Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race

A timely and stormy guest post by Dennis Perkins:

There are two central themes in my book Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race.

The first is the importance of exceptional teamwork in overcoming challenges at The Edge. The second is the value of distributed leadership -- a team culture that allows every person to provide direction when he or she has expertise that will help the team succeed.

The story of one boat, the AFR Midnight Rambler, exemplifies the power of exceptional teamwork and distributed leadership. But where does this leave a formal team leader -- the skipper of a boat, the CEO of a corporation, the commanding officer of military unit, or the President of the United States, for that matter? Is there a unique role that he or she needs to play? I believe there are some critical things -- some unique responsibilities -- that fall to the skipper.
The leader needs to keep the team aligned.

The varied performance of boats in the Sydney to Hobart Race -- particularly in 1998 -- underscores the importance of having a coherent, unified team. Some boats, like the Midnight Rambler, demonstrated extraordinary cohesiveness even under the most terrifying, life-threatening conditions. At the other end of the alignment continuum, some crews were fragmented, with key team members at odds with each other -- in a leadership vacuum.

Other boats, were somewhere in the middle. The owners could impose their will on the crew, and everyone might acquiesce to their decision. But this is not the same level of alignment that we saw in the Rambler. Resigned acquiescence is not the same as aligned commitment, and gaining that commitment requires leadership.

Adrienne Cahalan, considered one the world's best navigators, has had a chance to observe the role of the leader in more than twenty-five years as a professional competitive sailor. She has been named Australian Yachtswoman of the Year twice -- and has been nominated four times for World Yachtswoman of the Year.

Adrienne characterized the leader's role:

"Skippers need to keep the team focused and pull everybody together. They need to keep an eye out to see if someone is wavering, or a faction developing. They need to have the skill to manage all the personalities, to bring them together and to get them focused on the common goal. Not everybody's perfect, so a good leader is able to deal with imperfections. And they need to be able to do it all under pressure."
Managing personalities and bringing people together can be challenging in any situation. But the pressure of a race -- or, even worse, a storm -- calls for exceptional leadership.
The leader needs to demonstrate passion.

The leader's passion is a magnetic force that pulls other people in. And the passion of Ed Psaltis, skipper of the Midnight Rambler, stands out.

Describing the impact of Ed's will to win, crew newcomer Samantha Byron said:

"No boat had ever won both the Blue Water Point Score and the Short Ocean Point Score in the same year. It was a bold goal that had never been achieved before. But it was Ed's vision, and it became the team vision, and then it became my vision."

"I think what makes Ed an exceptional leader is his complete drive to win. He is committed to driving the boat as fast as it can go. And he can take risks because of his comfort and trust in the team."

No one who has ever sailed with Ed Psaltis has any doubt about his absolute, total commitment to winning. He is so passionate that his excitement sometimes needs to be offset -- by humor, or by the composure of others. But there is no mistaking the electric spark that comes from a leader who is excited to win. That enthusiasm is contagious, and it is a contagion that leads to victory.
The leader needs to instill optimism and confidence that the team will succeed.

Ed Psaltis and navigator Bob Thomas had a close relationship -- reminiscent of Ernest Shackleton and Frank Wild, the second in command on the Endurance Expedition. They had complementary personalities, with Bob's cool demeanor balancing Ed's passion.

Both Ed and Bob joined forces during the storm, and their combined leadership provided a reassuring presence for the crew. Crew member Mix Bencsik recalls:

"The leadership example set by Ed and Bob was quite symbolic. Their leadership played a large part in keeping our motivation going, and in making sure that no one gave up."

"Bob is a noble seaman by trade. He understands storms, and he has been through a lot at sea. We have a lot of confidence in his ability."

"Ed and Bob constantly instilled optimism and confidence that we could handle the conditions, and that the crew had the ability to win."

While there was no question about Ed's formal role as skipper, Ed and Bob together reinforced a sense of unified leadership. And because of their close personal relationship, they were able to send a joint message of reassurance and optimism.
The leader needs to set an example.

Ed realizes that people are watching him in his role as the skipper and makes a conscious effort to set an example. Coming off his watch as helmsman, Ed will take a forward position on the rail. In this exposed position, he is subjected to the first onslaught of water and spray. It is cold and uncomfortable, but it is clear that Ed is not afraid to do his share.

Ed will also take his turn in "the bad bunk." It seems that every boat comes equipped with a berth that -- for one reason or another -- is undesirable. Nobody wants the bad bunk, but Ed makes sure that he takes his turn. He is sending a message.

Leaders need to set an example through lifestyle and the normal course of simply getting the job done. But there are some moments that are different. There are times when leaders need to inspire others though fortitude, courage, and skill. One such moment came for Ed Psaltis in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race.

I spoke with Mix about his impressions of the '98 race, and he described this vivid moment:

"I've been through a lot of storms with Ed. Sitting on the side of the boat -- wave spotting while he was helming in those conditions -- was something that made me feel really proud. I thought, Here's a person who has my life completely in his hands. He was performing extraordinary feats of strength and seamanship, holding a 35-foot boat on the right course in those conditions."

"Ed was giving more than 110 percent. The well-being of the boat and crew were in his hands, and he didn't falter. It was an outstanding feat of seamanship. Even to this day, it's quite emotional to talk about. That was his finest moment."

Not every leader has the ability to steer a boat through a storm like Ed Psaltis. But there comes a time when every leader needs to be willing to step up and give "more than 110 percent." For every leader, there can be a finest moment.

Author Bio:
Dennis N.T. Perkins, author of Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race, is the author of Leading at The Edge and CEO of Syncretics Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders and teams thrive under conditions of adversity, uncertainty, and change. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, he successfully completed his first Sydney Hobart Race in 2006.
For more information please visit Amazon and http://www.syncreticsgroup.com

Friday, October 26, 2012

Shifting your Leadership as your Company Outgrows the Start-up Phase

Here's a post that I wrote for SmartBlog on Leadership, published 10/25:

The majority of popular leadership advice falls into one of two categories:

1. Leadership for the small-business owner (which usually deal with entrepreneurialism, sales, financing, and other basic management and business skills)

2. Leadership for managers in big organizations. For example, at least 50% of Harvard Business Review web site articles mention at least one of the same handful of big companies (i.e., Apple, Wal-Mart, IBM, GE, etc…)

However, not a lot has been written about how your leadership needs to shift as your company transitions from small to big. That may be, by the way, because very few small companies actually achieve revenues more than $250 million in sales – only about a tenth of 1 percent ever do.

