meshed.


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Doing What Comes Naturally

Another great interview about doing the job you were meant to do was in yesterday’s New York Times Business section:  “Sometimes, You Need to Blow the Fuses.”  Bill Kling, founder and president emeritus of American Public Media, said you have to follow your instincts, when asked what he would want to teach business school students.

Mr. Kling notes ‘that if your instincts for the job are good, you will be successful.  If your instincts are bad, it’s the wrong job and you should get out and try something else.’

From a coaching perspective, he offers an extremely valuable lesson.  That is:

  • Do what comes naturally.
  • Do what fits your personality.  (Consider taking the Myers-Briggs personality assessment.)
  • Do and say what you think, as you might be the only one with that perspective.  (Being assertive in a non-destructive, non-offensive manner in the face of opposition or no reaction will make you feel good and allow you to stand out.)
  • Do realize your value.  Nobody is good at everything.  And everybody looks at a problem differently.  Take the perspectives of others into account when making a decision, realizing that only those with over-sized egos believe they can do it all.

I remember reading years ago about Royal Little, founder of Textron, now number 223 on the Fortune 500 list.  He said that the reason for his success was that he recognized he could hire the best people possible to do what he couldn’t.  By leveraging others and acknowledging his limits, Little’s success in building a diversified company prompted other businesses to follow his model.

Feel perfectly comfortable being who you are, doing what you love, and knowing it’s okay not to know everything.

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