Are you ready for coaching?

Good for you for exploring executive coaching! The willingness to consider even "going there" wherever that might be" demonstrates a valuable self awareness and commitment to growth that will help you to cut through the fog and chaos of whatever your current context is and move beyond. A caveat of coaching is to help clients illuminate, gain clarity, focus and perspective to achieve that which is important to them.

There are as many approaches to coaching - each with its pluses and minuses- as there are coaches. Some specialize in particular disciplines: career development, leadership, executive presence, communications, etc. This is something to consider as well in your coach selection process.

As far as process, in general, a coaching client can typically expect: 

  • a preliminary "contracting" phase to outline expectations from both client and coach as far as logistics, fees and general concerns, availability...
  • a diagnostic phase that might (but not necessarily )include the use of tools such as 360 feedback or behavioral interviews - or not - depending on the client needs
  • development plan - either more formal or less so (again depending)
  • coaching sessions - how and when (face to face, virtual, phone how often ) depending on what is initially agreed to 
  • custom tailored homework and additional resource support (optional)  
  • follow up and accountability 

Don't be afraid to speak with and interview several different coaches (for fit and connection) before making a commitment. It matters!  

cutting through the fog

Out of the shadows and fog of change can come "ahaha" moments leading to elevated performance . Case in point: a recent  merger/acquisition  had  left an organization in confusion and with employee engagement,  process integration issues. Working with front line staff and managers, at the Director's request,  identified process breakdowns and bottlenecks. Facilitated with teams to uncover root issues and brainstorm possible solutions/improvements. Served in information gathering role and successfully created safe environment for departments to share issues and concerns. Then, with permission,  brought up issues to management level that previously were latent/unknown and yet were having major negative impact on productivity as well as morale. Take away: subtle yet powerful dynamics are often at play and impacting your team or organization. Great gains can be realized through a subtle approach in risky and sensitive settings. 

I can see clearly now...

A recent  merger/acquisition  had  left an organization in confusion and with process integration issues. Working with front line staff and managers, at the Director's request,  identified process breakdowns and bottlenecks. Facilitated with teams to uncover root issues and brainstorm possible solutions/improvements. Served in information gathering role and successfully created safe environment for departments to share issues and concerns. Then, with their permission,  brought up issues to management level that previously were unknown and yet were having major negative impact on productivity as well as morale. 

jump - might as well jump!

The power of optimism. Seeing the upside. Taking action!  How self management plays a crucial role in our emotional intelligence and what that means for our lives. Researchers like Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee have long know about their impact and  importance.

But how do we do this? How do we begin?

Van Halen's classic song captures the energy, emotion and enthusiasm well. Might as well jump! 


I get up, and nothing gets me down. 

You got it tough. I've seen the toughest around. 
And I know, baby, just how you feel. 
You've got to roll with the punches to get to what's real 
Oh can't you see me standing here, 
I've got my back against the record machine 
I ain't the worst that you've seen. 
Oh can't you see what I mean ? 
Might as well jump. Jump ! 
Might as well jump. 
Go ahead, jump. Jump ! 


defying the skeptics - defying the odds

For those of us who root for the underdogs, this week brought two major "upside surprises" as the markets like to say. Both were unexpected.  Both defied the odds. And we love that.

First, on Monday - Patriots' Day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Meb Keflezighi  became the first American since the early 1980's to win the famed Boston Marathon. Decisively so. And the back story even better. Learning that he had at one time, Meb had been on Nike's advertising licensing roster for running shoe promotion, but gotten dropped apparently due to his age (39 next month) and fading star power, must have made the win all that much sweeter for him. Not only did he beat those expectations, but many others. As one of eleven children in a family seeking a better life, they came to America and have risen. Meb stated after the race that he was intentional in remembering the bombing victims from a year earlier. Indeed, he had written their names on his racing bib and harnessed that tremendous motivation.

Then, there's Apple. Perhaps not considered to be so much of an underdog, but lately, ignored and unloved by the markets. Until yesterday, when they stunned with earnings results, stock split, raising of dividends and renewed energy. And all under the new leadership team of CEO Tim Cook who assumed the reigns after the passing of the legendary Steve Jobs. Yes Apple is iconic. But many had viewed in the same light as Meb. With its best days behind it and lacking the resources to outperform again. 

These skeptics were wrong. This time, the drivers of innovation, focus, determination and persistence yielded the return that few saw coming. It gives the rest of us rocket fuel to continue fighting our own battles, defying our own skeptics at least for a little while longer. 



