Leaders: Which Way Do You Shift?


Shift is a simple word, yet it has so many possible meanings. Shift is a motion word. It implies change. We shift gears when we drive. We also make life choices that involve shifting about. First you’re right here, then you’re not. That is shift. More importantly, when it comes to leadership, the shift you make may be critical.


My wife and I are blessed with a small army of grandkids, all under the age of 4. When they are together, there is a lot of shifting going on. Getting one or more of them to sit still is almost impossible. They have this natural energy to move. One of the boys, a two year old, loves climbing up in my lap to watch his shows. Yet even when he tries to be focused on the cartoon or program on the screen there is movement. It’s just there.

As we grow older though, the ways we shift and the reasons for a shift take on new significance.

First the Downside

Motion or action does not mean success. I know people who can get very busy and accomplish nothing. I’ve been guilty of that myself. If all your effort has no plan or purpose, you might be shifting for the wrong reasons. Hopping from task to task or even job to job may feel like progress, but in reality, it is not.

Causing change in your personal life or work life just for the sake of change is a problem. Before you decide on a new direction, be sure it is consistent with a plan. Napoleon Hill, in his epic book “Think and Grow Rich”, suggests that only 2 people in 100 have ever designed a life plan.

From many years in coaching people through career change, I learned the vast majority of American workers land jobs out of school just to have a paycheck. Then they get stuck doing something that has nothing to do with their real passion in life. It takes years, if not decades, to realize what the passion should have been. A few fortunate souls make the shift and get aligned with what their heart desires for vocation.

There is great success in finding the right balance between your heart’s affection and your mind’s attention. Be sure you get those in right balance and you will have a far more successful career.

When to Shift

There are the wrong kinds of shifting, then the right ones. The right kind of shift happens when we:

  • Realize a conflict has arisen that we must avoid
  • Recognize a situation as being immoral, unethical, or illegal
  • Feel a need to grow
  • Take on a new challenge

Dealing with Conflict

As conflict arises, you might need a shift. Perhaps your mindset needs adjusting. Your attitude about a subject may be the contributing factor to the conflict. As a leader, conflict is not welcome. You need to be the peace maker.

Yes, there may be a critical decision that is all on you. When you make the decision, some conflict might come up. Yet the way you choose to handle it (a shift in mindset) may be the greatest contribution you can make. Draw deep into your inner core. Use your values and leadership principles to set the course, making the shift as smoothly as you can.

Not all of your decisions will be seen as perfect, but you can minimize conflict by having your own willingness to shift your approach as needed without compromising your values and vision.

Facing a Bad Situation

From time to time, you may find yourself inadvertently getting pulled into a circumstance that is either immoral, illegal, or unethical. One of my early mentors in banking was a very senior executive who was a well respected banker. When we brought new loan requests to him, we would review the risk reward factors, but then he would ask “Is there anything about this person or this company that is illegal, immoral or unethical?” You knew he was always going to ask that question. However, it always gave us pause.

I’ve also known business partners who may get into a bind and one or the other person reaches a little too far into this area in hopes of solving the problem. As soon as you sense that a partner is veering off course, you must make the shift to return things to center or abandon the deal. Your reputation is at stake.

If your moral compass (some call it your BS meter) is going wild, check the signals. Avoid the trouble, it’s not worth it. This kind of shift away from destruction is healthy, wise, and prudent.

The Need to Grow

We all have moments in our professional lives where we begin to sense a need to grow. The job is stale. The opportunity is capped. Or you’re just bored. You may need a shift for growth.

Now, I must caution my Millennial readers that this kind of boredom should not set in on a job inside of 90 days. Job opportunities take longer than that to reveal what the job really involves. If you feel bored within 90 days, you made a bad choice to start. It’s not the company or the boss. It is your decision to take the job that needs adjusting. Leave if you must but figure out why you made the bad choice and learn something from that before you go to work somewhere else.

Growth may also come without a job change. You may just feel the need to learn more about your role. You realize you need deeper knowledge of a subject or more technical know-how to perform at a higher level. A growth shift is in order.

Taking on a New Challenge

A shift is required when change happens. Whether the change is in your position or your duties at work. Or maybe it involves relocation. New challenges come in the birth of a child or grandchild. All of the other major life events create change that requires a shift of some sort or another. Making the right shift is critical to having the best possible outcome.

The life shifts we make to handle the changes around us will dictate whether we succeed or fail. Choose wisely my friend.

