What do Leadership, Improvisation, Sales and Motorcycle Racing Have to do With One Another?
Watch This Excerpt From My Leadership Crisis Talk to Find Out.
Six Ways Your Company’s Hero Culture Is Killing Productivity
Posted on November 30, 2015
In my work as a leadership and team coach in Silicon Valley, a big problem I see in many companies I work with is a completely overboard exaltation of heroes.
Don’t get me wrong – working smarter and harder to meet a critical deadline has always been a defining characteristic of Silicon Valley culture. The willingness to go the extra mile when needed has played a key role in creating a wonderful amount of innovation, productivity, and meaningful market-changing (and often market-making) disruption.
Yet too many company cultures – and the implicit rewards behind them – go overboard on the working harder front, and don’t do anywhere near enough on the working smarter front.
Leadership, Gratitude and The Holiday Season
Posted on November 11, 2015
Here in the US, the holiday season is upon us. Many people have mixed feelings about this time of year. It is a season of appreciation, time with loved ones, and giving. And it can also be very challenging, hectic, and stressful. Yet, as “bah, humbug” as our inner scrooge might sometimes feel with all the gifts to buy, parties to attend, trips to take, family visits, etc., somehow, it usually all comes together and the spirit of community, love and gratitude that is in the air soaks into our hearts more than any other time of year.
Posted on November 10, 2015
I recently had the chance to coach drivers of a McLaren 650S for demo rides at Sonoma Raceway. Part of the deal was that I got to drive the car on the racetrack too… as the coach I certainly needed to be familiar with what the vehicle is capable of. It was quite the hardship, but I took one for the team!
So… what’s it like to drive a 640bHP supercar on one of the most fun and technical racetracks in the country? Patience grasshopper, patience…
Posted on April 2, 2015
At the recent Raising the Bar on CIO Leadership event in San Francisco, I spoke on a panel about IT Talent and Teams of the Future. The audience was full of senior IT leaders and it was clear that one of the most pressing concerns on the minds of CIO’s is how to stay relevant in a world where Chief Digital Officer and Chief Data Officer positions are getting so much of the fanfare.
Should Business Leaders Care About What Their Employees Say on Glassdoor?
Posted on January 19, 2015
In my work as an executive coach, I will sometimes peruse the Glassdoor comments of both client companies and prospective client companies. It helps me to get a better sense of what some of the key issues within an organization might be – or so I thought.
Some questions have always run through my mind about the feedback expressed on websites like Glassdoor:
- How representative is the feedback expressed?
- Are those that are disgruntled with their company more likely to post on Glassdoor than those who are happy, thereby creating an unrealistic skewing of the data toward the negative?
- Even if the feedback is reasonably accurate, how much does it matter?
Five Reasons Why Santa is the Best. Leader. Ever. A Silicon Valley Tall Tale.
Posted on December 7, 2014
1. 100% Enthusiastic Employee Engagement
In spite of the union’s best efforts, Santa’s elves are so wildly enthusiastic that they refuse to accept any pay. This makes sense because if you think about it, other than the (mythical and unreal) elves presented in The Lord of The Rings, have you ever seen an elf that wasn’t eternally cheerful?
It’s actually more than a little creepy just how saccharine they are. But really, it’s not any creepier than the religious zealotry you often experience when talking to an Apple employee.
Posted on December 3, 2014
The very definition of leadership requires a leader to stand apart from the crowd. If a so-called leader is simply doing the same thing everyone else is doing, they’re not leading at all. They’re following.
Yet, we’ve all known leaders that strayed too far from the beliefs of their constituents, or appeared to put on airs of being superior to the group, and in the process they lost tons of influence. While they might hold on to the title associated with being a leader for some time, they’re true influence is essentially dead and they’re headed out to pasture sooner than later.
Posted on August 16, 2014
There’s the saying that to get something you’ve never had, you have to do something you have never done.
And guess what? Life is all about getting things you’ve never had and doing things you’ve never done. If we aren’t striving for more in our lives and in our worlds, then we stagnate, get bored, and die.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to be hit over the head with this lesson, and every time my head gets bloody, it gets a little easier. There are so many important things in life that our overprotective egos tell us we need to avoid, like:
Posted on June 24, 2014
There’s nothing more dangerous in business than being on auto-pilot, yet so many business leaders are not mindful enough about how they approach their work. Too often, we simply do things the same way they’ve always been done, and then feel disappointed with the results we’re seeing.
