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What Are You Waiting For?

My client kept saying, “Once I know whether I’m going to get this promotion, I will …”  She put her life on hold without realizing that waiting doesn’t change what’s happening now.

Although we don’t like to admit it, fear is usually the reason we keep looking to the future for certainty.  We may feel safer avoiding a tough conversation or the risk of making the wrong decision but what opportunities might be missed if we wait?

  • Making a relationship better
  • Broadening or deepening our skills
  • Exploring a new opportunity

I invite you to get out of your holding pattern by:

  1. Identifying what is keeping you there
  2. Envisioning what you want instead
  3. Taking the first step toward that vision right now…
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Naysayer or Yaysayer?

My friend and fellow coach Cecilia Rose asks, “Do you want to be a Naysayer or a Yaysayer?”  Some of us want to be Yaysayers but we struggle with seeing the glass as half full. It may be helpful to know that research published in the journal Psychological Science indicates that a combination of environmental and biological factors can amplify negative experiences and that MIT neuroscientists recently pinpointed a brain region that can generate a pessimistic outlook.

While a healthy dose of pessimism can contribute to critical thinking, optimism has been proven to be beneficial to our well-being.  How do Naysayers find the right balance?

  • Hope for the best and plan for the worst – this approach allows us to feel prepared so that we can focus on envisioning the positive outcomes
  • Practice gratitude – we can start with the simple step of sharing something good at the end of each day and work up to keeping a journal as a resource when our outlook gets cloudy
  • Find an accountability partner– we have a much better shot at succeeding if someone is willing to gently remind us of our commitment to changing our behavior, especially if they use humor

If you’re hardwired for pessimism I encourage you to work on getting the benefits of optimism – for yourself and those around you!

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Can You Have Too Much Charisma?

During election season there is a lot of discussion about which candidates have the most charisma.  Dictionary.com defines charisma as a personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people. We often assume that the most charismatic leaders are also the best leaders but a Harvard Business Review study indicates that too much charisma may actually hinder a leader’s effectiveness.  When self-confidence becomes narcissism or persuasiveness turns into manipulative behavior, that isn’t effective leadership.

Here are some ways to demonstrate the right level of charisma:

  • Make a good first impression – you have less than a second to do so. The way you walk, dress, shake hands and make eye contact speak volumes before you ever open your mouth.
  • Focus on others – express genuine interest by asking questions and listening to the answers without thinking about what you’re going to say next.
  • Be appropriately passionate – talk with enthusiasm about what excites you and tell compelling stories.

How can you leverage charisma as one element of Executive Presence to be a more effective leader?

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4 Keys to Sustaining Behavior Change

Since coaching is often about changes in behavior that will improve individual effectiveness, I talk with my clients about how they can sustain those changes after the coaching engagement ends.  Mantras can be a useful tool so I created one for this discussion:
  • Purpose– Remember why you decided to make these changes. Focus on the benefits for yourself and others.
  • Patience– Expect that you will fall back into old behaviors under stress.  Give yourself a break and ask others to do the same.
  • Practice– It takes about a year of consistent practice, feedback and accountability to sustain a behavior change.
  • Plan– Who will be your feedback and accountability partners? How will you deal with setbacks?
These four P’s are the keys to keeping up your good work.
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Want to be a Better Negotiator?

Unless you are a professional negotiator you may not enjoy this aspect of doing business.  Many of us avoid negotiating because we don’t like confrontation, we are uncomfortable advocating for ourselves and/or we don’t want to lose.

Whether we are negotiating with a business partner or a family member, emotions can get the best of us.  The author of this Harvard Business Review article Emotion & the Art of Negotiation says, “Bringing anger to a negotiation is like throwing a bomb into the process.”

One way to reduce negative emotions even in the most contentious negotiation is an exercise called “Just Like Me,” which asks us to consider:

  • This person has beliefs, perspectives and opinions, just like me.
  • This person has hopes, anxieties and vulnerabilities, just like me.
  • This person has friends, family and perhaps children who love them, just like me.
  • This person wants to feel respected, appreciated and competent, just like me.
  • This person wishes for peace, joy and happiness, just like me.
  • Because this person is a human being, just like me.

I invite you to try making these statements out loud.  Then notice how you feel about the person on the other side of the negotiating table and envision how the outcome might change.

Expert to Leader

“He is a genius with 1000 helpers,” the CEO said, quoting the business classic Good to Great to describe one of her direct reports.  “He has to move from being a technical expert to a leader and focus on developing his people.”  This is a very common scenario in my coaching practice.

When a technical expert who has been rewarded for his knowledge and results is promoted to a leadership role, he can feel woefully unprepared.  That can lead to fear of failure and a tendency to fall back on what has served him well – being an expert who solves problems.  Except that even a genius can’t solve every problem and a leader’s job is to coach and empower others.

How do you do that? A recent Gartner survey concluded that the most effective style for developing high performers is a Connector.  Instead of being too hands-on or too hands-off, the Connector asks the right questions, provides tailored feedback and connects team members to others who can help them.

A technical expert is usually good at connecting dots.  If he can evolve into a leader who connects his people to the right developmental resources, he will no longer be a genius with 1000 helpers.