When was the last time you had to shift? Was it the right kind of shift?

Link Your Brand to a Story for Greater Success

your brand needs a story

Your business provides a great product or service, right? What sets you apart from the next guy? Study successful brands, and you’ll see they each link their brand with a story. Doing so generates more than simple interest; it connects with their clients’ unconscious minds.

your brand needs a storyLink your brand with a narrative, and you will increase business success.

Why people love a story

The human brain loves a good story. Stories connect with the subconscious mind, which, incidentally is where beliefs are stored. Potential clients don’t just adopt logical thinking when deciding whether to buy products or employ a firm’s services. Their beliefs influence their choices as well.

The subconscious mind uses metaphors to communicate with the conscious mind.

Its wisdom rises in the form of stories and pictures to guide people’s actions. Thus, it might show you an image of someone carrying a heavy load if you contemplate tackling what you consider a difficult task. Or, your mind might present a picture of you meeting success if you believe doing so is possible.

Create a story for your brand that inspires people, and they will like your business. Their unconscious minds will tap into the story, and it will influence their decision to use your services.

What type of story do people love?

First, on an unconscious level, people adore a story that feeds their need to overcome obstacles. They love narratives about rising from difficult circumstances and accomplishing success. Think about your favorite movies. Usually there is a struggle in the story. Whether it is overcoming evil for good, rags to riches, or the victory for a cause, this dynamic reach for something better grabs our hearts and minds.

Furthermore, the human brain is designed to seek improvement. Tales of starting small and achieving big victories provide a feel-good factor that puts people in a good mood. Connecting with this internal wiring for improvement through a good story line helps lock in the message.

Why authenticity counts

At this point, you might imagine you can simply make up a brilliant story to attract customers, but hold on a moment. Before you get too creative, remember, people love authenticity as much as they love a great story. Winning stories are based on facts. Clients will soon smell a rat if your brand’s narrative isn’t genuine.

We all have our own BS meter. We know when people are not being real. The story you choose to build your brand must originate from sincerity and authenticity.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]You cannot be someone else, that job is taken.[/shareable]

Finding a story for your brand

Your brand already has a story; it just needs to be recognized. You’ll uncover the right story if you think of its beginning stemming from how you had a dream. After all, there was a time when your business was a thought rather than a reality. Here lies the part of the tale where you hadn’t yet achieved success.

What were you doing back then? How did you know you wanted your life to change? What did you want to give to the world by starting your business? Answer such questions, and you’ll have the basis for the story.

The tale needs to inspire awe and help your clients believe 

Bear in mind the tale needs to inspire awe and help your clients believe your business has what it takes to improve their lives. Thus, don’t only mention how you were poor but rose from the ashes of poverty like a phoenix to make money. Consider how you discovered you could help others overcome challenges and meet their needs, and weave this element into the story.

12392060 brand story large

Do NOT be afraid

Apart from not thinking of the idea, want to know why some business people never tell their story and link it to their brand? They are scared. Telling their tale involves stepping out of their comfort zone and getting personal. When you reveal your struggles in life, you are vulnerable. However, speaking about how you began your journey will help your clients feel a connection with your brand.

If your story were only about the success of your brand, it wouldn’t be inspiring. Your customers want to be able to relate to the story. Thus, it needs to feed their desire to hear about moving from humble beginnings to achieving a dream.

You might not think you need to link your brand to a story to find success, and you may be right.

You’re more likely to succeed if you uncover the real tale

You are more likely to succeed if you uncover the real tale of your business to tell. Doing so will not only attract clients, but it will also boost your confidence, inspire employees, and make you proud. You’ll love your business even more than you do now, and what you love you nurture.

Footnote: Much of this article was contributed by Austin Tenette, a certified business coach at Focal Point.

Leadership: Closing Is Usually Not the Problem

Leadership in Placement

In the sales world, there is a big focus on closing the deal. Tips and techniques for effective closing are taught by sales trainers of all types. Yet closing alone does not win many deals. Opening with the prospective client is a bigger factor on whether you win the deal or not. By taking a look at this essential part of the sales process, you can learn something about being a better leader.

Closing is NOT the problem
Closing is NOT the problem

The inability to close is really a symptom rather than a problem. The true problem may be in the way you open.

From the Sales Point of View

The way you open the relationship determines the likelihood of success. You need to set a vision to establish the right agenda and anchor three key areas to earn the right to close:

  • Establish trust and rapport with your target (by being authentic and transparent).
  • Agree about compelling business value.
  • Understand their sense of priorities (and their process for evaluation and selection).

