Leadership Story | Leaders Deliberately Practice

Dedicated to K. Anders Ericsson – who we sadly lost in June

While completing the fourth session in a six-session Leadership Development Program, we have been discussing how to retain our leadership lessons and increase the probability of organizational improvement. Put another way: How might we practice the new behaviors together? Anders Ericsson (co-author Robert Poole) and his breakthrough book Peak come to mind.  According to the authors, a good start is purposeful practice, which:

• Has well-defined, specific goals
• Is focused
• Involves feedback
• Requires getting out of one’s comfort zone

Another powerful construct is that of mental representations, which the authors describe as preexisting patterns of information — facts, images, rules, relationships and son on — that are held in long-term memory and that can be used to respond effectively in certain types of situations. 

We arranged a Zoom session between the Program Sponsor and a company president who has successfully fostered a values-centric organization for several years which stimulated several fruitful ideas.  We also sent the landmark Harvard Business Review article Learning in the Thick of it to one of the course attendees curious about After Action Reviews. Follow-on team coaching should be particularly useful for this team, allowing an opportunity for deliberate practice. We’ll have our workshop learnings, individual action plans, 360 evaluation feedback, Energize2Lead profiles & team sheets, and more which will great aid our start.

Recall that deliberate practice is different from other sorts of practice in two different ways: First it requires a field that is already reasonably well developed (think leadership) and second; deliberate practice requires a teacher (think coach) who can provide practice activities designed to help someone improve his or her performance.

Consider areas where you wish to improve, or a new skill you are interested in. Ericsson’s pioneering work informs us improvement isn’t about just putting in the hours, it’s about how we approach what we do. 

Leaders Deliberately Practice.

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 | Leaders Deliberately Practice

Over the past several months, a protégé and I have met occasionally for lunch and for sharing stories. Our discussions are candid and engaging, always stimulating several leadership themes. Feedback and coaching were the most recent topics of choice. 

Our Academy Leadership Feedback workshop is based in part on Shiela Heen and Doug Stone’s terrific work Thanks for the Feedback. One of the enduring lessons from their book is differentiating between three type of feedback:

• Appreciation
• Evaluation
• Coaching

It seems we’re pretty good at understanding and offering appreciation, especially in a leader role.

However, evaluation and coaching frequently get mixed up. The two of us both described work environments where Performance Improvement Plans (the dreaded PIP) are part of the human resources “toolbox.” Here’s the interesting part: We both observed that supervisors often jump to an improvement plan rather than establish a coaching culture beforehand. What happens in your organization? How strong is your tendency toward evaluation? What mental representations form your coaching style?

One of the central points in our Feedback workshop is the importance of relying on raw objective data when providing feedback, and avoiding the tendency to interpret (or evaluate). It’s a great skill well worth deliberately practicing. When we stick to data, or remain objective, then the probability of generating labels, utilizing stereotypes,  or creating a self fulfilling prophecy  plummets. 

This is what effective leaders do.

Leaders Understand Feedback.

Leadership Story | Principles Guide Leaders

It was late 2001, very close to September when I first heard the term. You see, my colleagues at our small company, innovative systems & technologies corporation, or insyte for short,  believed the company president needed adult supervision in the form of an external board chairman. Two truths: One, my colleagues were correct; and two, one could say the company president initially had an “appreciation issue” with the idea of an external board chairman.

One of Durrell Hillis’ attributes is that he is a terrific coach, in addition to an effective chairman. So when he first asked me if I had written a Statement of Principles, he made it sound as though any company president would have done this on day one:

“Well, you’ve written your Statement of Principles…”

Literally the week after 9.11, while experiencing  Boston Logan’s cold, hard airport  floor during a very long security clearance procedure, I pulled out my laptop and wrote my Statement of Principles for our little company. Little did I know how important those ten statements would be during times of conflict and when four different much larger firms wished to purchase our tiny company…

Last month our topic was unity. Unity and principles together form wonderful guideposts during times of stress. Which made it very interesting to find that Sir Robert Peel, the “Father of Modern Policing,” established 9 Policing Principles and 3 Core Ideas:

Source https://lawenforcementactionpartnership.org/peel-policing-principles/

3 Core Ideas:

1. The goal is preventing crime, not catching criminals. If the police stop crime before it happens, we don’t have to punish citizens or suppress their rights. An effective police department doesn’t have high arrest stats; its community has low crime rates.

2. The key to preventing crime is earning public support. Every community member must share the responsibility of preventing crime, as if they were all volunteer members of the force. They will only accept this responsibility if the community supports and trusts the police.

3. The police earn public support by respecting community principles. Winning public approval requires hard work to build reputation: enforcing the laws impartially, hiring officers who represent and understand the community, and using force only as a last resort.

9 Policing Principles

1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2. To recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behavior, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

3. To recognize always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing cooperation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

4. To recognize always that the extent to which the cooperation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

5. To seek and preserve public favor, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humor, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public cooperation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

8. To recognize always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

9. To recognize always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them

Sir Robert Peel established these timeless words in 1829, nearly two hundred years ago, just like Durrell Hills challenged me to nineteen years ago. Principles and the idea of unity are not new, and may serve as anchors for any leader.

Think about that in your role as a leader.

Principles Guide Leaders.

Rules of Engagement | Book Review

“That command and control approach no longer works,
and it no longer serves us.” (p. 30)

Carolyn Swora presciently weaves powerful personal and executive stories for our leadership growth consideration. Our current pandemic environment is an ideal time to shed old habits and reconsider our purpose at work and at life. We may consider Rules of Engagement a companion to Drive (Dan Pink), open to think (Dan Pontefract), Lead From the Heart (Mark Crowley) and the culture engine (S. Chris Edmonds).

Swora persuasively identifies the key to the future success of companies is how well networks of teams operate together (p. xv) – think of General Stanley McChrystal’s Team of Teams. Recent strategic management challenges in the workplace also indicate dependency on other teams as a top challenge. Swora references (p. xvi) the useful term VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) which seems more the norm than the exception today. Statistically for every ten people you see, six of them are feeling overwhelmed, and that particular statistic is going to become worse as time goes on (p. 2). Many virtual leadership course attendees feel burned out in 2020, validating the point.

The three parts of Swora’s work: What is not working, Secret to success today, and introduction of Four Rules of Engagement are compared to Academy Leadership course workshops. Applying the four rules as a coach with an abundance mindset may be considered our worthy follow-on homework assignment.

Part I | What is not Working

Technology for technology’s sake. We’ve all seen it. Swora cites Bersin’s first curve (p. 9) – that technology was supposed to make working life easier but instead is making it harder. Self-evaluation scores plummet in Setting Leadership Priorities workshops. That’s because people are drowning (p. 18). They’re drowning in data. They’re weighed down by deadlines. Worse, they’re suffocated by a corporate culture that says it’s not OK to say you’re not OK. Consider my term for this trend: Professionally Busy.

Susan Cain points out in her book Quiet,  that our society places an inordinate amount of value on the extroverted (think dominant red/yellow Energize2Lead, or E2L profile colors) personality (p. 20). This is why when boarding a flight, you’ll hear many extroverts calling their colleagues to let them know that they are busy — and therefore important.

Since 2013, leadership research by both Gallup, Bersin & Deloitte has found that senior management and CEOs are recognizing the importance of employee engagement and culture, that it does impact profitability (p. 27).

Swora cites four major forces at play that are shaping how we live and how we work (p. 31):
• Globalization
• Disintermediation
• Technology
• Demographics 

Let’s look at the second and fourth. We can think of disintermediation, or taking out middlemen or information hoarders, as an accelerant for crossing the Knowing-Doing Gap. Millennials readily inform us expectations have changed. When we play The Numbers Game in our Setting Leadership Priorities workshops, we discover the power of Knowing What Comes Next. Kids demand that now, and will leave an organization that doesn’t keep them informed.

On page 47 Swora introduces the Psychological Contract. We may think of this as an unwritten Personal Leadership Philosophy, or by extension, S. Chris Edmonds concept of an Organizational Constitution.

Let’s look at the eight elements of a leadership philosophy:

• What Does Leadership Mean to Me
• Personal Values
• Operating Principles
• Expectations
• Non-negotiables
• Priorities
• Personal Idiosyncrasies
• Commitment 

Together these elements explicitly address many of the beliefs and values found below the “waterline” of Swora’s Iceberg model (p. 50).