There is one book that I’m familiar with that does address this topic. Written a few years ago, Keith McFarland and his team of researchers studied more than 7000 of America’s fastest growing private and public companies, talked to over 1500 key executives, and cataloged more than 5600 articles. Their findings were written about in the book The Breakthrough Company in 2008.

He identified nine companies that successfully made the transition to the big leagues. I was fortunate enough to work at one of those companies for five years, and was responsible for the development of its leaders. In order to write this post, I combed through the book again, and reflected upon my own experience of working at one of the companies he studied. In hindsight, the lessons for leaders are even clearer than they were when I first read it four years ago.

So – if you’re a leader working in an organization that’s on the verge of transitioning from start-up and small to mature and big, here’s some ways in which your own leadership needs to shift as well:

1. From personal loyalty to a single leader and vision (usually the founder) to commitment to the organization and its customers.
Start-up leaders can be tribe-like in their loyalty and dedication to the founder. The founder IS the organization and leaders strive to emulate the founder’s own leadership style. The founder can cast a HUGE shadow over an organization.

The founders of companies that successfully make the transition to big understand this and have the desire to create an organization that is long-lasting, well after they leave. They can put their own egos aside for the good of the organization. Leaders within these organizations need to be encouraged to and learn how to buck the system, challenge the process, and question assumptions. Sacred traditions that no longer serve a purpose need to be put to rest. Processes need to be analyzed and improved, and leaders need to learn how to manage through systems.

2. From implementing strategy that comes from the top to thinking strategically.
In start-ups, strategy is usually developed by the founder and a handful of close advisors. The rest of the employees then implement and focus on running the business. In order to be successful, small companies need to start pushing decisions down in the organization and taking more time to gather input from all levels. Leaders need to then learn how to think strategically about their own part of the organization, and provide input into big organizational strategic issues.

In my organization, I used to hear tenured leaders say “We never really had to think – our role was to DO”.

3. From being action oriented to collaboration and quality decision making.
This one especially drives tenured start-up leaders crazy. You’ll hear them say things like “#$%&, how many damn people does it take to change a light bulb around here these days? In the old days, I could have just done this myself in a few days!”

The fact is, as organizations get bigger and more complex, more input and expertise is needed to solve problems and make decisions. The ability to collaborate across boundaries and facilitate consensus becomes an essential leadership skill.

5. From “getting the right people on the bus” to “getting the most from the people already on your bus”.
In the start-up phase, it’s all about sourcing talent and making the right hiring decisions – quickly. However, as an organization’s requirements shift, it’s a recipe for failure to think you can just shuffle the deck and hire all new people. Leaders need to start spending less time on managing the technical aspects of the business and much more time on coaching and developing employees. Sure, getting the right people on the bus is always important. However, if you are known as an organization that grows it’s people, the best people will come to you, you won’t have to go out and find them.

6. From “do-it-ourselves” to looking outwards for assistance.
Start-up companies take a lot of pride in “keeping things in the family” and relying on their own ideas. They don’t hire consultants, don’t have to answer to a Board, and flourish when their investors just leave them alone. However, in order to reach the next level of growth, these organizations will need begin to build what McFarland refers to as “scaffolding” around their organizations – outside resources and ideas that enable them to take their business to the next level.

Individual leaders need to build their external networks and look outside for new ideas and for their own development. They need to develop an openness and curiosity for new ideas, instead of rejecting outside ideas as “that’s not the way we do things here”.

7. From individual communication to organizational communication.
In a start-up, a leader knows every employee and can easily talk to each of them directly on a daily basis. As companies get larger, leaders need to learn to inspire and influence large groups of employees indirectly and remotely. Leaders need to develop presentation skills, learn to manage from afar through measurement of key results and indicators, and manage remote employees that they may rarely see.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, start-up leaders don’t have to be discarded and replaced with experienced leaders from mature organizations like parts in a machine. Sure, they may leave by choice (about 25%) – the kind of shifts required will drive many of them absolutely nuts. Some will cling to the past, refuse to change, and end up being pushed aside or let go (about 25%). However, if they chose to stay and grow, the majority will continue to build on what made them successful and learn new skills to add to their leadership toolkit.

That’s a good thing – that 50+% are vital to an organization’s current and future success.

To use a sports analogy, great teams don’t change their roster every few years and waste buckets of money hiring too many expensive free agents. They carefully grow their own talent and fill gaps selectively. They create a team of leaders, not just one overbearing coach. They have strong cultures based on a solid set of values and character, honor their traditions, but know when and how to adapt to the new rules of the game.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Your 10 Worst Days as a Leader?

Bad things happen to good people, including good leaders. Stuff happens – you deal with it, learn from it, and move on.

Reflecting back over my own career as a leader, there were some days I’d just assume forget and never have to repeat. Having worked in various HR and leadership development roles, I also had a chance to hear about some serious bad hair days from leaders on the front lines.

So here’s my 10 top list, with opportunity to add your own at the end. It’s a mix - some are seriously really bad, and some may just cause a leader to lose a good night’s sleep. They didn’t ALL happen to me, but then again, there’s always next week.

1. Firing someone. Actually, if you add each of the discussions leading up to the firing, this one could count as 10 days by itself.

2. Laying off LOT’S of employees all at once. Or even being around when other employees are getting laid off, and feeling partly responsible as a leader in the organization.

3. Dealing with the death, serious illness, or some other traumatic personal employee tragedy.

4. Being the target of an unwarranted harassment or discrimination claim.

5. Dealing with a workplace violence incident.

6. Getting demoted, fired, or disciplined.

7. Informing candidates that they didn’t get the job.

8. Getting a critical leadership assessment and learning about your blind spots for the first time.

9. Taking your team off-site for a teambuilding session, and being called out by the retreat leader as a source of the team’s problems. Then, having to thank everyone and pay the bill. And no, this DID NOT happen to me. Well, not recently, anyway.