Once these three things are in place, the date for purchasing commitment becomes clear to both buyer and seller. Contracting or finalizing the purchase becomes a ‘next step’ rather than a white knuckle adventure. For many in sales they feel like they need to lock their customer in a room or go sit in their lobby for days on end until the purchase order is secured… desperation is the worst way to attempt a close. You cannot water board a client to a close.

Closing must be earned. Objections from the buyer usually suggest the seller has made mistakes by pushing before trust and value has been established. It also indicates an absence of the necessary understanding of the buyer’s timing, priorities and processes.

Making the Shift

These same principles hold true in management and leadership. You cannot push an employee to success, at least not for the long term. Some degree of trust must be established before an employee openly follows the guidance of the manager.

For managers; remember that you cannot manage by results; only by activities and actions. Ask the right questions of your people at the beginning of the quarter and help them identify and execute the right actions that create progression throughout the quarter. Firing-up the blow torch with just days to go in the quarter after neglecting the inputs that create success is a sure-fire way to damage relationships and drive-down performance.

Begin with a Strong Opening

As a leader, building a team takes hard work. We are too often “quick to hire and slow to fire”. It should be the other way around. Talent selection must be a well orchestrated effort driven by specific attributes necessary to fill a job. The considerations include:

  • Alignment with company vision and goals
  • Applicable technical skills or experience
  • Cultural fit
  • Personality compatibility
  • And many more…

In Jim Collins’ watershed book “Good to Great”, he introduces the concept of identifying your “hedgehog” focus; the thing your company does best. Then he adds “getting the right people on the bus”.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]Hiring and placement is about finding the right souls to fill the right roles.[/shareable]

Doing more to achieve better selection and placement can set the stage for better success.

Once a candidate is selected, you must have an effective on-boarding process to begin building that opening argument for why the person is here and what opportunities you have for them. When someone joins your team, they have taken the first step to say “yes, I think I see what can be done here”. As the leader, you must build on that, reinforcing the values and reasons. These steps add to the proper and effective “opening” with a new hire, thus improving the odds for a strong “closing” in their performance.

The Simple But Elegant Solution

For better management and leadership of your team, you need to have an ability to set priorities, assess the “what can I do to help you” factors, and keep momentum gaining steam. There’s an old manager’s line that says:

You must inspect what you expect.

In all my years on the front line, I have seen no better system that the Big 5 Performance Management model. The simplicity of this idea is elegant.

You ask your team to each prepare a monthly report. List five accomplishments for the prior month and add five priorities for the next month; just bulleted lists, no long text/paragraphs.

Once the employee prepares this report, they share it with the manager. The manager can use the report as a coaching moment. Setting alignment and agreement or making slight adjustments to the priorities.

Companies who have adopted Big 5 have eliminated annual employee appraisals. Why would you need them? With Big 5 you have 12 months of actual data. More importantly, if there was a need for slight correction or coaching with an employee, the manager can handle it real-time, thus reducing extended failures and missteps. This improves effectiveness of the team as a whole.

Finally, with Big 5, the employee engagement is improved. As the employee feels more connected with the boss through the routine coaching moments (monthly remember?), there is a greater sense of accomplishment and purpose.

To learn more about Big 5 Performance Management, click the button below.

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Closing Is Not the Problem

Getting employees to perform better (closing) is not about cracking a whip near the end of a reporting cycle or as a deadline approaches. Finishing strong is achieved by opening with the employee through more effective means. Better hiring practices, improved on-boarding, and effective leadership nurture the employee to better performance and better results.

Through effective leadership, you can build trust and lead your team toward the right goals.

[reminder]Let us know how you do more to ‘open’ with your employees.[/reminder]

Dealing with the Pain of Uncertainty

Dealing with Uncertainty

Uncertainty grips us all at some point in our lives. Perhaps it happens multiple times. It comes in many ways. When circumstances become unclear about “where this is going”, you suffer from doubt, fear, and a whole host of other emotions.

Dealing with Uncertainty
Dealing with Uncertainty

I am writing this firsthand as I and my community are experiencing the unfolding uncertainty of Hurricane Harvey. The Houston area has been impacted by what some are calling rain fall of Biblical proportions. The last reading was 52 inches in five days. For most parts of the world, that amount is a couple of years of rainfall. Houston got it in a few days.

