Archive for the ‘Career Advice’ Category

Thank You Melania

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

An interesting thing happened during Melania Trump’s convention speech a few days ago. She channeled Michele Obama, verbatim from her 2008 speech to the Democratic convention. Well, at least the speech writer selected material germane to the circumstances.

Then a surprise happened. It blew up into a big deal, precisely because of how the campaign chose to handle it, or more appropriately, not to handle it.

Okay, so it was a stupid and egregious oversight that the speech wasn’t vetted thoroughly and redundantly. But the negativity could have been mitigated if the campaign had simply stood up and fessed up. A mistake was made. Simple message. But instead of coming clean, they engaged in a series of indignant denials by various players, each of which sounded more absurd in the face of the nearly perfect word-for-word matching video segments from the respective speeches.

Nearly two days later, the campaign came clean. Blamed it on a staffer. Almost immediately, the story lost much of its steam, again reinforcing the power of disclosure. Which raises a question. How can a presidential campaign, ostensibly staffed by the best and brightest get it so wrong? Look no further than the undisciplined temptation to deny, deny, deny. Easy, but dumb mistake to make.

So I want to thank Melania for providing a learning moment for us all. By all objective standards, she did a very nice job, by the way. To make a live speech in a giant, noisy venue with millions of people watching, is nerve racking for the most polished of presenters. Melania was very poised. But still, she did use some of Michele Obama’s words.

So thank you Melania, for helping us to see that while it is easy to rush to denial, honesty again proves to be the best policy. As I often share in my executive coaching, do not fall prey to the “easy no” when the “hard yes” is the better choice.

An Auspicious Year

Friday, December 27th, 2013

As we come to the end of another year, it is quite natural to start looking forward to the next. I typically find myself looking ahead fondly, and this year is no exception. I cannot help but believe that 2014 is going to be an auspicious year.

I know this because each new year is auspicious, especially as viewed at the end of the current year. But as we move into the beginning of the new year, the magic of the moment is usually ephemeral and wears off my mid-January. So I decided to use this post to look forward to the change I anticipate in my life in the upcoming year.

Debbie and I will officially be empty-nesters by September. Our daughter Hannah will be moving onto campus in the fall. Our son Josh will have launched himself by June, after building a war chest for his exodus into his grown up life. Hopefully we will be in the process of downsizing from our too-large suburban home. We plan a vacation celebration for Hannah’s high school graduation, as we did with our sons Dan and Josh. Finally, Debbie and I plan to do some much-anticipated car travel across these United States.

A pretty auspicious agenda. But I cannot help but heed the advice of one of my favorite expressions- “if you want to hear God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

So, God willing, I wish you all the best for an auspicious new year.

Calendar Contrails

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

We have all seen them. Those mysterious white lines in the sky that trace the flight paths of jets. They are called contrails.

Contrails is short for “condensation trails” or vapor trails, those white clouds created by water and ice crystals flowing from the exhausts of aircraft engines. On a clear, cool fall day, you can see hundreds of these contrails crisscrossing the sky, east to west and north to south. At the head of each contrail, of course, is the aircraft from which it emanates. Following the trajectory of the contrails, it is easy to see in what direction each and every aircraft is flying.

Likewise, the modern executive has a tool that does much the same thing as a contrail. It is called a calendar.

There is no more precious commodity for an effective leader than their time. Engaged leaders know how to best leverage their time and efforts in order to get important results. The reality check of whether they are spending their time wisely and strategically lies in a review of their calendar.

A vast majority of leaders use Microsoft Outlook for their calendar. This calendar allows for the color coding of entries, with a full color palette to choose from. With almost every executive I have coached over the last eight years, I have challenged them to use the color coding scheme to assign colors to their top goals, and then trace the colors onto their calendar. I then ask them to step back and analyze the “story” that is told by the colors on their calendars. Time and again, these pictures have been worth at least 1,000 words. The immediate impact of this rearward-looking assessment is to drive awareness on the part of the leader of the importance of the activities that find their way onto his/her calendar. And to manage them.

In the same way that a contrail indicates the direction of an aircraft, so does a leader’s calendar, when evaluated in the right light, indicate their direction.

Seven Sins of Leadership- #7 Passivity

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

We have arrived at the final sin in the Seven Sins of Leadership Series, passivity. Before unpacking this, a quick review is in order.

So far we have discussed six sins of leadership- anger, pride, paranoia, overused ambition, unpredictability and myopia. Leaders who fall victim to these sins all have one element in common, they are behaving dysfunctionally. They are doing something they would be better served not doing. Sin #7 is different. It involves not doing, which makes it insidiously different and lands it on the list.

The passive leader sits back and thinks, “Ah, now I have made it, better not screw it up.” So instead of continuing many of the productive behaviors that enabled them to achieve success, they simply lay back and do nothing. But in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) business environment, passivity is a byword for letting the market pass you by. The passive leader watches as slowly but surely, their competitors outflank and out position them into irrelevance. They hand wring over decisions, fearful of making a fatal mistake. If they can not snap out of it, they will certainly find themselves out of it, their job that is.

Newton’s First Law of Motion states an object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it. The passive leader makes the mistake of thinking that this law does not apply to them. They believe that they can model passivity and play it safe until exigent circumstances require action. But alas, they are incorrect. By the time the urgent situation arrives, it is too late. Their muscles have atrophied. They are incapable of taking the appropriate actions. Unless an external force causes them to act, they simply continue to do the same thing, no thing.

Ironically, playing it safe as a leader is a surefire way to put yourself and your organization, in harm’s way. But no worries, if you do not change, you will not be in the role for long.



Seven Sins of Leadership- #6 Myopia

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

One of the biggest adjustments that individuals need to make when they are assigned as leaders, especially at the highest levels, is where they are focusing their vision. Each successive leadership role requires a longer horizon, both in terms of distance and time. Unfortunately, too many leaders keep their heads down and their focus narrow, resulting in leadership sin #6, myopia.

Decrying the lack of strategic thinking is to lament the major symptom of myopia. It is simply too difficult to plan for future events in a developing marketplace against an ever-evolving set of competitors when you are in the weed patch or journeying down the rabbit hole. But the unenlightened leader does just that, attending to the knitting, close-in, dotting every i and crossing every t, because that was the formula that led to their success in the past. If they are lucky, they will have someone nearby who will let them know that a longer view is in order.

Whether they can make the adjustment is the difference between effective leadership and a short stint in the big office.

To build well defined distance vision, i.e. strategic muscle, begins with behavior change. I have seen numerous leaders blanch at the feedback that they must become more strategic, based on the fact that they are not naturally gifted with long term vision. But like so many of the skills we acquire in life, developing a longer view takes a plan and disciplined execution. Above all else, it requires intention and begins by lifting up the head and looking at the horizon.