Coaching Your Executive Team (Silos – Part 2)

team-buildingIn my previous post about breaking down silos  I wrote of the importance of seeing the executive team you are a part of as the priority team (Team #1) over the team you are actually leading.  This comes from Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Advantage .

Expect expressions of sense of loss and concern as you ask your team to make this mental switch. It’s real. The fear is, if the team I manage is no longer my “home team”, who will look after me? Where will my sense of belonging come from?

As the executive team leader you have an obligation to be the best meeting chair/coach/team leader  possible from your level down. Their success as leaders of their own teams will largely depending on how you model your role. Continue reading “Coaching Your Executive Team (Silos – Part 2)”

Breaking Down Silos – Team # 1

team huddle

While still a consultant, for 15 years I was simultaneously part of a pastoral team at a New York City-based Church. In my capacity I managed a few ministry departments over the years. I’ve always enjoyed leading my ministry teams but – depending on the year and how things were going – I often found myself being protective of my department, sometimes at the expense of prioritizing the larger pastoral team of which I was a member. I found myself battling for volunteers, “air time”for Sunday morning announcements, recognition for my team and for time to present our vision at staff meeings. Sadly, I wasn’t the only one who found themselves in this predicament.

Sadder still, whether I am consulting with a church, a municipality or a private company the same thing is rampant. Executive team members jockeying for attention, resources and recognition, often at the expense of unity.

Yet this could all be avoided, along with the dreaded “silos” between departments, if we observed this simple but profound principle outlined by business author Patrick Lencioni (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team ; The Advantage; Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything).

Continue reading “Breaking Down Silos – Team # 1”

But you are not a Jedi YET…

Yoda 2

When you’ve changed and grown but your boss still sees you as an apprentice.

In Star Wars lore, a Padawan is the apprentice of a Jedi Master (a master fighter, strategist, spiritual guru and MASTER of “The Force”). The Padawan apprentices under the Jedi master for a number of years, learns not only how to control a light saber, but how to control his mind, bringing negative emotions under control so that he can develop his telekinetic powers. Yoda and Luke Skywalker (above) had just such a relationship, and even as the apprentice was gaining prowess towards Jedi knighthood, Yoda famously says to him in one scene, “But you are not a Jedi yet!”

As we go through promotions from front line employee to supervisor, to manager and beyond, two sets of people tend to have a tough time adjusting to the transition: our colleagues who are now our subordinates, and our new colleagues who were once our bosses (or several rungs up the ladder from us). Even though they may have groomed us for greatness and been the ones to release us into greater and greater responsibility and autonomy, it is still hard for many to acknowledge the fruit of their own “success”; that the student has now become the master. Continue reading “But you are not a Jedi YET…”

Failure Coaching for Leaders

This post is adapted from my upcoming book: Pitfalls of Fear Driven Leaders and how to Overcome


The “It’s OK to Fail” club has more and more members. Its adherents are industry leaders, sports figures, executive and life coaches, therapists and people with success stories because, truth be told, they almost all had to fail before their first quantifiable success. Beyond that, business and organizational development specialists know the vital importance of freedom from fear of failing in innovation and the formation of authentic, productive work environments.

The wonderfully titled John Maxwell book, Failing Forward has as its subtitle: How to make the most of your mistakes. Vlogger Chantelle Adams, in her video series “The Courage Revolution”,  has an episode entitled, “How to Fail Like a Pro”.

So failure is finally coming out of the closet and getting the honor it’s due!

To coach yourself or others in how to make the most of failure, here are some tips

Continue reading “Failure Coaching for Leaders”

How Extraordinary Leaders Communicate: 7 Principles of Fierce Conversations

The best thing a courageous leader can do is to learn to have genuine, “fierce” conversations that change things.

Sheila Madden at Madden Coaching: Executive Coach & Consultant

As I watch the staggering inability of the world’s leaders to communicate with integrity and to engage people in solving the problems we face, I am reminded of one of the best leadership books I have ever read: Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott. 

Does the word “Fierce” scare you? It shouldn’t. The lack of it is what should scare the living daylights out of you.  As defined on the book’s cover “fierce” means “robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager and unbridled.”

I must admit, I like these words a lot. I would go so far as to suggest that these words describe some of the core competencies of life, in addition to leadership.

Gradually, Then Suddenly

The book starts with a quote from Ernest Hemingway’s, The Sun Also Rises where one of the characters is asked:

“How did you go bankrupt?”

He answers, “Gradually, then suddenly.”