The widespread flooding has forced thousands out of cars, homes and apartments. This event has not been partial to age, race, creed, or financial status. Anyone in the path of the flooding has been impacted. Volunteer effort has also been epic in its response. The efforts of local, state and government officials has been amazing. Thankfully the death toll has been very low, relatively speaking. With an area that is home to 6.5 million, the loss of life can be counted on both hands. This could have been much worse.

In my own neighborhood, we have not been impacted as much as the central Houston area flood water. Yet we have had our own uncertainty. My community is inside a levee district. We have the levee because of the Brazos River. The Brazos is a main artery and the largest river that slices across Texas, running from high central Texas all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Its watershed collects a lot of rain when virtually any part of Texas gets downfall. Last year this river flooded at all-time highs. This year, we are forecast to exceed those levels by 3 feet. That’s a record you don’t want to beat.

The uncertainty of what the outcomes of these events may look like is easy to understand, but hard to comprehend. More importantly it is hard to rationalize your decisions about what to do, who to listen to, and how to go forward.

Uncertainty is by no means limited to catastrophic weather events. It can happen in all other aspects of life too. I’ve had coaching clients who are facing great uncertainty at work. The company is getting bought, sold, or reorganized. Pre and post-merger scenarios often create great uncertainty, even for the chief executives driving those changes.

Uncertainty is difficult because you suffer a wide range of possible human emotion and reaction. The list includes these:

  • Fear
  • Doubt
  • Mistrust
  • Faulty information/assumptions
  • Bad conclusions
  • Compounding effects


Fear may be the greatest of all reactions to uncertainty. The fear of the unknown. You may have your own reaction to circumstances. Yet the person right next to, perhaps your spouse, may have a totally different response.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]FEAR means False Expectations that Appear Real[/shareable]

When we take in the information that is surrounding us, we try to process it against the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. Will this thing effect my safety, my security, my well-being, my livelihood, or my sense of self? If you decide YES, it does effect one or all of those things, then fear kicks in.

Fear is often associated with the fight or flight mechanisms we have. If the threat, whether real or perceived, exists, then we ultimately choose to fight to defend ourselves (literally or figuratively) or we flee from danger, running away.

If you are experiencing uncertainty, the first emotion to get in check is your fear. Though it is a natural response, the energy and emotion it consumes is detrimental to successful outcomes in the face of uncertainty.


Uncertainty creates doubt. What you may have believed to be true is now called into question when uncertainty arises. You can doubt the circumstance, the source of information, or the people around you. Worst of all is starting to doubt yourself.

If you are in management and leadership, self-doubt is a killer. You must avoid doubting yourself. When any question about you comes up because of an uncertain situation, dig deep into your soul. Pull on your character. Stay strong in your beliefs about who and what you are.

If you are not yet certain about those elements of your being, then you have an opportunity to do some work to improve. If grabbing onto core values and key principles is hard for you, then perhaps you have not yet accurately identified them. A coach can help build that base.


Uncertainty can cause a great deal of mistrust between otherwise civil partners. Friends, neighbors, or co-workers can become adversaries when uncertainty raises its ugly head. As people make decisions about the uncertainty they are facing, their conclusions may run contrary to others.

This is especially problematic between partners and co-workers. When the uncertainty causes a rift between parties, the damage in the relationship may become permanent.

There is no good reason to mistrust someone you formerly trusted during a momentary condition. Wait for the actual, final outcomes to pass judgment on the other person. Hopefully, you will find the temporary interruption in the relationship was not about trust at all. Instead it was a difference of opinions and outlooks that can be repaired with some basic collaboration and communication after the fact. Clear the air as it were.


The panic that might happen inside of uncertainty can be hungry for good information. But you have to be careful. The appetite cannot be satisfied with bad information. Check your facts.

As Reagan once said, “Trust but verify”. Check that data.

Within a team setting, information can take strange shapes. There will be those who insist they have the inside track, getting juicy info to explain the situation or even cast further fear and doubt. In my case lately, there have been those who want to yell “the levee has been breached” when in fact it has not.

It is hard to understand the desire some people may have for spreading such bad information, but they do it anyway. As a leader, you must quiet those storms and share as much good information as you can.

Nothing can confuse a situation more than bad information. Prudent people perform best with solid, reliable information and assumptions. Get the facts, then craft your ideas for desirable outcomes.


Combining all of the pieces above will usually lead to bad conclusions. Fear, doubt, lack of trust, and bad data create the perfect storm for making bad decisions. Whether these decisions are personal or professional, avoid making a bad decision by fixing the other things first.