As the famous quote by Albert Einstein says “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.“
Posted on June 23, 2014
In racing, as in leadership, you must be fully present for what is happening right now, while also being mindful of what’s coming in the future. The stakes don’t get any higher on the track, your life is literally in your hands. It’s crucial that you are fully present for what’s happening right now, ready for anything and everything that might come next, while also planning for the next corner.
Posted on May 20, 2014
In many ways, our singing voices represent the most vulnerable part of us… the part that is scared to death of being judged. The part that wants to connect authentically with others. The part of us that is the most tender, raw and vulnerable.
At my open mic party this past weekend, I did my best to create an environment of safety and play, both for myself and for everyone. And it was amazing to witness what became possible from that place. A good friend and fellow leadership tribemate (Go Polar Bears!) Beth decided to sing a few Beatles songs, and was unstoppable.
My son had just come from his first “performance” as Perseus, where he had become super shy about the performance and hardly participated at all… Yet, with no prompting from anyone, while we were taking a break, he climbed up on the stool and started speaking into the mic. Take a look for yourself:
Posted on May 15, 2014
“When did I stop singing?
When did I stop dancing?
When did I stop being enchanted by stories and by my own story?
When did I stop being comfortable in the sweet territory of silence?”
- Angeles Arrien
These words changed my life. It was my first real exposure coaching when I heard them, and I knew in that moment that I had been playing small for far too long.
Posted on May 5, 2014
And not just in extreme circumstances like this photo from my racing days.
Every time you focus your attention on anything other than the present moment, you’re treating your life like it’s just a dress rehearsal.
Looking to be a great leader in the digital age? Increase your informal power and influence, with these 11 crucial soft skills.
Posted on April 23, 2014
There are two major aspects to leadership. The formal leadership role that a person occupies, and the informal influence/leadership a person actually has over others.
True leadership lies much more in the realm of informal influence than in the realm of the formal leadership position a leader occupies. No matter how much formal power a leader may have, if their behavior over time doesn’t earn and maintain respect, trust, credibility, and likability, the leaders impact will be greatly diminished.
Sourcing. Everything you need to be successful is already within you.
Posted on April 11, 2014
It is simultaneously the most powerful place to live, and the scariest place to live. And it’s the truth. We each create our own reality. Period.
One of the many things I love about my work is that it gives me a lot of insight into what makes people tick, and what drives happiness and success in life. Through my workshops, keynotes, and 1:1 coaching, I’ve worked with hundreds of people. If there’s any one thing that most clearly drives success and happiness in people’s lives, it’s what I call sourcing.
Posted on March 22, 2014
What do a high school dropout and an Ivy League Grad have in common? Sometimes, a lot more than you expect. In this particular case, just about everything. How is that possible? Read on.
Advice from the High School Drop-out:
First and foremost, don’t do what I did.
Don’t run away from all the myriad challenges of pubescence, growing up, and finding your own independent identity. Instead, embrace it, even when it sucks. Scratch that,especially when it sucks.
Posted on March 18, 2014
One of the biggest challenges executives face in making that critical transition from competent manager to inspired leader, is accepting that you can’t possibly get everything done yourself and that you will always be letting some people down.
Once you advance to a senior enough role, trying to keep up is like trying to stop an avalanche. No human being, no matter how smart, creative, and hard-working, can possibly keep up. Worse, if you throw yourself in front of the avalanche in the vain attempt to keep up, you will quickly be smothered and die.
Yet, that’s exactly what most executives do when they get promoted into roles that require true leadership.
Posted on February 25, 2014
One of the top complaints I hear from executives is that there’s just not enough time to meet all their top priorities. Having served in a wide variety of senior roles in Silicon Valley over a 20+ year high-tech career, I totally get it. I’ve been there and sung that mantra myself many times over.
And yet, something has never sat right with me about the “there’s just not enough time” mantra that is so common in corporate culture. Since moving into coaching a number of years ago, I have finally put my finger on it – it’s too much of a victim mentality about time. People often use time as their punching bag, blaming it for their own choices.
Let me offer you a perspective flip about time: We are actually the creators of time. Take a moment to try and let that really sink in.
Posted on February 18, 2014
“2013 is the year that CEO’s came out. Not as being gay, but as being meditators.” – Arianna Huffington.
