Monday, November 29, 2010

Are You Trying To Be Different?

An article in today's New York Times highlights the challenges of sustaining a successful company in today's tech world. Over the long run (which is not very long in the tech world), it is not enough to be better at delivering a service or providing a product than your current competitors. The real competition is the disruptive service or product that will change the rules of the game. What worked in the PC world falters on the Internet. A leader on the Internet is challenged by mobile devices. This fast-paced change process is moving into every aspect of our business and professional lives. So don't direct all your energy to being better than your peers at what you do. You have to dare to be different - creative, risk-taking, disruptive. Go for it!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Are You a Franchise Player?

We can learn a great deal from athletes in team sports about leadership, especially from Franchise Players, those exceptional players around whom teams are built. At times, the lesson may be negative, when the Franchise Player excels as an individual but does not necessarily drive the team to victory.

A positive model of leadership was provided by Oscar Robertson, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and a 12-time NBA All-Star. Here is what he wrote in an Op-Ed article in the New York Times on February 18, 2006.

"My philosophy was always to make the weakest link stronger, and create scoring opportunities for everyone. When you're asking guys to battle for rebounds and play tough defense, you have to involve them in the offense as well."

In my coaching practice, I share this message with the Franchise Players who want to build on their outstanding individual skills to become strong leaders. The approach works on the basketball court and in the work place.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Do You Know How Good You Are?

There is a big difference between being cocky and being confident in your talents and expertise. Unfortunately, this distinction is lost on many of the highly intelligent and accomplished women I work with as an executive coach. The reasoning seems to be "if I can do it, how hard can it be?"

This mind-set can be self-defeating in at least two ways. It blocks legitimate efforts to advance your career by letting people know all the amazing things you do. It also leads to setting unrealistic expectations for co-workers, who often don't measure up. The result may be frustration and unproductive working relationships.

So how do you answer the question "how good am I?" Look at the facts about your accomplishments. Check in with your mentors. Take the praise and honors you receive to heart. Believe in yourself!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Where Do You Get Your Confidence?

"The sweet spot between arrogance and despair." That is how Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Business School professor and consultant, describes "confidence". Confidence can make the difference between achieving our goals and falling short.

Where does our confidence come from? For some, it comes from past achievements, which build trust in our abilities and skills. We believe we can get the job done because we know we have done so in the past.

People in the early stages of their careers may not believe they have a winning track record to build on. They may hesitate to take on that new assignment because they lack confidence. Perhaps they need to look for confidence-builders in different places. An excellent place to start is with mentors and more experienced colleagues at work. If these people believe in you, it is a good sign that you have what it takes. Trust their judgment! They have invested in your success and want to see you accomplish great things.

Check out Kanter's blog.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Are You a Purple Cow?

No one has ever called me an early adopter. Millions of people have already read Seth Godin's books, watched his videos and listened to him at conferences. I was introduced to his ideas about a month ago. I like them. Check out this video of Seth's talk at a recent TED conference. Don't be put off by the business and commercial product examples. His message applies to all of us as we work to market our ideas and talents to advance our careers. What makes you a Purple Cow? What makes you remarkable? How can you get your message across to the people who care?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

When Did Being Disruptive Become a Good Thing?

When I was in grade school, being disruptive earned you a trip to the Principal's office. Today, being disruptive (with a new technology or other innovation) may earn you the attention of venture capitalists. A disruptive technology or innovation improves a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically by lowering price or designing for a different set of consumers. It changes the rules of the game. Think PC, then the iPhone.

What are you doing to be disruptive in your career or organization? Breaking out of the usual way of thinking and acting means taking a risk. It means moving out of your comfort zone. It can be a simple as reaching out to a colleague you have been avoiding to find common ground for collaboration. It may mean creating a Twitter account for your organization and increasing the transparency of your operations. It may mean developing a whole new approach to serving your clients. Large or small, if it leads to positive change and better results, being disruptive can be a good thing.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Who Defines You?

Change is hard - in your organization and in your career. One obstacle is the resistance of people around you to your efforts to re-invent yourself or just make a few strategic course corrections. As Daniel Goleman says in talking about Social Intelligence, "we are wired to connect." Our behavior has a strong effect on others, and vice versa. It can be all too easy to let others define who we are.