During uncertainty, you may still make a bad decision, but you can minimize its risk and significance by eliminating the other things we talked about above.


Lastly, be cautious of compounding effects. If you period of uncertainty is prolonged, one bad decisions can compound and create more bad decisions. Stay vigilant when you are facing uncertainty. You will know when you are.

Avoid making rash choices based on fear and doubt. Dig for the truth and as much actual information as you can so that your choices are smarter, more effective ones.


As I write this piece, I sit in the midst of uncertainty. A nearby river is rising to an all-time flood level. There are real people already in jeopardy. Some are homeless, some are displaced, most are just very wet. Property damages are yet to be totalled. It may be days if not weeks before we can get accurate information about what has happened.

This is no time to make decisions based on fear and doubt. We must find trusted relationships to lean on. Anyone introducing new, inflammatory information must be questioned or ignored.

Solid leadership is required.


You can eliminate the uncertainty from your job as a manager by hiring a coach to lead you through to the next level of certainty.


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Creating Your Leadership Pledge


“I pledge allegiance, to the flag . . .” If you are an American reading this, you likely finished “the pledge” in your head – perhaps before you even read this line. Leadership requires a pledge.

leadership-pledgeWhy is that?

Partly due to repetition. If you are of a certain age, you recited this daily at school, and because of that repetition it is ingrained in your mind. But it is also likely remembered because you believe in the words, and they mean something (important) to you. (Before I move on to our pledges, if you want to read an inspiring story about the importance and value of that pledge, read this.)

I’m suggesting that you create a leadership pledge, and am giving you a process to help you start creating it.

Why Have a Leadership Pledge?

Ask people what they want from a leader and consistency and clear principles will always be on the list. People want a leader who knows what is important, and shows that to their team. People want to know where they stand and why the actions being taken and the decisions being made exist. When these are clear, understood and consistent, it is far easier to follow someone.

So what lesson does this hold for us as leaders?

We must know what matters to us, what we believe in and what we value. Only when these things are crystal clear to us can they guide us each day and become clear to our teams too. In short, the most effective and most influential leaders lead from their values.

One way to clarify these important things for ourselves is to put them into a personal leadership pledge. (While I am discussing a personal pledge, a pledge could be created with and for a team or organization, gaining the same benefits more broadly, but that is another article).

A pledge is a solemn promise. Creating your leadership pledge is creating and solidifying a promise to yourself; to lead in the way you believe to be most effective, to lead in a way that is in alignment with your views and beliefs about the world, and to lead based on your values and principles.

Being a leader is hard work, and is even harder when you take it seriously. Creating a leadership pledge pushes you to a higher personal standard, a standard that benefits you, those you lead, the organization you lead in, and ultimately the world.

This is heady stuff, important stuff, and that is why I urge you to consider creating one.

If you are nodding your head in agreement, wanting to be a more effective leader and lead more consistently from your values, you have accepted the challenge. Now, it is time to create your leadership pledge.

How to Write Your Leadership Pledge

Now that you have made the decision, here’s how to get to an actual pledge. Start with some paper, your journal, or if you must, a new word processing document. Free write, brainstorm and capture your ideas on the following questions:

  • What do I believe about people?
  • Why do I want to lead?
  • How do I want to contribute?
  • What are my deepest held values?
  • How do those values connect to my leadership actions?
  • How do I want others to describe me as a leader?

I could give you twice that many questions, but that is enough to get you started. Feel free to add your own once you get started.

Answer the questions, then set it all aside. Let your subconscious start to work on what you wrote and what you thought about. Then, a day or two later, come back to your work and reread it all.

  • What would you add?
  • What needs to be clearer?
  • How would you say it differently?

Now you are starting to edit, but you aren’t creating the pledge itself yet. After reviewing your ideas again, now you can start writing statements.

Take the key ideas from what you wrote, the commonalities that you find across your answers, and begin to create your pledge – your solemn promise to yourself. Give this time too – a couple (or more) passes will likely be needed.

Remember this pledge is for you, not for publication or distribution – these are your words to yourself, a powerful part of your own leadership development. Given this, there are no “right” or “correct” pledges; there are no formats you must follow. The mark of a good leadership pledge is that when you read it, or say it, it creates a feeling, a sense of empowerment and reverence, and perhaps even some goosebumps. When you have a set of statements that gives you that feeling, you have your pledge.