10. Attending a really, really horrible leadership training program.

If the thought of having to deal with one of more of these kinds of things absolutely freaks you out, then perhaps a leadership role isn’t the right role for you. If you think you could handle doing one or more of these things on a daily basis, then look for a role in Human Resources. (-:

How about you – what’s one of your worst days as a leader? Despite the buzz-kill topic, feel free to have some fun with it in the comments or on Twitter.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Disconnection at the Heart of Corporate Failure

Guest post by Debbie Nicol:

Have you ever watched TV with the volume down and the radio on in the background? Some may describe that as crazy, some call it multi-tasking whilst others may sadly say ‘oh we have that all the time at work, everyone talking at once, no one listening, saying one thing and doing another’, creating confusion, misalignment and disconnection, and even at times manifesting as corruption and unethical practice.

Disconnection is at the heart of many corporate failures and can happen on several levels. It may be:

• the leaders themselves disconnected from their own truth and reality, unable to recognize and ‘be’ who they are in the corporate environment and hence living in a world of reaction, external validation and insecurity affecting both the leader whilst also cascading unbridled throughout the layers of the organization.

• the leader disconnected from the people, when the mindset and intention of ‘service before self’ simply doesn’t exist, or if it does it is often manifested as unequal and at times self-serving.

• the people disconnected from the organization’s values and aspirations. If there is no reason for a change to occur, and no consequences if the change doesn’t occur, why embrace the change at all?

Effective leadership dispels confusion, corruption and disconnection by demonstrating authenticity and building a foundation of trust. It’s about achieving results naturally with processes that serve all equally, with increasing support from those who buy into the dream and taking shared responsibility for outcomes, good and bad. This simply cannot happen without authenticity, trust, internal validation, intuition and even some vulnerability through reflecting honestly on past projects and identifying where any disconnection occurred. It requires a new way of thinking and being. It is a leadership model that rewards new outcomes that serve all, rather than an entitlement mindset.

‘embers of the world’, a new process and leadership model, places reflection and connection at the heart of all that we do. It brings executive leaders to a quiet place where they can see the value of stopping, looking, listening and feeling, allowing intuition to enter decisions, using connection to drive operations, welcoming the change that becomes or evolves, in line with a whole new menu of rewards that corporations of the future will embrace.

In the book, Corporate Embers, one of the reflections following a particular scenario asks: When we say no to something, what are we saying yes to?

Just as our backbone holds us ‘in alignment’, how can leadership of today be the conduit of new outcomes, whilst in alignment with today’s changing business landscape requirements?

My leadership philosophy has developed over the past 20-plus years as an HR professional, entrepreneur and business owner. I started my business after years of frustration watching disconnected organizational leadership attempting to effect change without reflecting on lessons from the past or even a vision for how the change should be implemented and how it would serve the greater good. My book came about after I watched the floodwaters of the 2004 tsunami wash away the entire resort I was staying in, all except for my own bungalow. It was a wake-up call, similar to the one corporations around the world are hearing... but will they heed it? Through my professional, educational and volunteer work, it is my mission to reach as many evolved leaders as I can to spread the message that corporations of the future can serve all equally and still prosper both financially and ethically.

Here's how to continue the evolution of your leadership style to become more connected:

1. Reflect - Stop, look, listen and feel what's around you. Take time in your busy day to just breath in your surroundings, gaze out the window and let your subconscious mind enter the foreground. Once you're comfortable doing this, invite your executive team to join you (keep a particular challenge in mind that you wish to resolve).

2. Connect - Recognize what scenarios and solutions naturally present themselves. Welcome them without judgment and without discarding ideas before you vet them with the team, or invite others to share the connections they have made when contemplating on a particular situation.

3. Collaborate - Share openly and honestly any situation that has presented a challenge or needs to change. Tell it as a story with as much detail as possible. Invite discussion, suspend judgment, build trust, and listen to intuition.

4. Innovate - Open dialogue and trust will unblock the flow of new ideas, which leads to freer thinking and alternative, untried solutions.

5. Become - Watch your team become that which the organization needs to be successful, feeling ownership of the outcomes and making decisions that serve all equally while prospering both financially and ethically.

Debbie Nicol - Biography
Debbie Nicol, author of the 'embers of the world' series, and the new book, Corporate Embers – business-promoting insights for the soul of the corporation, is passionate about change and 'becoming'. Australian by birth, Debbie has been a 'global citizen' for over two decades, drawing much inspiration from the world around.
Debbie is the founder and managing director of business en motion, which is based in Dubai, UAE and provides consulting and training services for strategic direction, change management and organizational culture. ‘embers of the world’ is a leadership change model and process created by Debbie and is a product of business en motion.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Great Leadership Development and Succession Planning eBook

I'm pleased to announce the availability of my first eBook!

Now I can cross "write a book" off my bucket list and I can include "author" in my official bio. (-:

There will be no book signing tour - after all, it's an eBook. I had to explain this to my Mom when she told me she went to her local Barnes and Noble and couldn't find it.

It was a trip putting it together. I got a lot of incredible help and support, learned a lot, and I sure hope my readers will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

See below for description, how to purchase a copy, and endorsements. Thanks for your support!

The Great Leadership Development and Succession Planning Kit is a “best of” collection of blog posts from the award winning blog Great Leadership, written by Dan McCarthy, an experienced leadership development practitioner and author.

Hit "ADD TO CART" to download it now in PDF format for only $7.99. Pay with Pay Pal or Credit Card, a simple digital download!

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Also now available on iBookstore for iPad:

The Great Leadership Development and Succession Planning Kit - Dan McCarthy

Barnes and Noble for Nook;

...and soon to be available on Kobo, Baker & Taylor, Copia, and Gardner's.


"Dan McCarthy’s compilation of insights and tips for leaders is an incredible resource for leadership development and succession planning!"
Marshall Goldsmith – million-selling author and #1 executive coach

"Over the years Dan McCarthy has established a reputation as a shrewd commentator on the state of leadership in contemporary management. As an executive himself Dan writes from the point of view of what bosses must do to ensure that they do what is right for their organization by developing the talents and skills of their employees. Now in The Great Leadership Development and Succession Planning Kit, Dan has gathered these lessons in one volume that is – simply put – a must-read for anyone who manages anyone else. Insights are backed by research and practice. Dan knows of what he writes and we are the better for it."
John Baldoni - Executive educator and coach and the author of many leadership books including Lead With Purpose and Lead Your Boss.

