Keep the Fire Burning!

Failure, Fear, Resilience

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.

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.

Coaching on Being Resilient in Failure

Brazil World CupBrazil’s recent loss in the World Cup semi-finals has been called “the worst World Cup loss in history”. It broke many records (number of goals scored in a semi-final, worst loss suffered by any host nation, Twitter record).  How Brazil rebounds from this failure will determine whether they will make it in the top three when they face Netherlands on Saturday.  In addition to the public disgrace, we can only imagine the private hell each member of the team is going through.  How to rebound from failure of such epic proportions? How to pick yourself up quickly to regain confidence? These are questions that face each of us as we encounter failure for ourselves, and failure by those we lead. Read on to learn about how to rebound from failure.

Your Personalized Self-Confidence Plan

Self ConfidenceThose who know me would consider me a fairly self-confident person. Most days I feel pretty self-confident. And then there are situations where I wish I had a bit of that Donald Trump “nothing can shake me” confidence. I find myself uncertain, uncomfortable, out of place, and my first impulse is to get away from the situation as fast as my wobbly legs can carry me — toward a bowl of my favorite peanut M&M’s.

The fact is that the most self-assured of us experience self-doubt. Just this week I interviewed Helene Gayle (CEO of CARE) and Jacqueline Novogratz (CEO of The Acumen Fund) for the book I am writing. They are smart, accomplished, self-confident, powerful women who spoke very humanly of the self-doubts they experience. Here’s the “Aha” moment I had after these interviews. Self-confidence is not the absence of self-doubt. Self-confidence is our willingness to be present despite our self-doubtsIt’s our willingness to show up, to try anyway, and to keep going. Self-confidence is a leadership practice. The Donald Trump “nothing can shake me” self-confidence is just an illusion for most of us. So as a leader, how do we keep going toward our goals in the face of self-doubt? Here’s your personalized five-step self-confidence plan.

Why I Don’t Want to be #1

Ambivalence“I am a really good #2. I don’t want to be #1.”

“I really love the job I’m in and don’t want my boss’s job. It just seems too political.”

“I think I could do my boss’s job, but I don’t really want that much stress in my life right now.”

“My kids are young, I’m already working as hard as I can, I can’t really take on that stretch project.”

I’ve been doing a lot of speaking at conferences and connecting with women.  As women approach me with questions, I’m struck by the ambivalence I see in many (not all) to pursue the next big job.  I understand. I actually wrote about why so many women drop out of corporate America.  I was one of them.  For those who want to stay, I advise them to get clear (as hard as it is given the trade-offs) about work life priorities.  Make clear decisions about what’s important, what’s the difference you’re here to make, and stop being ambivalent.  Ambivalence keeps us stuck.  It zaps our energy. Here are the five mindsets I’ve observed that keep us stuck. Do any of these apply to you?

To Be An Authentic Leader Embrace Your Inner Loser

inner loserDoes fear of failure hold you back?

True story.  A few months ago I had a rather large speaking engagement.  It was with an audience larger than I usually speak in front of, with content I hadn’t delivered before.  The night before the conference I set the alarm for 6 am.  I was to meet the conference organizers at 7:30 am for an 8:30am start. Next thing I know it is 8:30am and I am just waking up.  First, I can’t find the shoes I’m supposed to wear.  Next, I can’t find my car keys.  When I find my car keys, my car has disappeared from the garage.  I can feel my heart about to jump out of my chest. Finally, I wake up and it’s 4 AM in the morning. Does this ever happen to you? It’s basic fear of failure. And for us to be more authentic leaders, we need to embrace our inner loser. Here’s why.

How Women Can Have It All

Pot of goldDoes the juggle of the career and home life leave you tired and stressed? Many of us have read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s now famous article in the Atlantic “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”. It reignited a debate about what needs to change in order for women to “have it all” – a great career, a great personal life – or whether that’s even possible. In a recent executive coaching session, I was taught a great lesson about “having it all” by my client.

I was with leader who is a vice-president in her company. We were working through the “Authentic Brand YOU” personal brand process to help her identify her leadership brand.  I asked her why this exercise was important to her.  She said she wanted to develop a “commanding presence” so that she could have greater influence in the organization and could successfully get her ideas across.

Leadership Lessons from a Science Fair Project

Science ExperimentIs there a goal you’re trying to achieve and fear is holding you back? Is there something about your leadership behaviors that you would like to change? Delegate more? Network better? Here’s how a science fair project helped me change some of my own behaviors.

I was helping my 13-year old daughter with her science fair project a few months ago.  Her project was doing an experiment about whether the color of a person’s clothes impacts others’ first impressions of them. I was enlisted to persuade 115 unsuspecting shoppers at a mall to answer a question for this project.  What do science fair projects have to do with leadership?

Your Personalized Stress Buster Plan

keep calm stressWhen I first start executive coaching work with clients, I ask them to do various assessments  to expand in their self-awareness.  One critical one we focus on measures how energized they are.  It’s very hard for us to exercise leadership or be willing to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones to learn new behaviors if we are stressed.  Our 24/7 corporate Stairmaster climbing often has us experiencing Time Deficit Disorder (TDD), trying to stuff 48 hours into 24.  Chronic stress leads to cardiovascular disease (#1 killer of women in the U.S. at 24%) and a little diagnosed but widely experienced disease called LDD (Leadership Deficit Disorder) – a disease that kills career potential.

Each of us has different stress triggers and behaviors and with the chronic stress we face, we don’t even realize we are in “high-stress” mode until we take a step back to do a self-diagnosis.  Wouldn’t it be great if we had a personalized five-step prescription to diagnose and reduce stress? Glad you asked.

Lessons from Oprah’s Biggest Branding Failure

OprahBrand Oprah was flying high and mighty and then she made one critical branding failure.  That failure caused her to drop rankings in Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list from #6 in 2010 to #50 in 2012.  The measure of any brand is an intangible value or reputation that the brand has, and by any measure, the intangible value of Brand Oprah has declined.  She seems to have lost her way.  So, what is this branding failure and what can we each learn from it for our own personal brand?