Once it is finished you have done something few leaders have done – you have set out a clear picture of how you want to lead, and how you will commit to leading as your best self. Now that you have this pledge, review it and read it often. Ideally it will become ingrained in your head, like the pledge of allegiance might be to you.

Clearly, this isn’t something you will write today or in an hour – if you are moved to take my suggestion, recognize that it requires some time, thought and reflection. The thought put into it will be as valuable as the words you select when you are finished.

Contributed by Kevin Eikenberry © 2017 All Rights Reserved, Kevin Eikenberry and The Kevin Eikenberry Group.  Kevin is Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group (http://KevinEikenberry.com), a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services.



Are you working IN or ON your business – a coach can help

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10 Rules for High-Performing Teams

Work Team

Being a successful leader implies success within the team you influence. While a leader’s impact on specific individuals is easier to measure, team dynamics create exponential challenges for leaders.

21139567 – teamwork works together to build a gear system

Success in today’s work world is more about team than individual performance. A team is more than just a group of workers, located together, doing their jobs. Real teams are interdependent. That means they must rely on one another to get the job done. So what are best practices for effective teams? Here are 10 rules from a chapter on “Best Practices in Team Leadership” by Kevin Stagl, Eduardo Salas, and C.Shawn Burke.

1. Define and Create Interdependencies. There is a need to define and structure team members’ roles. Think of sports teams, everyone has their position to play, and success happens when all of the players are playing their roles effectively. In baseball, a double-play is a beautiful example of team interdependency.

2. Establish Goals. Teams need to be focused on shared goals and outcomes. Commitment to that goal is essential for success. Ideally, team goals should allow both the team as a unit and the individual members to achieve both personal and group goals.

3. Determine How Teams Will Make Decisions. Whether the leader makes the decision, or it is a democratic or consensus process, the team needs to understand beforehand how decisions will be made. This reduces conflict within the team when a decision or choice has to be made.

4. Provide Clear and Constant Feedback. Teams need to know how they are doing in order to stay motivated and to correct performance problems or inefficiencies. Ideally, a system should be in place so that team members receive ongoing feedback while doing their jobs. A simple example from manufacturing is when the team members do both production and quality control testing. They find out immediately what their success/failure rate is and can take action to improve.

5. Keep Team Membership Stable. Particularly in complex tasks, it takes a lot of time for team members to learn to work together at an optimum level. In sports, there is a relationship between how long team members have played together and their winning record.

6. Allow Team Members to Challenge the Status Quo. If innovation is important, it is critical that team members feel secure in being able to challenge processes if they feel that there is a way to improve. In order to innovate, teams need to be open to considering and constructively criticizing existing practices when needed.

7. Learn How to Identify and Attract Talent. Just as processes sometimes need improvement, teams can get better by attracting new talent. Organizations that put a lot of resources into identifying and recruiting talent simply do better.

8. Use Team-Based Reward Systems. Too much emphasis on individual rewards can lead to in-fighting and resentment. A combination of individual and team-based rewards is often best.

9. Create a Learning Environment. Emphasize the development of the team, learning through successes, but particularly through mistakes. A team with a culture of continuous improvement and where members are motivated to develop their skills and knowledge are high-performing teams.

10. Focus on the Collective Mission. Mission-driven teams and organizations perform better because they see beyond their individual workload and tasks and feel as if they are working for a higher purpose. It is imperative that team members be committed to the shared mission, or they should be replaced.

These rules apply whether teams have a formal, appointed leader, or whether they are self-governing. The key is to put in the time and energy needed to adhere to these best practices.


Stagl, K.C., Salas, E., & Burke, C.S. (2007). Best Practices in Team Leadership. In Jay Conger and Ronald Riggio (Eds.). The Practice of Leadership (pp. 172-197). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

This article is contributed by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D.. Ron is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology and former Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College. Professor Riggio is the author of over 100 books, book chapters, and research articles in the areas of leadership, assessment centers, organizational psychology and social psychology.

Leaders: Are You Coachable?


In my consulting and coaching business, I often ask the question “are you coachable?” It is amazing how many times the prospect says “well, yes I believe I am.” After a few sessions with input and feedback, it becomes apparent they really are not coachable. How do I know? It manifests itself in many ways.

Business owners and professionals at all levels sometimes struggle with being coached. Success and achievement creates a false sense of not having any need for change. If you are getting results, why interrupt the methods that got you there? That may be a good mindset in the short run, but long term success requires growth.