"There's a reason that Dan McCarthy is one of the most widely followed and respected leadership bloggers around. This e-book compilation of the "greatest hits" from his blog will show you why he is. Dan's advice about how to develop great leaders is always practical and real world tested. The leadership development community is fortunate to have Dan as a thought leader and even more fortunate that he's organized his thoughts and experience in this e-book."
Scott Eblin - Executive coach, leadership strategist, speaker and author.

"Dan McCarthy is one of my core leadership guides, and his guidance is practical, time-tested and incredibly relevant in a world where developing the talent around us is truly mission critical. I love this collection of some of Dan's best posts on Leadership Development and Succession Planning! He takes the H.R. speak out and puts the practical guidance in on some important and often neglected topics and activities in leadership development. The content is well organized and every chapter/post serves up something useful. And while it's fun to explore and follow his blog, this compact collection at your finger-tips is a must-have for every manager and executive."
Art Petty - management author, speaker, and consultant

"This book is written with an easy-going, self-deprecating style - no pontificating here! Dan McCarthy knows what he's talking about - he's both a practitioner in leadership development and has led numerous teams over the years. What I appreciate most about this book is that it's got enough specific how-to content without overwhelming the reader. Readers could easily pick up the book, read it over the weekend, make some notes and be on their way to creating a more structured and meaningful leadership development system within their organization on Monday morning."
Jennifer Miller - Leadership author, speaker, and consultant

"If you are a manager in any type of organization, Dan's book is an easy read that will leave you with something to do more effectively straight away."
Steve Roesler - executive coach, author, and consultant

"If you work as a manager and need to develop your leadership skills: This book is for you.
Dan McCarthy put together his best blog posts into a useful "do-it-yourself" resource! If you want to help your organization to get to the next leadership level, I highly recommend that you use this book."
Dr. Bernd Geropp - Leadership coach and consultant

“Great leaders aren't born that way; leadership is a skillset that needs to be developed. Smart managers plan ahead for future gaps in the company's leadership by scouting out promising leaders and working with them to develop their leadership potential.
In this book, Dan assembles his best posts about leadership development and succession planning and puts them together in a logical order so you can quickly locate the information you need to design and implement a succession plan. You'll find dozens of quick tips that can be implemented easily. This book is a must-have for any leader who cares about the future of his or her company.”
Joel A. Garfinkle - Executive coach, speaker, and author

"Dan's leadership planning kit has got answers you can use. Assembled from over 500 posts coming from his well respected Great Leadership blog, this is not a book you need to read cover to cover. But it is one you'll want nearby to help you with management issues you face everyday."
Bill Matthies -  Entrepreneur, consultant, author

"Dan McCarthy is one of the strongest proponents of great leaders and great HR/L&D functions on the planet. His new book is chock full of wonderful best practices for leadership development and succession planning. The "18 Tips for Receiving Feedback" section ALONE is worth the price of the book.
You will find valuable, actionable information here on creating great leaders in your organization."
S. Chris Edmonds, author, consultant, speaker


Over 40 posts and templates have been edited and organized as a user-friendly “toolkit”, with easy to follow step-by-step tips, instructions, templates, and practical advice.

It is intended to be used by leadership development practitioners, HR pros, coaches, consultants, leaders and aspiring leaders as a “do-it-yourself” resource for leadership development and succession planning.

The content is organized into five sections:

Section one, “The Foundation”, provides an overview of succession planning and leadership development.  It also includes information on how to create a business case for leadership development, a leadership development strategy, and a leadership competency model.

Section two is all about succession planning. It includes detailed guidelines for how to create a talent profile, identify critical positions and talent pools, how to identify and manage high potentials, and how to use a performance and potential matrix (a “nine box”) in a talent review meeting.

While many organizations and managers do an adequate job in succession planning, many fall short when it comes to the development of their employees. Section three is a comprehensive collection of proven methods used to develop great leaders. It includes individual development planning, giving and receiving feedback, new manager integration, stretch assignments, learning journals, assessments, off-the-job development, how to develop a leadership development training program, involving leaders, how to measure the impact, and much more.

Section four is a collection of easy-to-follow guidelines and tips on how to improve critical leadership skills. It includes how to develop leadership presence, strategic thinking, critical thinking, inspiring trust, creating a motivating environment, improving performance, managing global virtual teams, building optimism, having effective one-on-ones, financial literacy, how to lead a team meeting, and more.

Finally, section five includes two must-have leadership development templates, free to use and reproduce: an individual development plan (IDP) and a performance and potential matrix (nine-box).

About the Author:

Dan McCarthy is the owner of Great Leadership, LLC and the Director of Executive Development Programs at the University of New Hampshire.

In prior positions, Dan was responsible for leadership development at Paychex, Inc., Eastman Kodak Company, and Rochester Gas & Electric Corporation.

He has a Master’s Degree in Human Resource and Organizational Development and an undergraduate degree in Business Administration. He’s the author of the award winning leadership development blog “Great Leadership”, and an influential voice in social media. He’s a member of the SmartBrief on Workforce Advisory Board, and has been named one of the Top 10 Digital Influencers in Leadership.

Hit "ADD TO CART" to download it now in PDF format for only $7.99. Pay with Pay Pal or Credit Card, a simple digital download!

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Monday, October 15, 2012

5 Ways to Make Sure You Don’t Fall off the Fast-track

Most organizations have some kind of formal or informal succession planning process to identify their high potential (HIPO), or “fast track” talent. Some will come right out and tell you you’re part of a high potential pool, and some let you know in a more indirect way.

Either way, what they don’t always tell you is that these lists are fluid. Each year, people are added and dropped. Most managers are happy to let you know you’re on the list, but avoid having to have the tough conversation to tell you you’ve been dropped. However, there are usually telltale clues that you’ve fallen off the fast track.

It’s been my experience that when it comes to high potential identification, second chances are rare. So, IF you have aspirations to rise to the next level in your organization (and I realize not everyone does) , and you’ve figured out you’re part of your organization’s HIPO pool, you’ll want to do what it takes to stay on that list and not shoot yourself in the foot.