Part II | Secret to Success Today

Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs as backdrop, Swora shares Chip Conley’s observation (p. 72):

• a transactional leader is leading from the bottom of the pyramid.
• the transformational leader is leading from the top [of the pyramid]. 

Think of our E2L profiles. Our dominant colors in our lower, or instinctive dimension correlate well with what is needed for survival. We don’t want to spend all our time in high stress mode, we want to operate at higher levels knowing the basics are taken care of. When we’re operating with a sense of purpose, we’re in a transformational state which may lead to self- actualization.

Like the Riggs’ found in Counter Mentor Leadership, Swora cites Matt Lieberman’s focus on social connection needs:

“We intuitively believe that social and physical pain are radically different kinds of experiences yet the way our brains treat them suggests that they are more similar than we imagine.” (p. 76) 

During our Creating a Motivational Environment workshops, we ask “Do leaders actually motivate people?” Swora informs us it’s a faulty logic that assumes people are just machines that happen to be flesh and blood and ultimately, it is our minds not our bodies, that determine our ability to produce (p. 93). Nothing there about what the boss said.

In contrast with managers, Swora confirms our job as a leader is to create an environment that facilitates performance; to remove the barriers that hinder performance and productivity (pp. 96-97). A frequently admired term during Leader’s Compass workshops is shield – indicating how good leaders protect and nurture those in their care.

The Global Human Capital Trends Report has consistently identified culture as an emerging area of importance for CEOs – yet 80% of large organization CEOs don’t know what to do about it (pp. 99-100).

Alignment is the answer. In our Core Values Alignment workshop, we learn 80% of a leader’s time should be spent aligning around agreed-upon purpose, values and normative behaviors. Swora points out frequent misalignment between organizations and individuals – a performance gap (p. 107).

Whether done explicitly or implicitly, our leadership philosophy must be aligned with our organization, or we risk performance and values gaps. Most of us have experienced this when encountering an organization that proclaims numerous virtuous behaviors while clearly visible actions indicate otherwise.

Part III | Four Rules of Engagement

Connect to people, not processes (p. 129).

There is something critical missing:

 “people got taken out of the equation with the advent
of mass production, when organizational metaphors
became machine-based.” (p. 131)

In our Effective Decision-Making workshops, we learn of four decision making criteria: Decision quality, implementation (think outcome), cost (and schedule) and development. Like mass production, time-based decisions are made using the first three criteria, leaving out development, or people, as a criteria.

When we focus on people, or adopt a development-based decision-making process, development as criteria replaces cost (schedule). Imagine an aligned (with the organization) leadership philosophy prioritizing development. That’s a powerful tool.

Create opportunities to collaborate, and minimize competition (p. 145)

We live in a competitive society, but that does not mean there are only winners and losers. The scarcity mindset unfortunately perpetuates such thinking. In our Leveraging the Power of Conflict workshops we learn that competition and collaboration are both assertive strategies, but competition is based on a win-lose outcome while collaboration is based on win-win outcome.

Swora offers a great place to start improving collaboration – meetings (p. 154). Start with clear objectives and promote knowledge sharing. Then act like a coach, that is ask questions rather than direct. Great idea.

Be adaptable and expect your plans to change (p. 161)

2020 is the perfect year making this point. Who could foresee the Covid pandemic? In our Aligning and Accomplishing Goals workshops, we learn that leaders expect plans to change, and that is not a reason to abandon the planning process. How we react to changes is an indicator of our leadership ability.

Another way to think of this is acceleration. In 2020, VUCA has been intensified. Marginal business models that were fading may immediately disappear. The importance of our leadership philosophy, especially letting others know “where we wish to go,” has likewise intensified. There’s also a good chance original plans how to reach the organizational objective have been replaced once or more.

Everyone can be a leader if you give them the opportunity (p 181).

Swora cautions us this is not feel good, ‘everyone gets a participation trophy’ thinking. The skills that make leaders successful are different from the skills that make a manager successful (p. 186).

If we believe that being a leader means having a title or being in charge, we’re probably confusing leadership with authority. Let’s try replacing the word leader with influence or influential:

Everyone can be influential if you give them the opportunity.

It’s not hard to think of a person, who with no authority or title, who has influenced others. Swora quotes Drucker:

“With the rise of the knowledge worker, one does not ‘manage people.’ The task is to lead people, and the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.” (p. 186). 

The Leader’s Compass book showcases the importance of credibility and trust, or put another way, authenticity. Swora shares five characteristics of authentic (pp. 193-194) leaders:

• have the ability to take on board and process information about themselves and adjust their leadership style accordingly.
• make adjustments as circumstances and the environment change.
• sense of personal identity is strong enough, and grounded enough in who they are – the base of their triangle – that they can make adjustments without feeling that they are losing themselves.
• know if the organization’s pyramid shifts, they know how to shift with it.
• are also strong enough in their sense of identity that they’re not afraid to show it at work. 


In 2020, we’re all feeling a bit vulnerable. It probably feels weird, but that is part of being a leader.

We are not, as a culture, encouraged
– or accustomed – to being vulnerable. (p, 197)

Swora offers additional resources at 


She also shares the hashtags:

#PWE, #PurposefulWorkplaceExperience, #RulesofEngagment and #WorkplaceCulture

Carolyn Swora generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Leaders Work Simply

Over one-hundred hours of virtual leadership course facilitation and follow-on Zoom coaching suggestions suggest a dichotomy of reactions to our work from home environment. Those with experience remotely working before the pandemic appear to be thriving, while those who only started remote work as a result of Covid-19 are still searching for work/life balance.

Carson Tate’s terrific book Work Simply is an excellent resource to help:


Work Simply is a highly organized book that tackles common issues such as distractions and email. 

A productivity style survey in her book, in my opinion, correlates well with dominant Energize2Lead colors, useful for Academy Leadership course graduates.

Think of our habits when on business travel. We can be tempted to work the entire time, especially when alone in a hotel room. In the same way we might enjoy reading a book for pleasure, journaling, or calling home after dinner, we can balance our priorities working from home.

If you wish to dig a bit deeper, take a peek at Tony Schwarz’s Classic  Harvard Business Review article, Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time:


or read the book review of The Power of Full Engagement:


As leaders, focusing on energy and people usually pays great dividends As odd as 2020 is, this year presents a unique opportunity for daily family events, learning something new, and especially for refocusing on our health. Not just for ourselves, but for anyone we are responsible for.

Leaders Work Simply.

Leadership Story | Leaders Unify

Last month a highly energized university team spent a good part of two days working on alignment: Starting with organizational core values statements & definitions and further extending to team goals. Captain Michael Abrashoff’s story of commanding the USS Benfold, It’s Your Ship, provides a relevant analogy. Abrashoff came to understand the greatest satisfaction comes from helping others reach their potential, that the managerial role has changed from order-taker to people-developer. He found what works best is a staff that works together and backstops each other. Alignment. He personally launched and  facilitated Unity Training:

“Our unity training focused on common interests and positive reasons to value others instead of a top-down prohibition against devaluing them.”

Nicely put. 

One of the core values the university team worked to define was Celebrate Diversity. Notice the positive word celebrate. As with Abrashoff, it is an energizing statement of mutual purpose rather than an administrative declaration of compliance. The team developed initial behavioral statements for five core values, and will share them internally, perhaps in the manner Tony Hseih of Zappos shares in his story Delivering Happiness.  Zappos has an unusual set of values:

1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More With Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble

Another example is Great Southwestern Construction – take a peek at them on LinkedIn. The entire company has been involved in defining and celebrating their core values for several years:

1. Safety
2. Respect
3. Responsiveness
4. Creativity
5. Integrity
6. Initiative
7. Teamwork

At an annual strategic planning meeting last December, the Great Southwestern Construction team continuously returned to their core values statement definitions when setting 2020 priorities and goals. It’s terrific watching an organization become more unified by living their values, or walking the talk.

A great question we may ask ourselves today is whether our daily actions are developing and unifying groups around a mutual purpose.

Leaders Unify.