To find good examples of being coachable we can look directly at athletics where the concept of coach and student are most notable. When you explore the story of the truly great athletes (think Michael Jordan or Jerry Rice), you will find stories of tireless pursuit of perfection. Regardless of the season they just had, these guys worked relentlessly to improve their stamina, skills, and techniques.

Recently Jerry Rice, football great and now, NFL Hall of Famer, was being interviewed. He was on the driving range at a celebrity golf outing. Rather than merely slap some golf balls around, he was on the range with both his caddy and a coach. When shots were not going the right place he was asking for guidance and advice. Golf isn’t even his game, yet the discipline of looking to perfect a skill was at work. His desire to do well at whatever endeavor was before him drove his will to be better. That’s being coachable.

Here are the a few thoughts about deciding if you are truly coachable.

  1. Do you routinely seek advice and counsel to improve some aspect of your professional or personal life? Or have you learned it all and know it all? Being open to the pursuit of growth as a professional is key. The best individuals in any aspect of life will be constantly trying to improve. Whether that includes technical knowledge, insight, or wisdom, the effort is there. Those who excel believe there is always more to learn or be.

  2. When you get advice do you act on it; following through with using the information to achieve more? Or do you discount the information and talk yourself out of action? Using what you learn is important. In leadership, it takes practice. Once you learn and understand a skill, you must apply it to your tool kit. By using your newly found understanding, you help to create confidence in its worth. Just as athletes work to build muscle memory for critical physical moves, leaders can build “influence memory” to work to their advantage.

  3. Do you seek follow-up from the coach to be sure you understood the coaching and that you are properly performing the actions that were recommended? Or do you move on without ever doubling back for refining advice? Even the best coaches require feedback from the client to know whether the teaching and training is working. Be proactive in giving that feedback to your coach. When you realize you are working on a new dimension of your training, open up the communication with the coach. Let them know what feels right or needs better explanation.

Make Your Decision

If your current professional or personal situation is not producing the results you expect, then perhaps some coaching is needed. But before you simply engage a coach, ask yourself whether you are truly coachable.

Where Do the Other Guys Go?

Where do the Other Guys go?

Have you ever been to a leadership conference where everyone in the room tries to give you the impression they already know the answers? You spend the day or two making small talk, perhaps exploring some “new ideas”, yet there is an overwhelming sense that all the people there have already climbed the mountain.

Where do the Other Guys go?
Where do the Other Guys go?

If that’s true, where did all the other guys go? Surely there are some colleagues in your industry who don’t have all the answers. You know it’s true because you deal with some of them on a regular basis.

I never seem to meet the executives who are the “bad guys”; the ones who are bad bosses. Where do they go? Is there a bad boss conference that is secretly held at some discreet location halfway around the globe?

Or is it possible the bad bosses are just simply so bad they aren’t even aware they need help?

Enter the 80/20

The practical reality is The Pareto Principle. You may know it as the 80/20 rule. Yes, I firmly believe only about 20% of our business executives can be rated as good leaders. The other 80% might be rated as OK managers, but they fail to achieve effective leadership.

The good ones are the ones that keep looking for ways to improve. They are hungry to participate in industry groups, networking, TED Talks, round-tables, or workshops attended by other like-minded leaders. They keep growing. They even help facilitate and organize events to attract great leaders.

Sadly, the other 80% keep going to work making life relatively miserable for employees or volunteers.

When I try to broach this topic at a leadership mastermind, I get mixed responses. On one hand, I get reactions like the preachers see every Sunday at church. When a touchy subject is mentioned, people squirm in their seats, but look around as if to say, “certainly that is not me, it must be the other person over there”. On the other hand, I have people say “yes, I want to work on this”.

Executives who have been thrown into management roles are seldom fully prepared to be in the position. They were identified as a high potential or a leading single performer. For that effort, they are rewarded with a promotion into management. Yet they lack the preparation to lead, so there is a need to grow. The other option is the fake-it-until-you-make-it mindset. Maybe they will be successful, likely not.

Lastly, there is a small percentage of talent in the leadership pool who move around between companies and industries because they have achieved proven results. Then there are those “up-and-comers” who are demonstrating leadership talent and who will one day be the next wave of key leaders.

Where Are You?

Where do you fit in this spectrum? Have you recognized the need to do more or be more to be a better leader? There may be forces working against you.

When your company asks you to take on a management role, are you ready to accept it and admit you need help? Probably not. You dive in, using the same energy and zeal that got you recognized as a key contributor. You work harder. Maybe you spend more hours at the office or take work home.