As you watch the indictments and sentencing of so many world leaders do…

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Dear Toxic Boss: I’m talking to YOU

toxic-leadership-2_All of us have seen them. Some of us have worked for them. Some of us have been them. You know ” them” : the screamer; the humiliator; the total dominator; the letch (male or female); the misogynist; the man-hater; the racist; the narcissist; the incompetent; the ostracizer; the blamer…need I go on?

You’re probably reading this because some intimidated employee sent it to you anonymously, or left it on their computer monitor so you could see it when you peeked into their cubical. No one gave you this article in person because they’ve been led to believe that telling the Emperor s/he was naked would cost them their job.

You micromanage and ask employees to report back on minutiae (which I doubt you read) to cover for the fact that they may know their jobs better than you do. You abuse the performance evaluation process and, rather than use it as a development tool, make it your version of having a student report to the principal’s office. The overuse of symbols of privilege like private washrooms, parking spaces and personal assistants just makes your staff view you as a  paper tiger. Continue reading “Dear Toxic Boss: I’m talking to YOU”

A Tiger in the Forest – Taming Your Team-Busting Employee

Thomas Friedman in  Friedman’s Fables tells the tale of “The Friendly Forest” , a place where all of the animals live happily together until a new neighbor, a ferocious tiger, moves in. The very presence of the tiger disrupts the calm, peaceful atmosphere, especially for the lamb that seems to be the object of the Tiger’s growling obsession. The frightened lamb is advised by his friends not to leave the forest just because of one new inhabitant; he’s counseled that ‘the tiger is just being a tiger – that’s just how they behave’. Perhaps the lamb is being too sensitive. In fact, perhaps the lamb, itself, is contributing tho the aggressiveness of the tiger!tiger-emerald-forest-koyeq_085123 Perhaps the Lamb needs to give concessions to the tiger and accept his behaviors. Meanwhile the stalking continues until finally someone had the wisdom to say, “This is ridiculous. You don’t try to make the lamb and tiger communicate better. If you want them to coexist in the same forest you have to cage the bloody tiger!”.

And so it is in business when one or more employees, by their attitudes or behaviors, poison the work environment, demotivating the whole department. And haven’t we all been like the other animals in the forest at one time or another, wishing someone would just cage (or shoot) that tiger?

What are some of the reasons we allow such behavior to continue?

Continue reading “A Tiger in the Forest – Taming Your Team-Busting Employee”

The Shift – (cont’d) Surviving Your Transition to the Top

The Top 1

IT’s lonely at the top. If I could summarize one key point in surviving a major promotion it would be this: To Thine Own Self Be True.  Those people who have a solid, humble sense of self before the transition usually don’t go off the deep end even when such a radical shift occurs.

Warren Buffet is one of the richest men in the world. He is worth billions has had the same annual salary of $100,000 for the past 25 years and still lives in the home he purchased for $31,000 in 1958. (Business Insider). He famously asked the government a few years ago during the “tax wars” to raise his taxes because he believed that as a billionaire that he – like other tax-sheltered super rich folks – wasn’t paying his fair share. Money has not changed what he values – a peaceful, simple life just loving his family and doing what he loves for a living.

Michael Bergdahl in his book about Walmart founder Sam Walton ( What I Learned from Sam Walton… ) tells of a mega-store mogul who questioned his managers’ values if the parking lot was full of BMWs and late model cars. He, himself, drove an old Ford pick-up truck to work every day. Peer pressure and a stern talking to by the boss resulted in an employee parking lot that looked more like a used car lot than a luxury dealership.

Does this mean that you can’t enjoy your new found wealth and privileges? Not at all. But people who are content before they cross into that heady new atmosphere are more likely to remain content after reaching the top. Their inner peace does not depend on their outward trappings. What can we learn from their examples and others:

Personal – Believe it or not, I recommend journaling; writing your day by day reactions to this tremendous transition in your life. Some people actually seek therapy to cope with the sense of unworthiness that sometimes accompanies this sudden turn of events. Michael Hyatt has an excellent article on reframing your fear and making it work for you. Your circumstances have changed. You don’t have to change, but you do have to adjust.

Financial – Stay generous. The richer people get, the less they tend to give to charity. If you donated 10% of your income to a legitimate charity when it was in the hundreds of dollars, keep donating that 10% even when it’s in the tens of thousands. Get a good investment broker. The site Investopedia has a great article by Jonas Elmerraji on picking your first broker.