The Leadership Pipeline | Book Review 

“To create a leadership pipeline requires
more than words and diagrams.” (p. 225)

Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel’s early (2001) “shot across the bow,” subtitled How to Build the Leadership-Powered Company, abandons Taylor-esque thinking which treated people more as machinery than human, forecasting disruptive e-commerce trends. There’s a good chance this work paved the way for future works such as Lead From The Heart and the culture engine.

A common organizational mindset is to view jobs as “work to be done” and not as developmental assignments (p. 4). Consider two decision making models: A time-driven model using decision quality, implementation and cost as criteria; and a development-driven model using decision quality, implementation and development as criteria. During Effective Decision-Making workshops, most attendees share the overwhelming majority of their decisions are time-driven fostered by a project oriented corporate culture.

Using a typical (p. 7) large and hierarchical organizational structure (Self, Manager, Manager of Managers, Functional Manager, Business Manager, Group Manager and Enterprise Manager), much of the book focuses on transitions, or passages between managerial levels. This review aligns the authors’ Leadership Pipeline Model with an Academy Leadership workshop toolbox and additionally offers contemporary comments for several other vital leadership topics such as coaching and use of one’s Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP).

Pipeline Passages

Ask anyone in a technology company what the primary basis for promotion is? It’s probably individual technical competence – focus on self. Not surprisingly, first-time managers overpower their direct reports with their expertise (p. 33). Making things worse, subordinates often discount managers because “they’re not smarter than I am.” The authors condense first-time manager achievements into three areas (pp. 36-37):

•  Defining and assigning work to be done.
• Enabling direct reports by monitoring, coaching, providing feedback, acquiring resources, problem solving and communicating.
•  Building social contracts through establishing relationships…

Setting expectations (of team members and of the leader) in a written PLP, combined with aligned goal setting are two terrific workshops helpful for the new manager. Proper use of the three forms of feedback: appreciation, evaluation and coaching will greatly assist the new manager, especially when the latter two are genuinely distinct activities.

The authors summarize five leadership issues for managers of managers as (pp. 54-55):

•  Difficulty Delegating.
•  Poor Performance Management.
•  Failure to Build a Strong Team.
•  A Single-Minded Focus on Getting the Work Done.
•  Choosing Clones over Contributors.

Self-evaluation scores are frequently very low in Leveraging the Power of Conflict workshops. Yet one of the best uses of an accommodation (conflict) strategy is delegating tasks, even if the subordinate may struggle or fail at first. Distinguishing responsibility as an internal force from accountability as an external force introduces a powerful tool for team formation — a leader requirement that all team members will hold each other accountable (Accountability workshop).

The best functional managers are the ones who think strategically and manage with the whole function in mind (p. 69-72) by:

•  Longer-Term Thinking (Three Years).
•  State-of-the-Art Awareness.
• Complete Understanding of the Business Model in Detail and Long-Term Strategic Direction and Goals.
•  Factoring All Aspects of the Function into Strategic Thinking.
•  Ability to Make Trade-offs within the Function that Support Business Strategy, Profitability, and Competitive Advantage.

A leader that begins making PLP-based daily decisions on behalf of the functional unit, aligned (or realigned) with the overall enterprise, defines this stage. A “Where we are going” vision statement, found early in the leader’s philosophy helps unify all functional team members. Likewise, sharing one’s PLP with superiors and peer leaders will foster valuable feedback expanding business model knowledge.

Conceptually, the business manager’s challenge is making connections among diverse people, functions, and processes (p. 86). As with the first management promotion, focusing solely on results is tempting.  Matt Lieberman’s Should Leaders Focus on Results, or on People? Informs us:

• If a leader was considered strong in social skills, the person was seen as a great leader 12 percent of the time.
• If a leader was perceived to be strong in focusing on results, the number increased to 14 percent of the time.
• For leaders who were strong in both results and social skills, the likelihood of being seen as a strong leader skyrocketed to 72%

Very few actually do both, so it’s a great practice for the business manager. Additional challenges the authors foresaw (think internet) include (p. 89):

• Every business is immediately global.
• Brand is more important than ever before; it helps users sort through what seems like an infinite number of choices.

Upon becoming group managers, [we’re] going from the leadership position [we] found the most fun to the least fun (p. 99). Why is that? Maybe being a coach hasn’t been enough of a priority. Not just focusing more on developing people, but building a talent pipeline for the organization. In the Leader as Coach workshop, we discover genuine performance coaching (not just evaluation or critiquing) may free us to focus more on (p. 105):

• The how, in addition to the what.
• Capital allocation.
• Strategic differentiation.

At the enterprise manager level, successful CEOs exhibit sound judgement on people matters and execute well deep into the organization (p. 115). Think of this as a natural extension of focusing on people and results creating a rich web of talent. Recall Tony Hseih’s Zappos story, Delivering Happiness. Hseih eventually concluded “Our Brand, our Culture, and our Pipeline are the only competitive advantages that we will have in the long run.” 

The authors mention five significant leadership challenges at this level. Let’s look at two: Setting Enterprise Direction (p. 117) and Shaping the Soft Side of the Enterprise (p. 118). At this stage, similar to Hseih’s findings, we should ask “Are our daily decisions rooted in the values of the organization and are all decisions made about people?” Or how about hiring or firing based on the culture of the organization?

Gold Nuggets | Application

After the results of 360 degree feedback were in, it was clear that these rising stars were coming up short in values and skills for their leadership levels. There was very little inclination to develop talent or coach (p. 141). One of the best uses of a 360 evaluation is comparing what a leader does, or technical competence, with who a leader is, or leadership character. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially in organizations lacking a performance coaching culture, for managers rewarded and promoted for job competence to neglect their subordinates.

What [the authors] are saying is that the boss is the place to start if you want to increase full performance throughout the leadership pipeline (p. 156). A significant portion of Leadership Excellence Course attendees, at a variety of professional experience levels often comment “My boss needs this course even more than I did, but would never enroll.” Why is that? Maybe it’s that you can’t just do succession planning for one leadership level. All levels must be included (p. 167). When we don’t everyone else knows they don’t matter – they’re not part of “leadership” – the noun. In Coaching to Develop Leaders workshops, it becomes evident that what we do with the average performer is our ultimate report card over time.

A significant issue in latter leadership transitions is failure to seek or listen to feedback (p. 189). This is an especially acute problem for senior executives. Specifically, they’re not interested in hearing how they’re leading or how and why they should do things differently (p. 189). Our PLP must include sincere requests for feedback, lest we become the “professionally busy” executive telegraphing that people don’t matter.


Chapter 13 – Coaching, is a gem. The authors start with a career-focused coaching (pp. 214-215), but we can go further. We can learn about and address personal and professional hopes and dreams as well. The best leaders/coaches keep journals (pp. 221-222) facilitating reflection (p. 222):

Coaches need to communicate that for their own careers and for the company’s future, they need to sit down and think about what type of leader they are and what type they want to be. 

Thank you Stephen Drotter for the first edition hard cover book for review.

Coaching Story | Leaders Overcome and Adapt

We’ve all been disrupted by the Covid pandemic to varying degrees. During  the most recent Virtual Leadership Excellence Course, our group settled on the group name “Overcome and Adapt.”

Earlier in the month, two clients shared stories of their organizations overcoming structural challenges, learning along the way, and hopefully adapting future behaviors.

One is a county IT director who was required to deploy a wide array of equipment so that 1,800 people could effectively work from home. Sounds pretty disruptive, doesn’t it? One of the amusing observations shared: Some of the newly remote county workers became aware, perhaps for the first time, of specific IT needs and priorities requested in the past. 

Similarly, another client shared a considerable challenge: Furloughing 70% of the organization’s staff until staged reopening became feasible. As a result, many of the ‘Senior Leaders’ found themselves working in the trenches, performing hard physical work outside during high heat and humidity. 

Within a few days, my colleague’s prior requests for replacement equipment found renewed support. How about that? 

In both cases, the challenging Covid environment has brought teams together in unexpected ways. We are adapting. There’s also a reminder in these stories of the power of sharing knowledge, as in the Knowing-Doing Gap, a central theme of our Academy Leadership programs.

We can always listen to each other better, improve our connections, and overcome unanticipated hardships.

Leaders Overcome and Adapt.

Leadership Story | Leaders Improve – Virtually

Here’s a fun question: When the current Covid pandemic ends, how will your workplace be different? One client, who equipped 1,800 people for remote work realized pretty quickly that not everyone needs to be in the office all the time. A company president shared that several in the headquarters team don’t really want to return to the interruptions of the office environment. 

