Keep the Fire Burning!


For Engaged Employees, Say Thanks

How do you express gratitude to the people you work with. Do you?

In my corporate career I would say “thank you” walking out of a meeting or during a performance review discussion. But I never took the time to write a thank you note. Recently I got one from an executive coaching client and it made my day. I realized how big a difference a small thank you note can make.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I gave myself the challenge of writing three thank you notes this week.

Here’s what I discovered. They are easy to write (see below). They made me stop and notice what I value in others. The very act of pausing to ask myself what I appreciated in others helped me feel great.

And if these aren’t reasons enough, know that it will help you build more connection and engagement with any team member you work with. Two of Gallup’s 12 employee engagement survey questions are related to expressing appreciation: “In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?” and “Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?”. In his Harvard Business Review cover article former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, likens loneliness and weak social connections to the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day in terms of impact on lifespan.

Here’s my challenge to us for the Thanksgiving holidays. Pick three people at work to send heart-felt thank you notes to. Here’s how.

How To Avoid Derailing In A New Role

Congratulations! You just got promoted. You landed a new stretch assignment. You got a new job!

Just this month I witnessed three competent, hard-working, well-intentioned leaders get fired from their roles within 12 months. Based on my own experience of challenges and failures in a new role and observing many smart and competent leaders derail, there is usually one main culprit.

It’s called your blind spot. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Blind spots are even more precarious in these VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) times we work in. As the world changes rapidly, we need to value asking good questions rather than knowing all the answers. Yet, this may be hard to do, especially in a new role when you may be trying to prove yourself and look good.

Leading effectively in VUCA workplaces calls for us to develop new capacities. New assignments are a great way to do that. They call for us to actively learn about our defaults, uncover blind spots, and proactively question our assumptions.

In that context here are five questions to ask as you take on a new role. As you jump in to a new role, create a deliberate learning plan by asking these questions.

Got Change? Practice Leadership Agility

Do you find yourself overwhelmed by the pace of change?

Here is what one of my clients very vulnerably shared with me:

“The big challenge I am facing is the uncertain world coming my way. My clients, suppliers, marketplace, technology. people, processes, financial targets, span of control, government politics are all now very complex. Due to the pace of change all over, it has created a new normal – an uncertain world. Constant change has become a part of our DNA especially at senior leadership levels. When I look at my training and experience (working across the matrix, applying lean six-sigma, industrial operations, financial skills, process management, people management) I see tools from two to three decades ago.

I am leading in an era where not only I do not know the answers, I also am not sure if I am asking the right questions.

“In this era of ambiguity then, your approach of driving authentic leadership resonates with me. We as leaders need to be confident with not knowing all the answers, comfortable with who we are at our core, to ask for help, figure out questions as we go along in this tsunami of change. We need to trust more and question more. We need to do all this while ensuring we ourselves do not get burned out. We need to pass on energy, confidence, trust to our teams. How do I do that?”

The answer to my client’s question is to grow our capacity as human beings and leaders. The book Leadership Agility by Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs presents an excellent validated leadership model to do just that.

Why You Need Truth Tellers At Work

Interracial businesswomen working on laptop.Sally, an executive coaching client, was beaming. She had just done what had been hard for her in past. She had given her direct report feedback that was 80% focused on the positive, and only 20% on what needed to be improved. Sally can see improvement opportunities all around her, and that shows up in how she gives feedback. She had been working really hard to give balanced feedback that builds people up. She was buoyant from the conversation she had had. She genuinely felt great about helping her direct report feel good.

Until one week later.

She found out that the conversation had been very demotivating to her direct report.

How To Get (And Be) A Better Boss

Your relationship with your boss is arguably the most important work relationship you have. Unfortunately for many people it is also one that is fraught with frustration, awkwardness, or simply lack of sufficient trust. In my executive coaching work, I find that 80% of the time the relationship with the boss can be improved significantly and is strengthened as part of the coaching process.

We often assume that the boss has significantly more power, and often this is the case. But, as a savvy leader, you can use the tool below to create a powerful partnership with your boss. This is not about who has more power in the relationship, but about how powerful the relationship is, and together what it can help you both accomplish. Here’s a great tool-kit to help you.

Practices To Power Your Executive Coaching Process

The good news is you have an executive coach. The bad news is that the process of personal change and transformation is not easy. It requires a great deal of personal commitment on the part of the leader being coached. I’ve found in my work as an executive coach as well as my personal growth work, that most changes we are seeking on the outside (for example to get promoted to the next level, to have greater influence with peers, etc.) require significant changes within ourselves.

The role of the coach is to bring their skills to raise self-awareness, to challenge the leader’s paradigms, to share insight, and to hold accountability. Yet, the heavy lifting is done by the leader. The leader brings their courage to dig deeper to understand themselves, to see how they stand in their own way. They bring their openness to experimenting with new ways of being and behaving. They bring their commitment when the going gets tough.

In my experience, there are three tools the turbo-charge the impact of the coaching process. My ask is that you commit to practicing these tools during our coaching process. As you practice these tools, you create excellent leadership habits that will sustain the behavior change, and also help you continue to lead and grow – well beyond the coaching process.

Ten Questions for Your Leadership Journal

Teddy Roosevelt did it. Harry Truman did it. Want to be an outstanding leader? Keep a leadership journal. As part of my executive coaching work, one of the most effective tools I recommend that powers up the coaching process is a leadership journal. The exercise of leadership is not unlike a sport you play. When you review your actions in the field you learn what worked, what didn’t, and adjust along the way. Leadership guru Peter Drucker said: “ Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action. ”

There are many benefits to reflection.

The biggest benefit of keeping a leadership journal is to expand your self-awareness. Self-awareness of your strengths, your energizers, what challenges you, what can derail you is a key driver of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (the ability to know and manage yourself and others) is a key driver of success in leadership.

Letter to My 18-Year Old About Failure

This is the week that high school seniors heard back from colleges about whether they got accepted. This letter is personal. I wrote it to my daughter after she didn’t get accepted at her top choice college. For those of us who are parents, seeing our children disappointed is heart-breaking. Yet, we must also teach them resilience. After I shared the letter with a friend, she suggested that I share it with others. It is about how to handle failure. I hope it serves all of you reading it.

How To Hold Yourself Accountable to Coaching Goals

Behavior change is hard. I see this every day from personal experience, and the effort made by my executive coaching clients. During the course of the coaching engagement, my clients choose certain behaviors that they want to practice more of to grow in their leadership agility and help them achieve their coaching goals. They pick the smallest behavior changes that will help them create the biggest impact to empower their goals.

A great way for leaders to practice accountability is to make it a daily ritual. This practice is from Marshall Goldsmith’s best-selling book called Triggers. The #1 executive coach pays someone to call him every morning and ask him 32 questions that help him to be accountable to be the person he wants to be. I decided to give myself the challenge of asking myself ten accountability questions every morning.

Success on the most important goals we set for ourselves involve the long game – practices that we practice every day until they become habits, and eventually part of our very identity, so we can create lasting change. Here are the questions Marshall Goldsmith recommends.

How To Choose An Executive Coach

As an executive coach, during my first meeting with potential clients, I have found that most leaders don’t quite know the right questions to ask me. When evaluating fit, many people make the mistake of choosing someone that they feel most comfortable with. While chemistry and ease of connection is absolutely necessary, it is not a sufficient factor in selecting a coach. You want to get results in your coaching process. So, ask the right questions. Use the list of questions below to assess fit.