Stay balanced. This is the time in your career when you find yourself missing everything from lunch breaks to vacations. The number one complaint among executives is the lack of personal time to enjoy leisure pursuits. Decades ago Merril Lynch asked prospective stock brokers what they did in their down time. They knew that people who just lived to work wouldn’t last very long (or be fun to be around). Realistically, you will have to give up a lot of time for yourself and some family obligations in your new position, especially if it represents a significant change in your status in the organization. But fight hard to hold onto something of yourself.

On the job – Get an executive coach. Some corporations and municipal agencies offer them in house. You may want to take advantage of formal in house mentors but I also highly recommend outside coaches or internal ones that you’ve hand picked. They must be people who will tell you when your breath stinks or if you put your foot in your mouth.  By all means stay humble. While you may have mastered the position you came from, this new step is uncharted territory. You don’t know what you don’t know so do lots of listening in the beginning rather than come in like gangbusters. Be sure that you have totally learned the new territory and have gained strategic allies before you make any major changes in structure or systems.    Above all, enjoy yourself! You’ve earned it.

Do you have any experiences or advice for others who have been newly promoted? If so, please share your comment below!

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The Contemplative Leader


The unexamined life is not worth living. – Plato


In  management there is a bias towards action, and necessarily so. Managers get things done through people and they manage production, output, outcomes, and systems. The last expectation we have of a manager or executive leader is that they spend hours, or even a whole day per week thinking and reflecting on who, what and how they manage.

Yet the staple of most mid to large sized companies and organizations, the management retreat, is indicative of the awareness of the need to step back and “look at the dance floor from the balconey”.

On a personal level some of our most successful entrepreneurs, religious leaders and public figures are also people who make it a  priority to spend a significant amount of alone time in reflection. They muse over everything from their performance as a leader to work/life balance to whether or not their organization is staying true to its core values.

Some people are just naturally more introspective than others. They process things internally, pay attention to their thoughts and feelings about what is being said and done and are content spending copious time alone. For managers, whether introspective or not by nature, getting alone to reflect on performance, your own and your team’s, is the best use of time away from the office. In fact, the time spent reflecting on performance is inversely proportional to the time you’ll have to spend making the same mistakes, allowing morale-killing behavior to continue, and having to force people into alignment with your goals.

Step one: Press Pause

I recommend for beginners taking two days out of a quarter, preferably away from the office, with a notebook, your calendar, and ideally, a window to gaze out of. Taking walks or a jog or a long drive can help to mentally remove you from your daily grind. One City manager took two whole days off from work just to figure out how to work exercise into her work/life routine. It’s got to be that radical. Work up to a “sabbatical week” each year. That week may or may not be spent away, but it will be a week when you allocate hours each day just to reflect on your work and your personhood as a leader rather than just doing. Schedule your blank spaces for solitude.

Step two: Search your feelings

I like to put topics on the top of blank pages and then commit myself to filling them out. One-liners like:

What’s going really well?

What sucks right now?

What am I pretending not to know or notice?

What would I like to see happen in this area or, what do I need more of in my life?

Step three: Feel the “ouch”

Your scribbled musings might lead you to some gut discomfort. You might realize that you gloss over the fact that your #2 is clearly frustrated with you and you keep blowing him off. You might allow your consciousness to surface the chill that has been hovering over your staff meetings since you let a popular but poorly performing supervisor go.

Step four: Reflect on your feedback

Coach Mike Ditka made a routine of replaying elements of a previous game with a team before getting ready for the next one. What kind of feedback have you been getting about yourself, your supervision, your presence at meetings, your leadership, the choices you’ve made? Do you practice the kind of walk-around management that would even alert you to such feedback?

Before a new initiative or a reimagined old one, take time to replay what has gone well and what has not. I am not suggesting that this substitutes for team reflection time; a time that should include, perhaps, a strategic planning coach. This is the reflection on the impact your actions or inactions have had on project outcomes and on employees’ experience of working with you.

Step five: Make a make a plan

Notice, I didn’t say that this was also a time to plan. I know many people use their reflective time that way but unless you have a third day during that quarter you’ll need the two whole days (at minimum) just to reflect and take notes. Then, as part of your monthly and weekly reflection time, you can schedule problem solving both alone and with your team. To jump to quickly into fixing things while you’re in a  reflective mood can sabotage the process and shut down introspection.

I can’t stress enough the importance of developing a habit of journaling, even a few lines a week, to continue incorporating contemplative methodology in your daily work.

If you will make the time annually, quarterly, monthly and daily to stop and assess your own effectiveness not just as a leader but in life, mindfulness will become more of an ingrained way of life governing your speech, your reactions and your priorities.

The world needs you and me to be fully present so that we can give our best. Let’s give it to them!



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