So how do we break through our own resistance to change and the barriers raised by the preconceived perceptions of others? It is all about motivation. Is what you are doing now working for you? Are you getting the rewards and gratification you are looking for from your career? How strong is the desire to try new ways of behaving and relating to others? If you want it badly enough, you will find the courage to take those crucial first steps in the change process. The right coach can help you every step of the way.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

When Was the Last Time You Moved Out of Your Comfort Zone?

I know exactly when I last moved out of my comfort zone. It was this past Tuesday, when I took part in a speed networking event. My preferred way to interact with people is one-on-one, with enough time to share information and begin to build trust. Speed networking allowed 2-3 minutes for two people to exchange names, business cards and enough information - verbal and the all-important non-verbal - to form the basis for further contact. I was a little dizzy at the end, but I had collected 15 business cards and met a number of people I liked almost instantly. Now I have new connections on LinkedIn and several follow-up opportunities. Once again, I found that moving out of my comfort zone brings rewards. What about you? When was the last time you moved out of your comfort zone? Try something today. It doesn't have to be a life-changing experience. Start with baby steps, but do move out of that cozy circle of familiar actions. If you need help, find a great executive coach to support you along the way.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Are You Going Through a Major Life Transition?

If you are going through a major life transition, you are certainly not alone. Over the last few weeks, I have talked with almost a dozen people - friends, clients, colleagues - who are grappling with big changes involving career or personal life - in some cases, both. Thanks to a generous gift from an amazingly empathetic friend, I knew just what to tell them - read Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, by William Bridges (25th Anniversary Edition). Bridges sets out a model of change encompassing endings, neutral zone, and beginnings. The book offers many useful insights and strategies. Importantly, it prompts the reader to pause to think more deeply about what the visible change is really about.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Are You Using Social Media to Advance Your Career?

I don't ask my executive coaching clients to do things I won't do myself. So I am learning as much as I can about the effective use of social media to advance careers and achieve business goals. Starting this blog at the beginning of 2010 is part of my personal program for exploring the benefits and pitfalls of using social media. I also look for models of success. Recently, I signed up for the daily blog of Seth Godin, best selling author who writes about the spread of ideas and managing both customers and employees with respect. His posts are brief and challenging. Mine are definitely a work in progress. But, as I tell my clients, you have to move out of your comfort zone and try new things if you want to grow personally and professionally.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Story of Growth & Re-invention

As I recently wrote a summary of my coaching qualifications for a prospective client, I realized that what truly sets me apart as an executive coach is the story of my own career. I am a role model of professional growth and re-invention, with a career that has broken barriers and constantly evolved. When I initially meet with a client, she may feel stuck, without a clear vision of how to move forward. I help each client shape a personal story of success, building on past accomplishments and charting a course to future growth. I know it can be done from my own experience.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Your Nonprofit's Leader Is Leaving - What Next?

With the baby boomers reaching retirement age and general turnover in the nonprofit world accelerating, many nonprofit organizations are facing the challenge of change at the top. The transition to new leadership is particularly risky for smaller organizations, which typically have limited staff and financial resources. These small to mid-sized nonprofits cannot afford a national executive recruiting firm to work up the position description and launch the search for a successor CEO or Executive Director. The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund have teamed up to provide resources to help manage these executive transitions. You can find useful information and guidance in the Executive Transition Monographs they have sponsored.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's Your Personality Type?

The last time I typed "Personality Tests" into Google, I got more than 2 million hits. Clearly, people are interested in learning about their personalities. Consultants, test publishers and websites of various kinds are ready to serve this interest. While there are hundreds of different assessment tools, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ("MBTI") is one of the most frequently used in the business world. Many large corporations use the assessment as part of their recruitment and training process. Knowing your type can help you be a more effective leader and team member. For a free assessment, go to this site. You will be able to take the assessment and learn more about personality types.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Importance of Collaboration

To be an strong leader and change agent, you must also be an effective collaborator. Executive coaches and organizational development professionals understand the importance of collaboration and often work together, bringing different skills and perspectives to bear on the challenge facing an individual or organization. Dr. Mimi Hull, president and founder of Hull & Associates, specializes in organizational development and human relations training and counseling. Dr. Hull's newsletters are a great source of information and guidance for professionals who want to advance their careers and reach their business goals. Check out Dr. Hull's website and sign up for the newsletters.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Knowing When to Switch to Plan B

Change is not just something I blog about or help individuals and organizations deal with. It is something I struggle with myself each day. My experiences - good, bad, and in process - inform my coaching and executive transition management work. I changed cities and business environments about 2 years ago and have been working hard to get traction in my new locale. I have made progress but not enough to satisfy my career goals. So it is time for Plan B, which includes renewing relationships with clients and colleagues back in New York City, where I lived for more than 20 years. I will be in New York for a few days each month going forward. The prospects look promising.