What Shostakovitch knew and why it still matters

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a symphony orchestra concert featuring Shostakovitch's Symphony No.5 in D Minor.  Composed in 1937, strong and substantial, this work is still as moving and relevant today as it was during former Communist Soviet times.

What  I found interesting, important and eerily resonant was not only the timing of this particular performance - this moment (in light of recent geopolitical events) but also the intensity of the listening and learning experience.

 According to the program notes, Shostakovich wrote that: "The theme of my symphony is the development of the individual. I saw man with all his sufferings as the central idea of the work, which is lyrical in mood from start to finish; the finale resolves the tragedy and tension of the earlier movements on a joyous, optimistic note."

An individual's ability to re-frame, reinvent and revitalize continue to be the tools of transformation. Heavy lifting. Relevant today as yesterday. Inspiration fueled by music - even better.

Program Notes - NJ Symphony Orchestra



Ventured and Gained - putting vision into reality

Without it nothing. Status quo. Inertia. Remember - leadership is not for the faint of heart. Along with having a vision, you've got to be able to get there. It requires fortitude, grit and having a point of view. Knowing your business and having something of value to say about it. 

To be convincing. Yet not with an overblown ego. To be able to consider diverse points of view. To demonstrate judgement. To think both globally and locally. To be able to deliver the goods time and time again. And to leverage your teams to empower them to do the same.

The journey starts with you. 


Curiosity? What that monkey and proverbial cat have in common.

 Insatiable Curiosity.

The hidden link for learning, growth and success.

Explorers from the Vikings to the Romans. Curious George. His friend - the man with the big yellow hat. The cat with nine lives that kept coming back.  They all shared that quest for learning. That need to know.  For more knowledge. Understanding. Insight. That insatiable curiosity.

As an executive coach for many years I have been asked what's best to focus on. To do. To perform better. To achieve more. Whether it's corporate executives looking for execute or parents hoping to influence, my answer has remained consistent. Never stop seeking. Asking questions,  Learning. Especially in these uncertain "VUCA" times.  

Spring Training

That's what one of my organizational coaching/consulting clients called his annual efforts to bring global leaders together for a couple of days of focused, intense, hands-on training and development. For him, it's an important ritual. Like spring cleaning I suppose for those of us who are not inclined to play the honorable game of baseball. To be missed or ignored at one's own peril.

In his mind, a clarion call to the troops. A rite of passage from Q1 to Q2. One carved out of necessity to prepare for future success.  To align road warrior schedules and bodies to strategically focus on both fundamental skills that need a tune up, eliminate rust, oil creaking moving parts and pieces and shed unneeded and energy-sapping fat.

We'll be ready for he and his team. To help them play with heart. To win. With integrity intact.  After all, isn't that what the game is all about?

Making Hay- what high performing companies know

The business landscape is improving but still pretty rough. But there are things we can do. It's no secret to most of us in executive coaching, consulting and organizational development that people perform better (engagement and execution) and stay longer (retention) when companies demonstrate a similar level of commitment. High performing teams and companies take work and commitment to develop, evolve and sustain.

A recent report by the Hay Group offers this insight:

" Engaged employees cannot be expected to take a personal interest in organizational objectives unless organizations make a reciprocal commitment to treating employees as more than factors of production. With organizations increasingly forced to do more with less, tapping in to the discretionary effort offered by engaged employees becomes all the more important for business success."

Core components include: good leadership to provide vision, strategy and business case. Collaboration and honest, open communication to keep the herd aligned and moving in the right direction (execution). And then care and concern to elicit that extra effort resulting in gaining distinct competitive advantage over those who do not. They're still looking for the needle in the haystack.

A Leadership Lesson from Lincoln

As we celebrate Abraham Lincoln's birthday this week, this quote from his Annual Message to Congress -- Concluding Remarks, (Washington, D.C. - December 1, 1862) struck me as particularly fitting for our times:

"It is not "can any of us imagine better?" but, "can we all do better? The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Yes we all can imagine better - but can well all do better? Disenthrall ourselves? Sounds so difficult, unpleasant, even painful. Yet as necessary now as it was when Lincoln was President. What's old is new again. As is the realization that great leadership demands both mental toughness and the willingness to bear the requisite discomfort for the changes so needed. Lincoln knew it and had the courage to live by his conviction. Do we?

Feedback is a gift.

Feedback is a gift. I was recently reminded of this wisdom by the passing of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who famously and frequently asked his constituents: "How am I doing"? The openness and ability to receive real-time information and opinion on one's day-to-day performance was not lost on him. And what a difference it made.