How do you make sure you remain seen as a high potential once you’ve been tagged? Here’s 5 ways:

1. Maintain your performance at a high level.
Although this one seems obvious, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Organizations will often inadvertently do everything they can to sabotage their high potentials . Like it or not, development assignments are not an excuse to under perform. As a high potential, you’re expected to have a high degree of “learning agility” and will be expected quickly climb their learning curves and nail each new assignment. I’ve seen it happen over and over – last year’s rising star, faced with a challenging assignment (often with little or no support), can turn into today’s disappointment one year later. While you don’t want to get risk-adverse and turn down challenging opportunities, it’s a good idea to try to choose wisely and try to negotiate conditions that will improve your chances of success.

2. Take advantage of the development support offered to you.
High potentials are often offered developmental resources that organizations just can’t afford to offer to every employee. These include access to mentors, executive coaches, executive development programs, special projects, international assignments, and cross-functional lateral moves. You may find it hard to believe, but I can’t tell you how many HIPOs I’ve worked with that turn down these opportunities, or view them as a distraction and accept kicking and screaming. It’s understandable- they are probably too busy maintaining their performance at a high level (see #1), and they often don’t understand the how these opportunities can help them perform better in their current role. The fact is, they may not, but they are designed to get you ready for the next level, not your current job, and if you take advantage of them, they WILL. And by turning them down, you’ll come across as not interested in advancement or not committed.

3. Don’t get too full of yourself.
Again, I’ve seen this happen all too often. Sparky is told by his manager he’s next in line for her position and needs to start acting like a leader. Sparky starts walking around like he’s second-in-charge, gets arrogant, and his peers and other managers start to notice. “Hey, who anointed Sparky as our new manager”?

Yes, it’s important to perform at a level above your current level, and you’ll be expected to be learning and practicing new leadership behaviors. However, if you start acting like a little prince or princess, you’ll soon be labeled as someone that doesn’t understand what it takes to be a leader. Leaders are humble, authentic, trusted, and inspire and lift those around them. When it’s time for a possible promotion, your peers should be ready to vote for you, not take a step back and let you hit the pavement during the team trust fall exercise.

4. Make sure you’re getting feedback.
When it comes to high potential development, “no news” is NOT good news. Keep an open line of communication between you and your manager, coach, mentor, employees, and peers. One way to do this is with periodic 360 assessment feedback.

Getting isolated and cut off from feedback often happens during development assignments, lateral moves, and expat assignments, so if you’re in one of these situations, it’s even more important to maintain close contact with your support network.

5. “Market” yourself.
Arrrgh, the idea of “marketing” yourself sounds slimy, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t that be the same as getting too full of yourself?

Not really. Marketing is all about developing a personal brand and making sure your buyers understand your value proposition. Accomplishments are like trees falling in a forest – if no one is around to hear them, they may as well not be real.

Imagine your manager in the next talent review meeting, and your name comes up for discussion. Could he/she accurately represent your accomplishments for the last year, and just importantly, come up with examples of the kind of leadership and potential criteria that everyone is being assessed on? If not, then you haven’t marketed yourself very well.

If you’re talented and lucky enough to be considered a high potential by your organization, congratulations! Follow these tips and you’ll increase your chances of making it to the next level!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Walk the Talk: Four Tips to be an Extraordinary Leader

Guest post by Thomas J. Walter:

It’s common knowledge that there are two kinds of leaders, those who speak and those who do. Those who speak are referred to as “vocal leaders,” and those who do are referred to as “servant leaders,” though the title of the latter is frequently off-putting to business leaders of self-proclaimed high stature.

While leaders with excellent communication and motivational skills are often praised for these skills, they’re not the only component to being an effective leader. It’s the servant leadership that I’m most frequently hard-pressed to find.

Rising to a certain level of leadership in an organization often comes with a self-righteous attitude that beats to the tune of, “I’ve got people who can take care of that for me now.” In many cases, that is a legitimate response—certain job titles and responsibilities can’t afford to take care of tasks that once occupied their time. However, over-delegation is a disease that starts at the top and spreads through any collection of people working toward a common goal. It pollutes the leader’s image in the minds of his or her employees, as well as sets precedence for that type of behavior at all levels of the organization.

What’s so often missing in a dynamic leadership setting is a leader who does extraordinary things. Leaders who do extraordinary things lead by example, or “walk the talk,” as we businesspeople love to say. Those leaders believe in servant leadership and practice it daily, and they are the ones to whom their employees look up to…not out of fear or intimidation, but with respect and admiration. They are the leaders that people want to follow. They are the ones who take their organizations beyond engagement to a state of entanglement, where employees are so connected to the success of their organization that its goals become synonymous with their own.

Saying all of this wouldn’t mean much if I didn’t give a set of steps that leaders could take to improve their servant leadership. Here are some ways to work on developing the servant leadership component of your leadership skills:

They eat, then you eat. They sleep, then you sleep.
This is a somewhat ignored thought process in the business world, which often values a hierarchal pecking order. Leaders should put employees’ needs before their own. Part of being a servant leader is sacrifice. The team comes first, not your ego.

Do the dirty work.
Take care of the things that get in the way of your employees’ ability to give 100 percent. For example, money is often a leading cause of anxiety. Our company, Tasty Catering, developed an employee assistance fund to make it easier and faster for employees in need to borrow money. By removing the distraction caused by monetary hardship, employees can better remain focused on work. They can spend their discretionary thinking on their organization and job performance as opposed to the troubles that await them when they get home.

Show me you love me.
Show (not tell) that you care for everyone in the organization and that everyone plays a vital role in how the organization will function. You didn’t climb your way to the top just so you could tell others to get you coffee in the morning. Sometimes you should be the one that visits with coffee.

My way or the highway is overrated.
Listen to suggestions from others, no matter their “rank” in the organization. Several years ago, when the economy was beginning to drop, businesses stopped catering and planning events to save money. Tasty Catering was experiencing a significant reduction in business. It appeared to the leadership team that we would have to let a handful of employees go in order to survive financially. After speaking with the kitchen staff about the upcoming changes, Maricarmen, our kitchen supervisor, came back to the leadership team with a new idea. The culinary team decided to reduce their weekly hours to incorporate the monetary savings Tasty needed to survive without having to lose five of their co-workers. Maricarmen had also explained that this action would save the company more than they were looking for, the reduction in hours was savings equivalent to seven positions. It was a beautifully endearing—and successful—idea, and today we still have those employees.