From making the cover of Time Magazine, to being a regular part of the training for the SuperBowl winning Seattle Seahawks, to being openly discussed among some of the world’s top level CEO’s, mindfulness and meditation are going mainstream.
Why? Here are just a few of the benefits: It reduces stress, enhances calm under pressure, improves mood and concentration.
More to come on mindfulness in a future post. For now, here are a few more of the most delectable tidbits from Wisdom 2.0 conference I spent the weekend at:
Posted on February 15, 2014
In watching the Olympics this week, one of the things I am really struck by is just how many parallels there are between Olympic athletes and the worlds best leaders. Here is eight of the top analogies between the two:
1. The pursuit of excellence
The Olympics, like no other sporting event, is emblazoned in our psyches as the purest representation of the pursuit of excellence. There are many ingredients that go into the development of an Olympic class athlete: Love of what you’re doing. Belief in yourself. Hard work. Determination.
Astute and constructive analysis of strengths and weaknesses. Targeted and focused practice that utilizes those strengths and builds those weaknesses. All of this led and facilitated by excellent coaches.
Posted on February 7, 2014
This picture is of me, in my racing days, one my way to a second place finish. It took lots of practice to get there.
In motorcycle road-racing, one of the key tenets is that you go where you look.
For instance, if you’re looking at the wall on the side of the track, you will unconsciously and automatically start heading towards it. If you look at the apex of the next corner, you will head towards it.
I’ve sometimes seen talented racers get distracted by another rider’s crash, and then unconsciously focus on that crash, and the next thing they know they’ve crashed too.
This is true not only in racing, but in all aspects of life. Whatever you put your attention on is where you will naturally tend to head – whether you like it or not.
Posted on February 3, 2014
Whatever team you might have been rooting for, we all know that wasn’t the real Denver Broncos yesterday. Right from the very first play, it was clear the Broncos were out of sorts. And it only got worse from there. Meanwhile, the Seahawks seemed incapable of doing anything wrong, and only played better and better as the game progressed.
Why is that?? It’s a simple answer really: Psychology is contagious. One failure can set a tone that can remain for a time. And a success can set a very different tone that can also remain for a time. The Broncos went down a downward spiral, while the Seahawks went up an upward spiral. The contrasting performance of these two teams clearly illustrated this tendency of human nature.
Posted on January 31, 2014
It’s showtime. This is the make-or-break moment in your career, and you just know this presentation is going to knock them dead. It has to. That uppity new hire is gunning for your promotion and this presentation is the key to winning your boss and his peers over to your side.
You’ve spent months working your butt off on this breakthrough project, sacrificing much of your personal life in the process. You stayed up most of the night polishing the deck to perfection, just to be extra sure. You’re better prepared than you’ve ever been.
Then, it happens… As soon as you bring up your powerpoint slides, the audience’s eyes start to glaze over a little. They’re being polite to keep it from being totally obvious, but you can see it.
Posted on January 24, 2014
See the smoke in the photo? That’s smoke from my tires, and that’s me in my track car, right after spinning out on the racetrack. And I now find myself pointing the wrong direction on the track, with cars coming full bore at me. But we’ll come back to that.
Making a mistake and gracefully recovering is one of the most critical, and also one of the most underdeveloped, skills in leadership. We’ve been conditioned for years to believe that mistakes reflect poorly on our abilities, and are to be avoided at all costs. This typically starts in our early childhood years, and is strongly reinforced in the vast majority of school systems, universities, and corporations.
Posted on January 21, 2014
Recently, while writing out a “quick email” on my phone in a grocery checkout line, another checkout line opened nearby and I totally missed it. Had I seen it, I could have been out of there several minutes earlier and back to my office typing out that email on my keyboard, where I can type at least 10x faster.
This experience made me wonder – in our quests to be hyper-efficient, how often are we shooting ourselves in the foot? A lot more often than we think…
Posted on January 17, 2014
In my work with leaders and teams, I have found that there is one constant deadly sin that is a core issue in every meeting. Not feeling heard.
Wanting to feel heard and seen is a basic need of the human race. It’s a huge part of what we need to feel satisfied and respected in our jobs, our relationships with colleagues, and our relationships with friends and loved ones.
Every single human being brings this core need into every discussion they ever have. Yet it’s the one thing that is almost never discussed.