Personal reflections where also shared. One client, currently balancing time for Ph.D studies, found that not driving back and forth to work each day has contributed to two additional hours of daily rest. While sharing a bit of a frustrating work environment, another client shared the realization that becoming a coach of coaches is an energizing path forward.

Many shared stories of productivity and team building tools. One client continues moving forward with an innovative use of the Energize2Lead (E2L) workshop for integrated program kickoffs. Several mentioned specific use of the Microsoft Teams platform, with one dedicating it’s use for sharing E2L profiles, personal leadership philosophy documents, and any other activities related to leadership development.

There are several terrific discussion threads on LinkedIn related to remote work – take a look at Dominic Price’s (Atlassian) posts about the 9-5 work construct. Dom’s also a pretty good debate partner, but that’s a story for another day.

Fifty hours of leadership course facilitation forced me out of my comfort zone and taught me that there are unique learning improvements in a virtual environment. Often when small groups work together in-person, especially during an in-house program, there is a tendency to accommodate numerous interruptions throughout the day, implying everything is urgent. However, in a Zoom Breakout Room session, we’re far less likely to look at our smart phone or leave the session to address a routine email.

It’s good reminder for us to capture and share these best practices, so that we may continue improving as leaders. For June, it’s appropriate to re-post Lisette Sutherland’s Work together Anywhere. She was was ahead of just about everyone and wrote the definitive book on remote working.

Leaders improve – virtually!

Work together Anywhere | Book Review

“The reality is we’ve all been in a workplace where our
colleagues are present but they’re not getting things done.”
(Leslie Truex, p. 16)

Ever had a question about remote working? Lisette Sutherland, with K. Janene-Nelson, have created the definitive, breakthrough, how-to manual. Consider their work a must-have as vital as a dictionary or thesaurus, especially if you have any doubts about the effectiveness of remote workers.

We can think about Sutherland’s book two ways: First, for the demographic & engagement references. Chances are you will feel behind the power curve as you read about the myriad, successful organizations leading the remote work revolution and the currently available tools enabling them. Second, and perhaps more significantly, are the ramifications for the forward-looking leader who believes an engaged workforce is a competitive advantage in the 21st century. This review highlights the references and ramifications from a leader standpoint.

Start with an open mindset. Sutherland advises that we find a way to make location the variable – indeed immaterial – then we could have the constant be the far more important concern: qualification, including enthusiasm (p. 1). At least a third of her work is annotation: End of chapter reminders, an extras section, available technology & tools, further suggested reading and more. Sutherland interviewed directors and managers from more than eighty companies whose business models depend on successfully bridging distance… (p. 2).

What’s hard for companies who are going remote is that there’s not enough culture established about documenting things, because it’s so much easier to just walk over to the next cubicle, talk to your coworker, and make a decision right there and then (p. 39). In The Knowing-Doing Gap, Pfeffer and Sutton emphasize that sharing knowledge is a significant performance discriminator. Additionally, surveys indicate that the biggest fear about managing remote workers is productivity, but the actual hardest part is communication (p. 134). Going remote creates terrific organizational habits.

Demographic & Engagement Nuggets

Many of the demographic findings are hard truths we tend to avoid:

• Any business that effectively measures employee productivity surely isn’t relying on anything having to do with physical location (p. 23).
• A Flexjobs survey (p. 13) found that parents rank work flexibility (84 percent) ahead of even salary (75 percent).
• According to the 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce report, half of telecommuters are forty-five or older (p. 11).
• It’s actually far more likely that remote workers will work too much rather than too little (p. 53).
• According to the Gallup 2017 State of the Global Workforce report, “worldwide, the percentage of adults who work full time for an employer and are engaged at work is just 15 percent.” (p. 37)
• They want to be able to focus and actually get work done (p. 15).

In Lead From the Heart, Mark Crowley exhaustively chronicles our thirty-year history of poor organizational engagement. Similarly, Dan Pink’s Drive highlights autonomy, mastery & purpose as key motivational forces in a knowledge, or thinking-based economy. Web-developer agency 10up agrees that productivity results from engagement (p. 37).

Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose

Sutherland reiterates: “We love having options concerning both our schedule and our workspace. And we love getting to choose work that’s meaningful to us – with colleagues who also love their work, who also take pride in the work they do.” (p. 21)

Brian Patterson (Go Fish Digital) addresses mastery (p. 133): “If you hire the right people and empower them to be successful, they will work at or beyond what you expect of them because they view remote work as a privilege.” The effective remote worker removes distractions, reinforcing that the best work is done when we’re able to focus on just one task at a time (p. 82).

Purpose counts. Sutherland reveals what they do want is to apply the knowledge and the skills they’ve learned across their lifetimes to something meaningful in their life (p. 13).

Retrium CEO David Horowitz bets on these findings (p. 142):

“People who are passionate, even if they have slightly fewer technical skills, will be better fit for your company than people who are technically brilliant but who think of the work as just a job. I would hire the former over the latter any day.”

When we put it all together: The Top Remote Worker’s mindset (p 139):

• is proactive; they’re independent/self-starters
• has a team-focused work ethics: they’re reliable, results-oriented, and highly responsive; and
• leads to good team players: they’re pleasant, collaborative, supportive, and receptive to feedback

Forward-Looking Leadership

Are we managers or leaders? Those of a managerial mind set might wonder how – or even if – it’s possible to get valuable work out of unsupervised employees (p 22). Consider what is actually being measured: The management concern is an artifact of hours-oriented work: work where, if you put in your time-clocked hours, your work is done (p. 22).

Sutherland shares study findings conducted by Towers Watson: 

“The single highest driver of engagement is whether
or not workers feel their managers are genuinely
interested in their well-being.” (p. 57)

What are the ramifications of avoiding engagement? The trend strongly suggests that companies that don’t offer the remote option endanger their long-term viability, especially given that reasons to welcome remote working are steadily advancing (p. 27). 

Many of the best leadership competencies and characteristics align with having a remote workforce. Consider the remote team leader as coach. What remote teams need most from their managers concerns mind set (p. 163). Like our findings in Coaching to Develop Leaders workshops, Sutherland agrees we must ensure that workers have the tools they need to fulfill their obligations (p. 165). Phil Montero’s (The Garam Group) words could come straight from a Personal Leadership Philosophy (p. 169):

“We build trust by having clear objectives,
accountability, and deliverables.”

Think of Jim Collins’s emphasis on core values. Lance Walley (Chargify) is an advocate (p. 172): “Decide who our core customer is and what our company values are, and then make decisions around those ideas. And make sure everyone is aligned around those values and decisions.” Finally, think of our focus on having a leadership journal, as does X-Team’s Ryan Chartrand (p. 180):

“All team members maintain individual journals in which
they report their day’s accomplishments,
even if that’s just progress on a long-term task.”


Many of the steps leading to successful remote-worker implementation are the same steps required of a manager who wishes to be an effective leader. Sutherland summarizes: the manager [leader] can help maintain that alignment by ensuring that all team members have (access to) the knowledge, tools, training, processes, and cohesion they need to fulfill their agreed-to roles and obligations (p. 229). Or put more simply (p. 267):

“Connection is what happens when we pay attention to each other.”

Note: Lisette Sutherland generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Leaders Learn to Say NO

Multiple remote leadership courses led to many Zoom coaching sessions. Two themes dominated our discussions: Prioritizing the genuinely important not urgent (Quadrant II) activities from the numerous urgent requests (both the important and the not important, or Quadrants I and III).  Some of the clients described this process as learning to say NO. One client showed their E2L profile to their supervisor and described how a volunteered additional duty was draining her energy leading to an effective recalibration of her workday. Fantastic.

The second theme was learning to managing energy rather than time. Recall the paradigm shift from [The Power of Full Engagement] (https://www.choinque.com/the-power-of-full-engagement): 

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 rule
The power of full engagement

Just because we work from home, it doesn’t mean that we have to work because we’re home. Sometimes we have this mindset on travel, feeling the need to always be “on,” or available every moment in the hotel room.

Leaders learn to say NO.