Author Bio: Thomas J. Walter, CEO of Chicago-based Tasty Catering, is a serial entrepreneur and nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurship, leadership and business culture. He is also the co-author of It’s My Company Too! How Entangled Companies Move Beyond Employee Engagement For Remarkable Results. For more information, please visit, www.ItsMyCompanyToo.com or follow him on twitter @ItsMyCompanyToo.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

10 Elements of a Great Woman’s Leadership Development Program

June 2014 update from a 10/2012 original post:

I’ve had the opportunity to help design an open-enrollment Woman’s Leadership Development Program offered through the University of New Hampshire’s Executive Development Program. Given that I’ve written about how to design great leadership development programs, I thought it might make for an interesting case study to share with readers how I applied a lifetime of leadership development expertise to this program.

10 Elements of a Great Woman’s Leadership Development Program:

1. Start with a solid research foundation.
I’ve railed about this before – that is, the importance of applied leadership development based on solid evidence-based principles. I think it’s especially important for a woman’s leadership program, because you have to be able to answer the questions: “What makes this different than any other leadership program?” and “How will this program help woman succeed?”

For our program, we’re building it based on the 2011 whitepaper “Taking Gender into Account: Theory and Design for Woman’s Leadership Development Programs”. It’s written by professors from Harvard Business School, INSEAD, and Simmons School of Management. I’ve been involved in woman’s leadership development programs for over 20 years, and I thought this was the best I’ve seen. In fact, we’ll be using one of the authors, Deborah Kolb, to help us deign it and teach a module on negotiations.

From the authors: “We conceptualize leadership development as identity work and show how subtle forms of gender bias in the culture and in organizations interfere with the identity work of woman leaders. By framing leadership development as identity work, we reveal the gender dynamics involved in becoming a leader, offer a theoretical rationale for teaching leadership in woman-only groups, and suggest design and delivery principles to increase the likelihood that woman’s leadership programs will help woman advance into more senior leadership roles.”

2. Be Ready with a solid business case.
The other question that needs to be answered right off the bat is: “Why a leadership program just for woman?”
This isn’t a question only men will ask – I hear it asked by woman just as often. Younger woman in particular, who may not have experienced blatant discrimination, will say the glass ceiling has been broken.

With all due respect to Jack Welch, the facts tell a different story:

According to 2013 McKinsey "Women Matter" research report, women are still way underrepresented in senior leadership.

Discrimination still exists – it’s just more subtle – referred to as “second generation gender discrimination”.

Yet there is a real pay-off for companies that choose to close this gap. According to the McKinsey report, companies with the highest percentage of women show the best performance. In comparing the top-quartile of companies in terms of share of women in executive committees against companies that have all-male executive committees, McKinsey found that the former companies exceeded the latter by 41% in return on equity and by 56% in operating results.

Investing in the development of woman leaders isn’t just a “nice” thing to do – it has a direct bottom-line pay-off.

3. Decide who the audience should be and be selective.
An important element of a great leadership development program is the opportunity to network and learn from other talented participants. You need to have clear program criteria so that participants can make good self-selection decisions, and also be willing to tactfully coach someone out of the program if they don’t meet your criteria.

For our program, we chose to focus on “Mid and senior level women leaders in the corporate, public and non-profit sectors”. We be look for accomplished woman leaders with a track record of success, that are looking to advance their careers. Hard business skills are assumed to be a given.

4. The right topics.
Based on our own research and the input of a high level advisory committee, we started off with dozens of potential topics. However, we narrowed it down to the handful that we felt were critical differentiators for senior woman leaders: Leadership identity, negotiations, career strategies, high impact communications, and leading change. These were the ones that we felt would give woman leaders the tools to address both glass ceiling and “sticky floor” barriers to success.

5. Great instructors.
Instructors need to be well versed in their specific topic (i.e., negotiations”) as well gender dynamics. Some would argue that program instructors don’t have to be woman – but we thought it was important for group dynamics and credibility that they should be. I also think it’s important to have a mix of accomplished academics AND practitioners, not just one or the other.

Here’s our all-star line-up:

- Vanessa Druskat, Ph.D. is the faculty Director and Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the University of New Hampshire's business school

- Deborah M. Kolb, Ph.D. is a Professor Emerita of Simmons College, and an authority on gender issues in negotiation and leadership

- Ann Perschel, Psy.D. is a leadership and organizational psychologist. She is President of Germane Consulting and co-founder, 3Plus International, a career incubator for high potential women leaders

- Sheila McNamee, Ph.D. is Professor of Communication at the University of New Hampshire and Vice President of the Taos Institute

- Carole Barnett, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Management at the Paul College of Business and Economics at UNH

6. Great design.
In addition to any of the same design principles that make any leadership development program great (i.e., participant engagement, real world-applicability, challenging content), woman’s leadership development programs need to be designed in a way that:

- Situate topics and tools in an analysis of second generation gender bias

- Create a holding environment to support woman’s identity work

- Anchor participants in their leadership purpose

7. A great setting.
OK, so I’m 100% biased on this one – after all, we moved to this area because we just love it so much. Our program will be conducted in our brand new, state-of-the-art Paul Collage of Business, with dedicated executive development classrooms, breakouts, and dining. Participants can choose from a number of hotels and inn near our quintessential New England campus and the charming seacoast city of Portsmouth, NH.

No matter where the program is located, the important thing is to make sure corners are not cut and every aspect of the program represents a first class experience.

8. Socialization, networking and support.
Again, important for any leadership development program, but even more so for a woman’s program, where the establishment of a safe space for learning and sharing is critical. A “holding environment” creates a space where woman can experience a sense of belonging and identification, where woman can offer feedback, serve as references for social comparison, and become “emotional anchors” for each other’s personal learning.

We do this through the use of small group peer coaching, built-in networking opportunities (during and after the program), and exposure to as many role model guest speakers and mentors as possible.

9. Opportunity for on-the-job application.
While personal development and success is important, companies often want to see a more immediate, tangible return in their investment. For our program, we work with our participants to help them design an action plan directed at addressing one or more of their organization’s institutional barriers to the success of woman leaders. That way, both the individual AND the sponsoring organization gets a good ROI.