As you consider your business goals, it is important to be realistic about the probability of success. Of course, you should give it your best shot. There may come a point of diminishing returns, however. Being flexible is key. There is more than one road to success.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Who Says You Can't Change Old Habits?

Do you remember the sage advice Benjamin received in the movie The Graduate? One word: Plastics. That advice has been updated by Jordan Grafman in his book One Word:"Plasticity" The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. Reviewed in Cerebrum, the online magazine of The Dana Foundation, this book presents neuroscience research demonstrating the plasticity of the brain. You can change the way you think and behave. It is hard work and takes insight, focus, and practice. If making the change is important to you, you can do it. An experienced, skillful coach can help you with the process. Go for it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Dana Foundation - Outstanding Resource for Brain Research Findings

The Dana Foundation is an outstanding resource for findings from research on how the brain works. The Dana Foundation is a private philanthropic organization that supports brain research through grants and educates the public about the successes and potential of brain research. The foundation offers free publications and resources, including its online magazine Cerebrum.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Entrepreneurs Change the World with Help from Elisa Balabram

Elisa Balabram is the founder and editor of and the author of Ask Others, Trust Yourself, a complete business resource guide for the small business owner/entrepreneurial woman. Elisa and I have known each other for years, and she has helped me tremendously in my business development efforts. Every coach needs a coach, and Elisa is the best. Click on the name of her book to learn more.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Three Steps to Change Your Brain - Resources

For a summary of the relationship between neuroscience findings and coaching, I suggest you read "The Neuroscience of Leadership," by David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz, in strategy+business magazine You will also find relevant information on David Rock's site

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Three Steps to Change Your Brain - # 3

Step # 3 - Practice. Changing neural pathways takes attention density, the repeated and concentrated attention to a new way of thinking or acting. This takes time. Standard coaching engagements are 6 months or longer, with frequent meetings (usually weekly) at first to identify the new behaviors and begin the arduous work of paying attention and changing. Supported by your coach, you practice desired behaviors during working hours. You then report back to your coach on results. Together, you fine-tune behaviors and maintain the high-level of attention needed to bring about lasting change.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Three Steps to Change Your Brain - # 2

Step # 2 - Focus. Working with your coach, you may identify several areas for improvement but focus on only one. Experience tells us that trying to do too much does not work. Recent research shows that changing the brain's neural pathways - and the behaviors they control - takes concentrated attention, over and over again. Coaching focuses on solutions to imprint new perceptions and actions on the brain.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Three Steps to Change Your Brain - # 1

Effective coaching builds on the links between brain psychology and the change process. Here is the first of three steps used in coaching to change your brain and help promote new ways of thinking and behaving.

Step # 1 - Insight. Change begins when we understand the power of mental models - the structures used to interpret the world. Because these mental maps can strongly influence the reality we see, we need to come up with our own answers to the dilemmas we face in our careers. A coach can help you gain insight and find the solution that is right for you. Personality and leadership assessments, input from colleagues at all organizational levels, and feedback from the coach are useful tools in this process.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Three Steps to Change Your Brain - The Challenge

Why is it so hard to change the way we see situations and how we respond? Why do so many change efforts - personal, professional, organizational - fall short of their goals? We all have answers from experience, theory and intuition. With the help of sophisticated imaging tools like MRI's, we now have answers based on the way the brain works. By integrating psychology and neuroscience, scientists have described the brain's mechanisms for creating neural pathways that underlie new ways of seeing the world and taking action. The research confirms that change is hard but also offers specific methods for overcoming the obstacles. This blog will explore the change process from many perspectives, including the workings of the brain, and provide practical guidance for taking action to improve your performance and meet your business goals.