Here are just a couple of the deadly symptoms that can arise from not feeling heard:
Posted on January 15, 2014
Just before the New Year, on a business trip to Baltimore, I had a free day that turned out to be rainy and cold. So I treated myself to one of my favorite pastimes – watching films. With a family trip to Disneyland only a few days away, I decided to see Saving Mr. Banks. It’s a story about how Disney acquired the rights to make Mary Poppins. It turned out to be a great film, with some great acting and storytelling. The story told in the film also had a plethora of leadership lessons. Here are the three most poignant:
Posted on January 13, 2014
Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is one of the best leadership books ever written. Sure, it’s technically a children’s book and doesn’t go into great detail, and that’s exactly what makes it great. It keeps it simple and gets right to the point.
I pride myself on reading it to my four-year-old son, Indiana, with as much emotion, charm, and meaning as I can muster. I REALLY want this book to stand out in his mind. It’s chock full of leadership and life lessons, has intriguing twists and turns, and besides, who can possibly resist the rhythm of a Dr. Seuss rhyme?
Posted on December 11, 2013
The holiday season is a wonderful time of appreciation, loved ones, and giving. And it can also be very challenging, hectic, and stressful. As “bah, humbug” as our inner scrooge might sometimes feel with all the gifts to buy, parties to attend, trips to take, family visits, etc., somehow, it usually all comes together and the spirit of community, love and gratitude that is in the air soaks into our hearts.
This is no accident. Whether we know it consciously or not, we actually cultivate those feelings of gratitude, giving and love towards one another, simply because we focus more of our energy on what we are grateful for. Sure, the holidays prompt us in that direction, but the important thing is that we choose to engage our attention with the holiday spirit, and look how our perspectives and feelings about our lives improve.
Posted on August 26, 2013
More and more, what distinguishes the best leaders from the rest of the pack is successfully creating high-quality and personal relationships across many different people and pieces of the organization. In today’s fast-paced world of miles long to-do lists and gazillions of decisions that need to get made yesterday, we can easily lose sight of the fact that relationships are what make the world go around.
Want higher quality professional relationships? Take the time to really get to know your colleagues, especially about things that have nothing to do with work. Be willing to slow down, take a breath, remember that we all have a fundamental need for connection as human beings, and take a catalyzing role in creating and generating those connections in your organization. Take the time to do more than just say hello. Make a point of talking with people even when you don’t have a professional reason to reach out, and especially when you don’t need anything at all from them. Ask about their personal lives. Treat them like a friend. In short, show them that you really care, and (here’s the rub), even in the hectic world we all live in, you have to mean it.
Posted on August 8, 2013
Faced with a tough decision? Where do you turn? Trusted colleagues? Friends? A mentor? A coach? The internet?
In preparing for writing this blog, I googled “making tough decisions” and found millions of hits, with lots of differing advice on how to think through tough decisions… I was immediately struck by the irony of someone feeling that they might benefit from a little guidance on how to more effectively make a tough decision, now faced with the not-so-easy decision of which decision making advice to follow.
In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world, information is coming at us at lightning speed, and for those big decisions, with information being so readily available, it’s easy to fall into the expectation of always finding enough information, the right information, the key piece of the puzzle, the relevant data, the right people in the organization, or the optimal solution for your customer. Yet, the fact is that while the quantity of information may be plentiful (perhaps even overwhelming), the information is sometimes incomplete and imperfect, and may even be conflicting.
Posted on March 13, 2013
There is no shortage of leadership opportunities. There is a severe shortage of inspired leaders who care more about their cause than anything else.
Leaders aren’t born. Leaders are every day people who see all the countless problems in the world, become inspired to make the world a better place, and believe the world is worth it. They believe in their cause strongly enough to take a stand, and thereby risk failure and embarassment. Leaders that wholeheartedly believe in their cause hardly worry about failure. There are far more important things to do than spend time on that kind of indulgence.
Posted on October 19, 2012
What is the intersection of Leadership, Executive Coaching, Vulnerability and Love? The Executive Coaching Institute at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
When I had my first real encounter with Executive Coaching as a part of earning my MBA in the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA program, I was completely astounded to see first hand the incredible power of displaying vulnerability as a leader. I can already hear your thoughts loud and clear. Something like “What? Vulnerability from a business leader? And it’s powerful? No way!”…