Leadership Story | Leaders Reflect

Our continuing pandemic offers interesting opportunities, such as asking ourselves big questions. During a third (and final) coaching session following a three-day Leadership Excellence Course, a thoughtful client had been wondering if her current role, after ten years, was now the right thing. It was rewarding listening to these reflections, open sharing not necessarily in search of an immediate answer. Our leadership philosophy can help us at times like this, and we may find it’s time for an update. Another client and colleague who communicates mostly via text messages shared from home that we all needed a slow down and time to refocus on the important areas of our life – that this has been a good thing for his family. This past month thoughts and self-reflections arrived from colleagues in Australia, Chile, Brazil, France, Canada and the UK. Most asked about health and family first, before describing changes at work. 

Not surprisingly, while preparing for our first Virtual Leadership Excellence course, a closer look at my leadership philosophy was in order. My four listed values weren’t quite right, not going deep enough. The listed four are now Service, Prudence, Courage and Curiosity. They’re better now, a bit more energizing to read, and allow me to ask whether I’m doing my best. Dr. Mindy Hall’s Leading With Intention aligns so tightly with Academy Leadership’s Leadership Excellence Course, the book review seems appropriate, or prudent for inclusion in this month’s newsletter. Especially for the first graduates of our recently completed virtual course.

Let’s keep asking good questions. Great Leaders Reflect.

Leading with Intention | Book Review

…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; Parts  IV 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

Leadership Story | Leaders Inspire With Purpose

People are resilient, and part of the coach’s role is tapping into the capabilities of others.  During our inaugural virtual Leadership Excellence Course (our group took the name Virtually First Leaders), an attendee had shared during introductions deep personal passion for conservation, the outdoors and local community involvement. However, when we listened to a first reading of her [draft] leadership philosophy, it seemed the underlying passion for why she leads the way she does was missing. We brought it up. Afterward, purpose as a course theme continued to strengthen. 

The next day we watched the video clip based on Dan Pink’s book, Drive, and spoke at length about autonomy, mastery and purpose.

The virtual environment didn’t limit this group. Discussions that followed continued including a sense of purpose. How did we know this? Our colleague with the courage to read her philosophy aloud first read her second draft. Despite the separation of time zones and physical proximity, her passion and love for what she does – her why? – came through brilliantly like a sunrise. Stunned silence followed by virtual and actual applause.

These Virtually First Leaders coached each other, helped each other become better. Hopefully my After Action Review from this experience will capture the essence of what occurred.

Leaders Inspire With Purpose.

Leadership Story | Leaders Seek Purpose

Last week Hillsdale College president Dr. Larry Arnn described [Hugh Hewitt Youtube link here] the decision-making process leading to students leaving the campus as a result of the coronavirus threat. It’s worth listening to. One might conclude that prudence guided the decision, but we could also conclude that a great price is being paid. Dr. Arnn, with evident pride, described how deeply the students wish to return, in spite of the threat to their health. Dr. Arnn commented about our human nature, that we want to have a part, not just be passive, and make a contribution. 

Many of us are feeling the same during this time of uncertainty, especially if we are isolated at home without all of our normal daily connections. If we’re under stress thinking of health and safety, we’re probably on the lower dimension of our Energize2Lead profile, our instinctive level. And that can be exhausting, physically and spiritually.

It’s exhilarating to hear how many organizations have responded to the conditions Dr. Arnn described. One such story comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, a pretty smart group of folks. In the article Can low-cost, open-source ventilator designs help save lives?  we discover that an MIT team is rushing to publish designs, which can be shared worldwide, for the rapid assembly of desperately needed respirators. It’s happening all over the world. Rather than adopt a victim or passive mental state, individuals and organizations are getting involved, and responding voluntarily to this global pandemic.

In our leader roles, at work and at home, especially now, we can do the same. We can all get involved, find our part and make a contribution. 

Stay involved, Stay connected. Great Leaders Seek Purpose.

The Happy Mind | Book Review

“Guard over your thinking, for it becomes actions. Your actions slowly turn into your habits. Over time, your habits shape your character. And in the end, your character becomes your destiny. If you want to change your destiny, change your thinking.” (p. 13)

Ever been inspired by an unhappy person? Think about it. Kevin Horsley and Louis Fourie have thought about happiness and share perceptions and tips we may use daily. Their book, subtitled A Simple Guide to Living a Happier Life Starting Today is essentially a happiness how-to-guide that explores the mindset of happy people and suggests how we may routinely apply these findings.

E2L | Leadership Philosophy

The authors initially connect perceptions of happiness to a scarcity, or victim mindset:

[Most people] believe happiness is an external phenomenon
that crosses your path and changes your life (p. 3)…

When we ask for feedback regularly, a key attribute of living our Personal Leadership Philosophy, how many of these attributes (p. 12) of happy people do others see in us?

• They think in a different way
• They assume full responsibility for their circumstances
• They enjoy simple things more
• They own up to their future
• They are passionately engaged in what they do for a living
• They invest in their overall wellness
• They have constructive relationships
• They harness an optimistic world view
• They accept that happiness is a day-to-day effort

Or put another way, how many of these qualities are reflected in your leadership philosophy? Passion, wellness, optimism and working on these traits daily – may be thought of as forms of exercise. Not surprisingly Horsley and Fourie find that happy people are energy-rich (pp. 13-14), and likely know what their preferred Energize2Lead (E2L) colors are, spending most of their time in that preferred dimension. What is the most telling characteristic of happiness (p. 16)? The authors believe gratitude is the likely answer.

In contrast, unhappy people spend their lives in survival mode, exhausting themselves by framing life as a win-lose experience, defending themselves against illusionary enemies, and responding in some forceful way to these fears (p. 27). Think about people you know who spend a lot of time in their instinctive E2L dimension. Imagine the friend or relative who always seems to long for the next thing, which will invariably be better than the current situation. When they are at work, they want to retire. When they are retired, they want to work (p. 29). We actually had language for this thinking in the military, such as FIGMO, or Finally I Got My Orders, of course presuming the next assignment had to be better than the current one. We should watch out for and minimize these Ten Unhappiness Traps:

• Look for the hurt in things
• Find the enemy in others
• A poor-me attitude
• A craving for validation
• Compare and compete
• Upsizing life’s imperfections
• Dramatizing your past
• Conditional love
• Trying to change someone
• Fear-casting the future 

Leadership Application

A nine-day stint in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) several years ago led to the addition of “Live in the glory of the day” within my leadership philosophy. The authors similarly advise: Turn your days into thanksgivings (p. 44).

Recall the Setting Leadership Priorities workshop. What are your highest payoff activities (HPAs)? Horsley and Fourie recommend owning more of our diaries and questioning our schedules (p. 45). What activities should be added to your important and not urgent quadrant?

Recall that good coaching mostly comes down to active listening and asking good questions. The authors describe non-forceful ways with the best chance of influencing someone’s behavior (p. 51). 

• Share valuable information
• Listen non-judgmentally
• Answer questions objectively
• Change what you expect from him
• Change the way you respond to her
• Encourage him
• Recognise her achievements
• Not allowing him to become dependent on your resources, availability, and sympathy 

Consider how these eight behaviors correlate to sharing information (or knowledge) and going a bit further, perhaps extending such usage to professional networking. Notice that the focus is primarily on the other person, not just what we want.

Journaling, or capturing positive affirmations, is an excellent way for sustaining leadership growth. The authors find a similar pattern — that happy people have a constructive inner voice (p. 58). Over time, such habits transform the nature of what we are doing. Work is not just work. Play is not just play. We don’t just occupy a position – we become the product, the brand (p. 67) 

Years ago, a wise advisor and friend shared his retirement planning process. It was fascinating. He didn’t want to become another person who stopped working and dropped dead in six months likely due to lack of purpose. Horsley and Fourie prudently urge:

If you are in the second half of your life, live until your last day.
Continue to challenge your mind. Stay valuable. Choose to never
retire from intellectual stimulation and spiritual meaning (p. 74).


In our three-day Academy Leadership Excellence Courses, day one focuses on self-knowledge and day two focuses on knowing others. Or, once you have a solid relationship with yourself, your focus should preferably move to those sharing your intimate space with you (p. 91). Take the time to become happy.