The pressure will mount. Various things you try to do are received with mixed results. Some things work. Other things do not. Your team is getting restless. You know there is a gap in what the job requires versus what you can deliver. What can you do?


Hiring an Executive Coach might be the best investment you can make.
You might want to talk to someone on our team today
to discuss ways to achieve measurable results from executive coaching.

Three Things to Master

Maintain your confidence –  stay true to yourself. You were selected because the company needed you in that job. They had a reason to give it a try. Be confident in knowing that. Come back to that truth as often as you need to. Use trusted advisors to prop up your confidence. Share what you can with close associates (not work colleagues).

Core competencies –  there will be key elements of the job you should master. Whether it is technical knowledge or subject matter expertise, become the guru on those topics. Read more, search more; get the most information you can to show the team you have a mastery of the work.

Stay centered –  don’t let the demands of the job take you off your game. Re-establish your core beliefs about who and what you are, how you can contribute, and the ways you can make a difference. Be true to those beliefs. Maintain an identity as the person you want to be at work. I’m not talking about arrogance. I’m talking about reliability and trust.

Highly effective and well-respected leaders didn’t get there by chance. They work an intentional plan. They grow, they seek counsel, and they are constantly learning.

[reminder]Where are you in the leadership growth process?[/reminder]


If you own or operate a mid-stage company, you may want to explore ways to strengthen your leadership team. I am here to help make that transition.
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Messages Can Be Lost by the Messenger


Effective executive leadership requires a keen ability to communicate. Some of the best leaders rely upon story telling to convey their message.


Messages take many shapes. They can be as grand as the “big idea”; the core vision for an organization. Or they can be as simple as daily instructions for small steps and easy tasks.

Yet communication breaks down when the people receiving the message neither respect nor trust the messenger. This puts a huge burden on the executive trying to bring the message.

What you and I do on a day to day basis has an impact on our ability to be heard when it is important to communicate. The way leaders are perceived by their cohorts and teams is an accumulation of events and circumstances. Your reputation becomes a benchmark for making your message heard. It has been said:

Your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear your message.

Introducing Executive Intelligence

The Kouzes-Posner first law of leadership is that if you don’t believe the messenger, you won’t believe the message.  Executive intelligence is about developing and sustaining the credibility of the messenger.  Executive intelligence is a function of executive presence and emotional intelligence.

When we speak of executive presence, we are really talking about gravitas – confidence and consistency under fire; decisive decision-making; balancing approach-ability with seriousness; polished speaking and body language; as well as strong competence and expertise.

Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, requires self-awareness and control as well as social awareness and understanding.  As people, we are drawn to individuals who possess self-confidence, and who are consistently adaptable and resilient.

We are particularly drawn to those who listen as well as they communicate, who are empathetic, who are invested in developing others, and who effectively manage and resolve conflict.  Executive intelligence is arguably the most difficult and time consuming fundamental to develop.

In their book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,” authors Chip & Dan Heath elegantly illustrate why.  They compare the brains two independent systems to a rider and an elephant.  The rider is the rational side whereas the elephant is the emotional side.  Under normal circumstances, the rider is in control of the elephant.  The instant the elephant goes wild, the rider is helpless.

The analogy is great because we can all relate to moments when our emotions cause a reaction we wish never happened after the fact – or to use Heath’s analogy, our rider lost control of our elephant.

The difficulty in developing executive intelligence is in the process of not only developing more control of our own elephant, but also understanding how to appeal to the riders and elephants of others to influence them to act.

Building Trust

The other key influencer of effective communication involves levels of trust. As the messenger, do you have the accumulated trust of your audience that allows them to hear the message?

In the situation where you are communicating to a work team you lead, you should have a standing level of trust. The history you share with the team should be solid. They should be able to take your word. There should be no doubt about the integrity of the message, that is, if you are delivering the message, it can be counted on.

This trust can be delicate. There are plenty of circumstances in which you as the manager cannot be totally forthcoming. There are moments when some information is necessary, but not all information should be shared. Those moments require real leadership; effort that maintains credibility while balancing the scope of how much you can or cannot say about a particular topic.

If you miss this balance, you lose trust. Your credibility suffers. Sometimes it is best to admit there are things moving around you that prohibit your full disclosure of what is happening, but you can pledge to inform the troops as soon as it is appropriate to do so. When you do share the rest of the story, your action should be recognized as honorable, credible, and trustworthy.