10. Individualization.
Although many of the challenges facing woman are common, the program should also offer opportunities for woman to work on their own unique challenges. We do this though individual assessment, peer coaching, and follow-up peer coaching with an instructor/coach.

The final piece of advice I’d offer for anyone thinking of getting involved in woman’s leadership development: grow a thick skin. There will be skeptics and cynics, and that’s OK, hopefully I’ve provided you with strategies to help with them. However, you may also be on the receiving end of some nasty stuff. Just ask Harvey Schachter, a reporter for Canada’s Globe and Mail, who quoted me for a piece he wrote called “Bringing More woman to the Head Table”. Here’s a sampling of the comments we received:

“This is a load of BS until we see the feminist movement lobbying to get more women working in coal mines.”

“What a load of crap. Thank GOD I never had to report to woman during my time in business. I would have quit.”

And my favorite:“...this is a steaming pile of horse sh&t!!!”

This comes with the territory with woman’s leadership development. Now bring it on.

How about you? Your thoughts on woman's leadership development programs? What would you like to see included or not included?

Monday, October 8, 2012

The October Leadership Development Carnival is up!

The October Leadership Development Carnival is up! But it's not here....

This month's Carnival is hosting by Robert Tanner at his Management is a Journey blog. Check it out right here: October Leadership Development Carnival.

I love the way Robert organizes and presents over 20 outstanding leadership development posts from many of my favorite bloggers. That's why we have guest hosts - it seems each of them never fails to outshine the host. (-:

Look for next month's Carnival, back here at Great Leadership, on November 5th.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Purpose Must be a Priority

This week's Thursday guest post by Jeremy Kingsley:

As the leader of your team, you must clearly understand and be able to pass on the purpose of your organization and your team’s role within that organization. If you don’t know the purpose of your efforts, you certainly won’t be able to inspire your team to success.

Communicating purpose will take more than requiring your team to memorize the company mission statement, however. It must become part of the culture of what everyone in your organization thinks about, says, and does each day. It will influence decisions made at the top and choices made by the “lowliest” employee.

Keep your own sense of purpose honed and sharp. You are the leader. Keep that big picture in mind and know exactly where you are and where you are going. Communicate your enthusiasm and dedication. Carry everyone else along with you. It will take energy and effort, but no one said that being a leader was easy.

Grow together.

At times, it may seem that everyone has a different purpose, and that paths are diverging. Make sure that everyone sees the way back to the common goal, and that the impact their work will have on it is clear to them. It is as if each team member must make a brick, ensuring that it is strong and free from flaws, and then firmly set it in place, among others, so that the next course can rest safely upon it.

Friday is a great time to bring your team together, to review the week, discuss the one to come, and end the working day with a sense of triumph, feeling united, energized, and eager for what lies ahead.

I’m a runner, I know how my legs ache halfway through a race, and at work my head often hurts at some point during a week. It is purpose that carries tired limbs and overburdened minds on until a second wind comes and that tape is in view. Purpose fathers that final burst of energy that carries your team over the line, with the broken tape fluttering at their feet. Purpose paves the way to victory. “Good leaders,” it’s been said, “create an organization with a purpose that rises above the bottom line; great leaders go a step further, finding ways to leverage the passion of each employee in order to create incentives that transcend financial rewards.”

What does this statement mean? I think it’s saying that to be an exceptional leader, you must discover ways to link the passions of each individual on your team with the purposes of your organization. You may have to find ways to do this that go beyond traditional methods. As you get to know your team, you’ll discover more about their individual desires and goals and how they define their purpose in life. It may be based on their family values, faith, or recent experiences. Pay attention to these clues! The more you can find common ground between your organization’s goals and purposes and the individual goals and purposes of each member of your team, the more effective and happy they will be on the job.

You won’t regret making purpose a priority.

About the Author:

Jeremy Kingsley is a professional speaker, best-selling author, and the President of OneLife Leadership. Since 1995 he has spoken to over 500,000 people at live events around the world. He has given over 2000 keynote speeches and his messages have reached millions through radio, television, and the internet. Jeremy holds bachelors and masters degrees from Columbia International University. He is the author of four books, his latest: Inspired People Produce Results – (McGraw Hill 2013).
Jeremy lives in Columbia, South Carolina with his wife and two sons.
Learn more at www.JeremyKingsley.com.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Are you Ready for the Next Level?

At my last company, where I was responsible for leadership development and succession planning, I once received a phone call on a Friday afternoon from one of my favorite managers.

It went like this: “Dan, I just found out I’m going to promoted to a senior manage on Monday. Is there a senior manager school I could go to ASAP?”

My first reaction was, “Seriously?!”

However, the more I thought about it, the more that question resonated with me. Why shouldn’t there be something, other than a book and a “good luck” handshake, to offer a newly promoted or soon to be promoted senior manager to help them be successful in their new role?

I had facilitated countless succession planning talent review meetings, and the same development needs seemed to come up over and over: leadership presence, thinking strategically, and the ability to lead change were always the big three. We rarely discussed the kind of functional skills (marketing, operations, and finance) that are taught in typical MBA programs – those were considered table stakes for this level of management. It was always the “soft” stuff that was considered important, and those capabilities were usually in short supply. A lack of these skills was the reason many managers were considered “not yet ready”.

So why should we care? Well, according to a 2012 Corporate University Xchange Leadership study, 81 % of surveyed organizations have “significant” concerns about the leadership bench strength and their ability to support growth initiatives. In the next 5 years, companies are going to be faced with a wave of retirements of their senior leaders. If they don’t start preparing now, they are going face stiff competition from other companies for talent (at a high price with no guarantees) or throw unprepared managers into these roles.

With that poor manager, those talent reviews, and the pending organizational senior leadership talent shortages in mind, I’m pleased to announce the new Next Level Executive Development Program, offered by the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore School of Business & Economics.

The program was designed to help recently promoted or soon-to-be promoted senior managers be successful in their new roles. For organizations, it’s a way to invest in the development of their high potential managers before it’s too late.

In designing this five-day program, the first person I turned to was Scott Eblin, executive coach and author of The Next Level: What Insider’s Know about Executive Success. In my opinion, Scott’s book is one of the best on senior leadership transitions, and much of the program will be based on its principles.