Your most important insights emerge when you
afford yourself reflective space. (p. 94)

Coaching Story | Leaders Fanatically Communicate

During a recent executive coaching session with a client in the health care industry, we naturally brought up the current Covid-19 pandemic. My colleague expressed concern that herd immunity is not established due to the novel nature of this virus, and I looked up the term after our discussion. Comparing herd immunity thresholds between measles and influenza was both informative and revealing. Hint: If you learn about herd immunity, you’ll probably want to get a flu shot immediately afterward. This led my thoughts to leadership and knowledge, more specifically, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton’s wonderful book The Knowing-Doing Gap.

What is a Knowing-Doing Gap anyway? There are a couple ways to think about this, which are worth sharing during this period of anxiety and uncertainty. The appendix is a good place to start — which asked the question 

“What prevented organizations that are led by smart people
from doing things that they know they ought to do?”

The authors discovered that most organizations, consultants and management writers focus much more on knowledge as a tangible thing, something to be acquired and measured, such as a patent. Not surprisingly, this leads to analyzing what other organizations do, or what they learn, rather than the underlying philosophy that guides what they do and why they do it. Superior organizations treat knowledge as a process, not just a thing. 

How rapidly is knowledge shared in your organization? What if the news is bad? Pfeffer and Sutton discovered the culture in companies that crossed the Knowing-Doing Gap were fanatical about open communication, sharing anything new with anyone, anytime. At any level, we can apply these lessons today. We could let a parent or grandparent know it would be prudent for them to stay home and have a younger relative shop for them. A company may share a new policy restricting large meetings because the safety and health of all employees is a core value and that social distancing effectively reduces viral transmission.

Crossing the Knowing-Doing Gap also applies to leadership. Ask yourself if the term leadership is a thing in your organization, or an active process. Or more simply, is the term leadership a noun or a verb? You may find, as Pfeffer and Sutton did, that use of the term leadership, like the word knowledge, is frequently tied to position or job title, rather than actions taken on behalf of an underlying personal leadership philosophy or organizational culture. Think about that.

Leaders fanatically communicate.

Leadership Story | Leaders Seek Improvement

After the 2019 Autism Speaks Walk in Tampa, our small volunteer committee got together to relax in a restaurant and share our thoughts about the day. It’s quite an event, with well over seven thousand attending the half-day fund raiser. After sharing many of the highlights of the walk, we began asking each other what we could have done better. Think of an informal After Action Review. The Quiet Tent came to mind. Our Quiet Tent, or Quiet Zone is a tent located away from the stage area, meant to insulate many of the sensory inputs that can overload someone on the autism spectrum. Much of our efforts to date regarding the Quiet Tent have focused on placement of the tent and simply referring attendees to the tent when an overwhelmed individual or family needed a timeout from all the activity.

2020 will be our fifteenth year anniversary of the walk, and we may have as many as eight thousand in attendance this April. That’s a lot of people in a relatively small area just north of Raymond James Stadium where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play football. For this year, we are reimagining how to make the Quiet Tent a featured location for attendees to utilize, especially with so many sights, sounds, and people at the walk. We’ve learned what other Autism Speaks Walk locations have done to feature the Quiet Tent, such as the Palm Beach, Florida walk, and we’re arranging a first corporate sponsor for the Quiet Tent too. We’re not quite sure what the Quiet Tent will be like this year, but we’re confident it will be better, and we’re energized with our improvement process.

How frequently do your teams get together and ask “What can we do better next time?” even if the past results were satisfactory, or if nothing unusual happened? How often, especially when we are volunteers do we not ask “What can we do better next time?” because we may feel it is inappropriate to evaluate events hosted by those donating their time and energy. Think about that and about our frequent tendency to avoid good improvement, or coaching questions.

We’re excited about our April 2020 walk. Great Leaders Seek Improvement

DELIVERING Happiness | Book Review

Tony Hsieh’s (pronounced “shay”) book, subtitled A PATH TO PROFITS, PASSION AND PURPOSE, written in a personable, storytelling style, illustrates many truths we face throughout our lives. In Hsieh’s case, he encountered numerous significant decisions and reflections as an entrepreneur, and has shared them in a book essentially weaving personal and business leadership. 

We All Have a Leadership Story | E2L 

“One day, I woke up after hitting the snooze button on my alarm clock
six times. I was about to hit it a seventh time when I suddenly realized something…”

Much of the first section of the book, PROFITS (Chapters 1-3), recounts Tony’s academic and business success, including the launch and sale of LinkExchange. More importantly, Hsieh realized that “building stuff and being creative and inventive made me happy (page 53),” constituting his core instinctive needs. From an early age, Hsieh was exploring his motivational needs while accumulating business experience. Chapter three, Diversify has a wonderful analog, whereby Tony learns via poker we should not confuse right decisions and individual outcomes (page 64), and it was “easy to get caught up and engrossed in what I was doing, and that made it easy to forget that I always had the option to change tables (page 69).” Going further, Hsieh extends his understanding to the organizational level (page 76) promising never to lose sight of the value of [corporate culture] a tribe where people feel connected.

Corporate Culture | Walk The Talk

Chapter Four, Concentrate Your Position, culminates (page 124) with a major decision – eliminating drop ship products from the Zappos web site – exemplifying Hsieh’s primary focus on customer service even at the expense of profit. Looking back, Tony wishes he focused on culture and core values sooner (page 155), eventually listing ten codified core values (page 154). Ten is a lot, but Zappos’ core values all begin with verbs (e.g. Be Passionate and Determined) and are intertwined with operations and day-to-day behavior. 

In short, Zappos Walks the Talk.

BCP | Why We Develop Others

Perhaps inspired by Jim Collins’ Good to Great, Hsieh and Zappos focus on building a sustained talent pipeline rather that just consider individuals corporate “assets.” On pages 198 & 199, Hsieh outlines a sample of 29 Pipeline Team courses ranging from Tribal Leadership to WOWing Through Tours. Pretty amazing. Zappos belief (page 137) is that “our Brand, our Culture, and our Pipeline (internally BCP) are the only competitive advantages what we will have in the long run.” WOW indeed.

A Couple More Nuggets

Testimonials abound, with a reflective series on pages 161 – 182. Hsieh recounts on page 82 the power of building relationships (rather than common ‘networking’) often leading to something positive and unanticipated. On pages 204-208 Tony shares his story of public speaking and how tying his stories to passion and knowledge make all the difference.

Finally, in Chapter 7, End Game, Hsieh reflects on Maslow culminating in parallel purpose and passion charts (see page 239). Additional on-line resources are listed on pages 245-246. 

A great story. A great book.

Coaching Story | Coaches Connect To Purpose

In 2019, we facilitated quite a few in-house, three-day Academy Leadership Excellence courses. With one of the groups, a combination of team and individual coaching has followed. This past week during an individual coaching session, the client expressed a desire to further her education, and is considering an Executive MBA, which could be completed in parallel with a full time position. It’s clear from her action plan, created at the end of our three-day leadership immersion last fall, that she better understands the difference between coaching and evaluation, and the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Or put another way, she has many new tools in her toolbox, which was great to hear.

The biggest takeaway and the most interesting part of our coaching session had to do with our connection to purpose. One of the first items listed in the attendee’s Action Plan was the importance of connecting with others at a meaningful, deep way. This approach, or mindset, will likely require expending a bit more energy for her, as her personality is wired in a more introverted style. Our coaching session turned into a discussion about the exploration of, and search for purpose. The discussion triggered lessons learned from my own MBA experience about thirty years ago. Over time, the individual courses within the MBA curriculum became less important than the application of the courses to my workplace, and to the start-up activities which would follow the MBA.

Others have written about such experiences. Let’s quickly review two of them. In Love Works, Joel Manby tells his story of the hard-driving, impersonal corporate executive who ultimately concludes seven principles: Patience, kindness, trust, unselfishness, truthfulness, forgiveness and dedication guide his leadership philosophy. A bit more well known is Tony Hseih’s story of discovery while building Zappo’s, Delivering Happiness. It’s worth recalling Hsieh’s work is subtitled A PATH TO PROFITS, PASSION AND PURPOSE. These references will be shared with the client, and we’ll make some networking connections in support of her pursuit. Another item from her action plan last fall is revising her Personal Leadership Philosophy. 

My hope is the client’s exploration of purpose will be more evident in her revised leadership philosophy. Coaches Connect To Purpose.

In Memory of Clayton Christensen | 6 Apr 1952 – 23 Jan 2020 …

Leadership Story | Leaders Align Core Values

Earlier this month, I had the honor of an invitation to National Geographic’s premiere of this season’s Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa held at the historic Tampa Theatre. It was a delight seeing so many Academy Leadership Excellence Course program attendees demonstrating what leadership is all about. Turns out this topic came up at our Graduate Leadership Course held at the USAF Academy, where one of ZooTampa’s Associate Curator’s attended.

During our three days together, one of the enduring themes was how leaders create alignment within an organization. In our case, the Associate Curator felt a pretty strong alignment with ZooTampa, and one might even say to Zoos and animal conservation in general. On the other hand, the Associate Curator believes he can create much greater alignment between his team and the mission of ZooTampa. That’s what we mean by Core Values Alignment, described in the Jim Collins’ popular book Built to Last.

There’s a world of difference between having glossy posters with a list of core values produced by a marketing department and energized passionate individuals and teams working together for a cause much greater than a fancy job title or fat paycheck. How does ZooTampa Walk the Talk?

Two examples: First, over 400 manatees rescued and released back to the wild. You may have seen the passion and fulfillment of ZooTampa members releasing these gentle giants live on Facebook. It’s a great example of values in action, or virtue. Second, did you know that ZooTampa releases indigo snakes into Alabama’s Conch National Forest as part of the indigo species recovery effort spearheaded by Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation? When you visit ZooTampa and see an indigo snake, keep in mind ZooTampa’s role is to care for these amazing animals – the longest snakes native to the U.S. – until they are just the right size for release. Indigo snakes may reach an adult length of 8 to 9 feet, and have an amazing iridescent blueish tint in the sun and a brown or orange chin. You’d think the Florida Gators would adopt them.

Leadership in action: ZooTampa.

Great Leaders Align Core Values.

How Will You Measure Your Life | Book Review

General Observations

Clayton Christensen, along with two of his [former] Harvard MBA students James Allworth and Karen Dillon have written a powerful and reflective book we should all read and think about. 

There is a surprise near the end of the book (Epilogue page 204), which adds great power to the author’s story, and encourages personal reflection. Don’t peek ahead though!

Thoughts on What Makes Us Tick

In Chapter two, Christensen describes his journey into sources of motivation and finds great resonance with Frederick Herzberg’s theory. At a personal level, Herzberg’s theory is very attractive to me and usually I share that during day two of Boot Camp. Pages 32-41 provide wonderful reinforcement of Herzberg’s Theory and are well worth multiple readings.

Applications to Academy Leadership:

On pages 37 and 38, Christensen describes a story about building a playhouse for his kids and he realizes that the journey, or the act of building the playhouse was the motivator, rather than the destination. For him, it was a revelation.

There’s a great corollary for each of us as facilitators. We can probably strengthen delivery of the Motivating People module in Socratic fashion by asking Boot Camp participants whether they or their teams have been focusing on hygiene factors as primary career goals (e.g. income).

Thoughts on What Job Did You Hire That Milkshake For?:

This is my favorite chapter, with application to business strategy, personal life, and High Payoff Activities (HPAs). Christensen explains the success of IKEA in a way we probably haven’t thought about, and it is a great example how we may have deeper discussion with our Academy Leadership clients.

Applications to Academy Leadership:

On page 112, in the What Job Are You Being Hired For? Section, Christensen reinforces our need to understand what job we are being hired for in our personal and professional lives. Naturally, this aligns with the HPA exercise in our Time Management module. The book is worth recommending to Boot Camp attendees for further reinforcement and HPA development.

Thoughts on | Section III | Staying Out Of Jail:

Christensen found himself wondering why otherwise ethical people make so many destructive and unethical decisions. His Marginal Thinking construct is useful and well aligned with our Leader’s Compass development. The stories in this chapter provide excellent examples and reinforcement for us to think about and share; with Christensen concluding we must Decide what we stand for. And then stand for it all the time.

Thoughts on The Three Parts of Purpose:

On pages 195-196 in the epilogue, Christensen details three elements for the purpose of a company: likeness, commitment, and metrics. This is both useful for us as Academy Leadership stewards, as well as for sharing with clients both during Boot Camp and afterward in follow-on programs.

A final thought: co-author James Allworth and Karen Dillon’s acknowledgements serve as a reminder to us of the power of recognizing young talent and creating growth opportunities for them.

One of the first choinque book reviews – July 2012

Coaching Story | The Best Teams Have Coaches

We’re about to have a very red Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. Should be a wonderful football game. Football, and sports in general, are a great means of showcasing what performance coaching is all about. Have you ever seen an NFL head coach, frustrated and losing in the fourth quarter, run out to the field and replace the starting quarterback? Probably not. Yet, how many times have we interrupted a project, proposal or presentation because we believed it was necessary for a better outcome? That only we could make things better. It’s unlikely Andy Reid or Kyle Shanahan will do this during the Super Bowl either.

Think about that.

Earlier this month a client who we’ve been working with for several years asked if we might arrange a team coaching session. Of course the answer was yes. This client has a lot of very smart and talented professionals on their team. Like the Chiefs and 49ers. And they want to get better. They’re not playing against a rival county government team either. 

What happens in a Team Coaching Session? Here’s what we went over in a two-hour session, and we could have used three:

• Sharing leadership success stories
• Review of prior leadership workshops, for example Leveraging the Power of Conflict
• Introduced ten surveys for consideration in a culture assessment
• Action plan review – or commitments from our prior leadership programs
• Setting up 360 assessments
• Identifying and discussing current organizational challenges, such as election of a new County Commissioner
• Capturing and communicating commitments to be made before the next quarterly session

Quite a bit to cover in 2-3 hours. Does this sound like a group of government employees hanging around for early retirement? They’re not. Like the Chiefs and the 49ers, they’re playing to win and want to be the best.

The Best Teams Have Coaches.

… Live In The Glory Of The Day

Leadership Story | Leaders Recognize Strategy and Culture are Fundamentally Connected

Let’s return to the first launch, or beta test, of the Choinque Strategic Planning Workshop, held earlier this month in Fort Worth, Texas. We ambitiously allowed just a single morning session for the engagement & execution talk based on Stanley McChrystal’s Team of Teams immediately followed by a strategy session. After the talk, four teams were formed to begin discussing the team assessment results. with an approximately 78% survey completion rate. The highest ranked assessment category was workplace inspiration, followed by values expectations, strategies and goals, aligned hiring and values feedback. One of the immediate takeaways from the group sessions is that the assessments create an opportunity for deep and extended discussions. It’s incredibly valuable assigning a team scribe for each group of six to eight people summarizing key discussion points especially what can be done differently in the next year.

Each participant also received the Harvard Business Review article Why Strategy Execution Unravels — and What to Do About It, whose key strategic myths were raised during the kick off talk and then returned to for deeper workshop discussion afterward. Discussion of each of the five myths went on for quite awhile, and each team documented their thoughts and debriefed all attendees.At this point we had already used up the entire morning session.

Which meant that even with limited set of three team discussion questions, from the book Strategy That Works, we only had time to address one question, and had to do that after our launch break. The question our group worked on was Identifying Our Own Critical Few Elements. Fro example, each group asked who are your critical few informal leaders? This may be based on two categories of people. Exemplars are role models, visibly exhibiting the set of key behaviors you want the organization to adopt. “Pride builders” are internal guides, helping you understand the culture. Both groups together should number no more than 5% of the total population of your enterprise. They are your advance guard: people who see the value of your company’s move toward coherence and who are prepared to help others make a commitment. 

The teams took about an hour discussing this questions and documenting findings, and later in the workshop created accountable action items.

We may consider the beta test successful, and the Strategic Planning Workshop could easily fill several days, or several half-days accompanied by more hands-on or action-oriented team-building activities. 

Other takeaways: This company has already benefitted from Academy Leadership Energize2Lead workshops, and a variety of Academy Leadership Development Programs. In particular, a great deal of time and effort has been spent over the years codifying and aligning organizational core values. The most significant observation from the day was the realization by the majority of those in attendance, that every action and decision made each day should be purposefully tied to a corporate value. This was discussed at every table. Living company values is for real.

Another takeaway: Predecessor programs and workshops will be necessary at the beginning of a multi-day Strategic Planning Workshop, customized for individual clients. Looking forward to additional sessions with the client in 2020 as they continue crossing the strategy – execution gap.