Scott will teach the first day, and each participant will receive their own Next Level 360 assessment feedback report and autographed book.

Day two will be dedicated to strategy and strategic thinking, taught by one of our own best UNH professors, Peter Lane.

In the third day, participants will roll up their sleeves and spend the day developing their executive presence. They will learn and practice with Elizabeth Freedman, an executive coach from one of the leading executive communication firms, Bates Communications.

Day four is all about leading change, taught by Tom Gross, another outstanding UNH professor and founder of Genesis Consulting, experts in organizational transformation.

In the final half day, I’ll be helping participants apply what they’ve learned to their own organizational challenge project.

I’ll also be your development “tour guide” throughout the entire program. We’ll have time for reflection and journaling, small group and individual coaching, guest speakers, and plenty of networking with other outstanding participants. We might even have a little fun. But not too much. (-:

Programs will be conducted in our brand new, state-of-the-art Paul Collage of Business, with dedicated executive development classrooms, breakouts, and dining. Participants can choose from a number of hotels and inn near our quintessential New England campus and the charming seacoast city of Portsmouth, NH.

Please visit our website to learn more, or email me at daniel dot mccarthy at unh dot com.

I look forward to seeing you in New Hampshire!

Note: In the interests of full disclosure, my day job is the Director of Executive Development Program at UNH, so yes, this is absolutely promotional. However, I believe in and stand behind the program (I designed it) and am excited to promote it!

Monday, October 1, 2012

25 Tips for New Managers

This post was recently published as a guest post on SmartBlog on Leadership:

Congratulations, you’re now the boss! Welcome to the deep end of the pool - now it’s time to learn to swim.

Managing your first direct reports is one of the most challenging transitions a leader will ever have to navigate. If I was to sit down over a beer or cup coffee and mentor a new first-time boss, here’s what I’d have to say (over a series of meetings, not all at once):

1. Be prepared.
Granted, while in many cases it may be too late to prepare, it shouldn’t have been. There are lots of things an aspiring leader can do to get ready to be a manager, including on the job experiences, reading, taking courses, and learning from others. If you get offered a promotion and you’re not prepared, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.

2. Recognize that it’s a new job.
Even though you were most likely promoted within a function where you were the best engineer, you are no longer an engineer – you’re a manager. The good news is, you have a track record of success. You know how to learn and succeed, so don’t ever lose sight of that and don’t lose your mojo.

3. Learn “Situational Leadership”.
SL is a must-have leadership framework for any manager. Buy the book, take a course, or ask someone to teach it to you. It’s basically a model for figuring out how to manage each of your employees, depending on how much direction they need.

4. Get to really know your employees.
Spend time with each and every employee and get to know their jobs, career and development goals, hopes and dreams, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, the names of their children and pets, where they live, and anything else that’s important to them.

5. Learn and practice active listening.
If I had to pick just ONE skill, listening would be the one I’d say is the most important skill to master as a leader.

6. Let go of the details.
Focus on the what, not the how. From executive coach Scott Eblin, author of “The Next Level”.

7. You’re no longer a “friend”.
Last year I wrote a post called “I’m Your Boss, Not Your Friend"; 10 Reasons Why Your Boss Shouldn’t be Your Friend”. Based on the comments, it was clear that not everyone agreed with me. You may choose to disagree with me, but you should at least be aware of the pitfalls and traps in trying to be friends with your employees.

8. You may be surprised to discover your former co-workers have some “issues”.
New managers are often shocked to discover some of the performance and personal issues their boss was discreetly dealing with. Now, it’s your job to pick up where your boss left off.

9. Learn to deal with performance issues.
Your previous boss may have been sweeping issues under the rug, or perhaps in the middle of working with an employee. Either way, you’ll need to learn a consistent and effective way to deal with employee performance issues. Didn’t anyone tell you? It comes with the territory.

10. Treat EVERY one of your employees with respect.
Never, ever, ever waiver from this.

11. Use the four magic words: “What do you think?”
From management guru Tom Peters.

12. Pay attention to your new team.
While you may be the team leader of your team, you’re now a member of a brand new team – your manager’s management team. Managing sideways is just as important as managing up and down. From Team guru Patrick Lencioni.

13. Be available and visible.
Don’t let “I never see my boss” be how your employees describe you.

14. Set up and maintain a schedule of regular one-on ones and team meetings.
Then, treat these meetings as a top priority.

15. Embrace your role as a LEADER.
This one’s not as obvious as it sounds. I managed employees for over 20 years before the light went on for me and I realized what an extraordinary and rewarding responsibility leadership could be. Don’t take it lightly.

16. Learn and practice a coaching model.
GROW (goals, reality, options, and will) is as good a model as any. Again, read about it, take a course, or ask someone to teach it to you.

17. You’ll make mistakes.
Lot’s of them. Get used to it, and most importantly learn from those mistakes, and don’t repeat them.

18. Learn to ask awesome questions.
You don’t have to have all of the answers – it’s better to ask the right questions.

19. Have a box of Kleenex on your desk.
Trust me on this one – don’t get caught short-handed. Unlike baseball, there is plenty of crying involved in management.

20. Read Bob Sutton’s 12 Things Good Bosses Believe.
There are a LOT of great articles and books I could recommend, but this one is a must for any boss. Read it over and over at least once a year. The key take-a-way: get over yourself.

21. Subscribe to at least 5 leadership & management blogs and read at least one leadership book each year.
I know a lot of managers that read a book a month – but I realize that’s not realistic for many. Blogs are free, easy to read and digest, and plentiful. For a sampling of many of the top leadership blogs, try here, here, or here. And don’t forget to subscribe to SmartBrief on Leadership.

22. Be you.
It’s called “authentic leadership”, and it involves being clear on who you are and what you stand for.

23. Develop a strategy.
Better yet if you involve your team in creating a vision, mission, and goals. It’s all about alignment.

24. Be clear on and agree on expectations.
Expectations are a two-way street –make it a dialog.

25. There is no “on” and “off” switch.
Being a boss – better yet, a leader – is a 24/7 role. It’s not something you can turn off after 5:00pm and go out and let your hair down with the gang. You’re a role model, good or bad, and your behavior sets the standard for the culture you create for your team. From Marshall Goldsmith, author and executive coach.