Great Leaders Recognize Strategy and Culture are Fundamentally Connected.

New Rules of the Game | Book Review

Susan Packard shares timely, personal and practical stories centered on how women may succeed today in her subtitled 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace, with additional lessons, insights and reminders for men. Seven rules form Part I (Chapters 1-7), whose practice lead to emotional maturity skills in Part II (Chapters 8-10), together comprising an authentic leadership lifestyle.

Think Games and Sports

Packard introduces a convincing career & coaching sports analogy via Joan Cronan, University of Tennessee’s Athletic Director, who had no trouble competing with boys. (pp. xv-xvi) Each chapter starts with a game (sport) context, then correlates the theme to business, followed by relevant stories with numerous successful female leader’s stories. Each chapter ends with Your Turn – questions to ask yourself, appropriate for a personal Action Plan.

Packard’s use of the term Gamesmanship reminds one of Dan Pink’s term Moving in To Sell is Human, in that these terms center on lasting influence, rather than current fads. Dr. Jane McGonigal, from Institute for the Future, advocates four positive traits of video gamers: Urgent optimism, Social connectedness, Blissful productivity and Epic meaning; offering supplementary context. (pp. xvii-xviii)

Be an Athlete

Men enjoy competing, and typically that is the framework of business. Correlating findings in Goldsmith, Lyons & MacArthur’s Coaching for Leadership, Packard notes many women focus on self-mastery, or perfection, rather than leveraging existing talent via competition (p. xxi). She does not sugar coat realities for women, or persisting inequalities (p. xxiii), such as bossy (women-bad) and aggressive (men-good). She also includes typical female advantages such as collaboration, observation and listening (think Energize2Lead, or E2L personality profile).

Know Yourself

Chapters 1 and 6 discuss conditioning and practice, starting by “getting in the game” via line experience, financial knowledge & global perspective. (p. 3) Packard recommends a creative posture, as many positions today may constitute indirect line functions. Linking a Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP) to the future mission of an organization is a great application and Dean Gilbert provides an  example how looking ahead  in a larger organization (pp. 8-9) can spark innovation.

Packard recommends learning company metrics (p. 13) and broad financial knowledge (e.g. Dow Jones Industrial Average, p. 15). She also emphasizes most of the world’s customers live outside our domestic borders and (p. 22) learning the importance of trust (instinctive E2L dimension) leads to lasting partnerships and professional relationships.

Referencing Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success, (p. 108) Packard advocates active (vocational) practice, (p. 111) postscript meetings similar to an After Action Review (AAR), as well as rehearsals. She includes a terrific story about staying curious on pp. 112-113, and the recommended habit of lifelong reading (e.g. Forbes, Fortune, Wall Street Journal). Her ideas to balance industry learning by day (reading) with fun reading at night, demonstrate wise energy use and prioritization.

You Are Being Watched

Chapters 2, 7 and 8 highlight how women may be perceived, encouraging self-awareness. Packard mentions how women are being watched and evaluated all the time (p. 27), especially for their “hot buttons” (think Conflict Leadership Workshop), and corresponding emotional responses, similar to Goldsmith’s Triggers. She also stresses body language awareness, keeping in mind voice tone and body language (Communication Workshop) may convey far more than words. Likewise, what you wear to work every day is part of your workplace brand – does your wardrobe align with your leadership philosophy? Packard also advises (p. 33-34) economy of words very similar to the military BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front style.

Packard cites how Padmasree Warrior, Silicon Valley leader, meditates each night to “reboot,” stressing energy management (p. 39-42), and knowing your personality type, especially instinctive needs. Similarly, she advocates attitude control, using an example of being turned down for a promotion as a choice to learn or be a victim. As an example, Colleen Repplier stayed professional while losing a promotion opportunity, creating relational capacity, which allowed her to become President of Tyco Fire Protection Products. (pp. 144-145)

Your Personal Leadership Philosophy and Career

Chapters 3-5 address (career) development, and likely challenges along the way. Packard encourages asking for what you need to be successful, diplomatically, and how this differs from old school assertiveness (illustrative story p. 50). She shares her (p. 53-54) early vision of a future cable network as an example. When we incorporate leadership development and vision in our PLP, asking “what’s next” is natural not aggressive.

Similar to Academy Leadership’s Conflict Strategies matrix, is Packard’s Brinksmanship Strategy. Collaboration (win-win p. 63) is the ideal goal, but keep in mind you may be on a playing field requiring more assertive competition. Carly Fiorina offers good advice from Tough Choices, don’t take competition personally. Packard takes this further, recommending humor, trust & working well with men, citing The Levity Effect: Why it Pays to Lighten Up by Scott Christopher and Adrian Gostick (pp. 86-87). When forming HGTV, Frank Gardner’s No Asshole Rule – or let’s not hire anybody who will blow up the place, considered the opposite of humor in corporate culture.

Altogether, women wishing to run a company need to work on competency, results & trust, yet often (p. 93) do not want to take the time. Recall, trust is the most important (instinctive) part of our personalities. Supporting themes in Working With Men: Engage constructively, Manage Confrontation & Build Rapport, while always adding value (p. 102), finish the point.


Chapter 9, Show True Grit, dominates Part II. Imagine taking care of your (E2L) instinctive needs over time, and allowing emotionally mature habit formation. Packard sees Grit as Resilience, as Defense, and as Courage, reminding us Michael Jordan missed over 50% of his shots and that professional baseball players bat under .400. Angela Duckworth’s study of grit finds perseverance and conscientiousness more predictive of success than intelligence. (p. 154)

Packard includes Diane Coutu‘s (Harvard Business Review) synthesis of organizational resilience factors:

1. An acceptance of reality
2. Deep beliefs in larger value systems
3. Remarkable ability to improvise

Honesty and feedback within an organization, clear vision and aligned values, and continuous improvement via After Action Reviews align well, respectively, with these three factors.

Packard shares a difficult and personal story on pp. 159-160, demonstrating her own grit and courage, eventually seeking professional help. In a way, this is similar to asking for feedback via our leadership philosophy, except the circumstances are most extreme.

Pages 167-170 features an outstanding set of fear or conflict-avoidance questions many career women (and likely men too) have. Like our hot buttons, if we do not control them, then our fears control us and hold us back.

Your Lifetime Leadership Philosophy

Chapter 10, Be a Team Player, posits we have both a work team and a home team. (p. 173) Packard defines culture as combination of leadership, values, and how the team gels to carry out its mission, and that a company can be successful, at least in the short term, with corrosive values (p. 175), including lack of trust.

She shares how HGTV formed, focusing on the importance of great culture and trust (p. 177), and the general importance in picking the right team – or company – to join including the smart idea to ask HR for examples how the organization lives its values. Packard finishes with thoughtful meditation on work-life balance, girlfriends, and purpose, especially after achieving professional success.

Athlete Becomes Coach

Packard’s epilogue is a gem, sharing her leadership realization:

“The big aha moment was realizing it was no longer
about racking up my own personal wins.” (p.199)

She follows with networking and women’s advocacy stories, coming full circle to her current role as coach and mentor.

A must read for professional women and anyone serious about coaching.

Note: Susan Packard generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Leaders Make People a Priority

A few weeks ago a highly engaged and youthful group participated in a remote team coaching session using Zoom Web Conferencing. It was wonderful viewing each of the participants, individually and in small teams, especially body language when sharing lessons learned and progress toward individual action plans. Speaking of action plans, on of the most common commitments listed on several, was development and execution of 2020 goals. 

A few shared observations during the coaching session helps explain why:

• More time needed for thinking rather than just acting
• Micro vs. macro issues and often just dropping everything
• Understanding people’s instinctive needs
• Communicating our own desires
• A leadership philosophy that sounds like corporate jargon
• Self-awareness when under stress

Listening to this group, one could sense there is a tempo, if not underlying culture, of reacting to daily situations rather than marching together towards unified goals. We selected topics for our second team coaching session and the first one mentioned was coaching to develop others. We can tie the action plans to this as well, by asking how many of our 2020 goals, or what priority are we giving, to the development of those on our teams.

Think about that. How many of your goals are related to growth, training and coaching of every person you are responsible for? How well are these types of goals supported by your supervisor or the organization at large?

Great Leaders Make People a Priority.



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