May 27, 2020

Is Your Listening Style Hurting or Helping Your Company?

Ah yes…the old “Active Listening” seminar and training approach.  As Dr. Phil would say “How’s that workin’ for ya”?

For most people, these listening seminars and even coaching approaches are simply not working.  Why?  Because more often than not, the coach is not:

  1. Evaluating the client thoroughly enough before the first coaching call on his  true listening style and ability
  2. Calling the client on the carpet when he’s not listening but actually is multi-tasking during the coaching call
  3. Spotting repeating patterns in other life areas including belief systems, productivity challenges, biases and 5-6 other life areas which do have an impact on listening.

On March 23, Executive Coach Mandy Schumaker and I are going to coach one brave soul…Roger DeWitt, President of Coaching NYC on the topic of LISTENING:  How are your listening style and skills impacting the bottom line of your business?

Here are the details:

Title: TOUGH COACHING INTRODUCTORY CALLLISTENING:  How are your listening style and skills impacting the bottom line of your business?

Date: Wednesday, March 23 from 12:00 PM-1:00 PM EST

Location: Telephone Bridge Line

Client: Roger DeWitt, President of Coaching NYC

Coach: Executive Coach Bea Fields

Chief Facilitator: Executive Coach Mandy Schumaker

Following the coaching demonstration, Mandy Schumaker will be debriefing the coaching exercise and engaging with participants to further explore the topic of listening and the tools used during the coaching demo.  The approach we are going to be using is more than likely not one you have used or observed in the past.  With this approach, you will be able to coach a client for a minimum of 3 months on just this one topic.

Join us on March 23 at 12:00 EST  by registering for our free introductory call

At the end of the call, participants will receive:

  • 3 sample assessments you can use to evaluate your clients natural listening and focusing style
  • 3 resources for additional reading
  • Handouts to guide you when coaching a client on the topic of listening
  • 10 coaching questions you can use, starting today to help your clients fine tune their listening
  • A list of 5 activities to offer as field work to your clients following a coaching call to dramatically improve and enhance deep, global listening
    Register today for our free introductory call

21 Tips for Handling Email (So That It Doesn’t Handle You!)

Are you truly handling your email, or is your email handling you?

According to our recent post, Survey: What is Robbing You of Your Time? 15 Very Busy Professionals Weigh In, 7 out of 15 people feel like the email dragon is getting in the way of their productivity.

So, I have put together 20 suggestions to help you start your process of addressing your email so that it doesn’t run your life.  Here we go:

  1. Set aside time to really get to know your email program. You will more than likely find 8-10 ways to reduce and organize your email to avoid overload.
  2. When sending emails use Tiny Url or to shorten long urls. Long urls break, which creates another email asking for the actual link.
  3. Keep your email conversation to 3 exchanges.  On the 4th exchange, pick up the phone, call the person you are playing email ping pong with, and resolve the issue over the phone. Keep your time on the phone limited.  You have things to do, so get to it.
  4. Opt out of every newsletter or article directory you are not reading. Many people push newsletters and articles into folders that are never read or even viewed again.  Out of sight is out of mind, so either read the article as it comes into your inbox or ditch it.
  5. When you buy online, watch yourself before you check out. There is usually a little box at the bottom of the page that is already checked asking you if you want to subscribe to their mailing list.  Uncheck this box (unless you really have to have the emails).
  6. Check emails 3 times per day…at 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and at 4:00 p.m. Then, leave it alone.  Checking email all day long is one of the most inefficient uses of time, and it can create a bottleneck and distraction in your day.  Specify on your website or voice mail or at the bottom of your email the times of day you check email so that the sender knows when to expect a response from you.
  7. Watch out for the shiny star of distraction! You know what I mean.  It goes like this:  You open an email that takes you to a web page, you see something interesting and shiny, and there you go…off to another web page, then another and another.  You look at the clock and suddenly, an hour or two have passed by (time you could have invested making money for your business!)
  8. Keep your emails short and to the point. Long, drawn out emails should actually be a phone conversation.  To keep these short emails professional, make sure to include a salutation and a closing signature to keep the email personal  (remember…there is another person on the other end of the email).  The majority of programs include a feature to create a standard closing signature.  Just make sure to add something like “Best, Bea” or “Sincerely, Bea” before your contact information.
  9. Respond to people with a quick answer in the subject line of your email. Let your contacts know you are using this technique, to look for the answer in the subject line and not to open the email.  They will greatly appreciate this approach, because it saves them time as well.
  10. Use a program such as Mailwasher to clean your junk and spam before it hits your inbox. In the first few weeks, you will be “washing” your mail frequently (deleting mail, marking mail as spam) and removing it before it hits your inbox.   The mail washing process diminishes over time, and you will have less and less junk and spam hit your inbox.  While many programs have great spam filters, they are not fail proof, so adding a system to clean out spam will save you time, frustration and distraction.
  11. Consider switching your mail program to Google Apps. With Google Apps, you can continue to use, while creating labels, reporting mail as spam or telling Google Apps to bypass your inbox and send the mail straight to trash.  If you are receiving spam, you can also mark the mail as spam, and it will disappear and automatically go straight to your spam filter.
  12. Contact your network and let them know that you will be posting regularly to your blog, Twitter account or Facebook wall. (This can all be done automatically if you have a WordPress blog which pings your social networks). This will cut down drastically on the number of emails you receive asking for more information on a presentation you lead or on a program you are offering.
  13. If you are using Twitter or Facebook, keep your contacts to a minimum number. Who can possibly keep up with 10,0000 followers on your social networks?  If your contacts on social networks is beginning to exceed 500, it will be hard to keep up with everyone, and you will receive more email from people trying to sell you something via direct message.
  14. Create filters, folders or groups for quick access. Many email programs provide the ability for you to choose to have certain emails actually skip your inbox and go straight to a folder, filter or group.  Then, at the end of the day, scan that folder or folders for important information.  If you have received 3 emails from the same person, answer them all in one email and not in 3.
  15. When sending email, create a super specific subject line. I have found that it is much easier to find that email if the subject line has a unique word or phrase in it.
  16. Respond immediately. If an email is timely and/or urgent, certainly go ahead and respond asap.  If the email is not urgent and is a question that can be answered down the road, simply reply and say “Thanks John for the email.  I cannot address this today.  Can you please email me again on XYZ date, and I will be able to give this my full attention.”  With this approach, you are not filing away an email, you are putting this back in John’s court to email you back.  While many may say that this is shirking responsibility and placing it back on John’s plate…just remember…he contacted you…not the other way around.  If John really wants to discuss an issue, have you read an introduction to his new book or set up a time to shoot the breeze, he will get back to you.
  17. Use an online appointment scheduling system that syncs with your calendar to prevent people from contacting you for appointment scheduling. I use TimeTrade, but there are many programs out there that are really great.   I also recommend Tungle.  The system is free and offers a lot of features that make life easy.
  18. If  spam continues coming into your inbox from the same domain or user over and over again, report the abuse using SpamCop.
  19. Keep no more than 20 emails in your inbox at one time.  Otherwise, anything beyond 20 is again “out of sight”, which means it is “out of mind”.  And, another 20, 30, 40 will pile on top of this.
  20. Do it, ditch it, or delegate it. We have heard this 1,000 times, but how often do we really practice this.  At the end of the day, your goal should be to have a 100% clean inbox.  If not, tomorrow morning, you will have 20, 30, 50 or 200 emails on top of what you never addressed.
  21. Keep the YouTube videos, joke emails and chain letters away. While so many of these are funny and can brighten up your day, they are a distraction.  Once again, filter these to a folder called “jokes and videos” and then look at them when you have free time.  Watching videos and reading jokes throughout the day will take up precious time and energy you will need to devote to your business.

I realize we all live in a digital world, and email is one of the top ways we correspond with others.  My concern is that email is now overwhelming our lives, creating isolation and interfering in building intimate, face to face relationships.  If you cannot get your email under control with these strategies, then maybe it’s time to let the world know that “Hey…I don’t do email.  My phone number is _______________ .”

Survey: What is Robbing You of Your Time? 15 Very Busy Professionals Weigh In

My gosh…where DID the time go?

If I have to answer the phone one more time or answer one more email, I am going to explode!

I am never going to get this work done.  I feel like I am always trying to play “catch up”!

Do any of these sound like you?  If so, then something is getting in the way of your productivity.

I took the time to ask some of the busiest people I know to answer the following two questions:

1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

There is most definitely a repeating trend, and I am going to write a blog about that trend later in the week.

We would love to hear from you on your time waster and tips for improving your productivity, so please comment below.

Thank you to all of you for taking the time out of your very busy schedules to answer these questions.  I know your responses will help others.

1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Phone  interruptions. I have trained people to need me too much and those distractions feel exponentially negative because I not only lose the time, I lose momentum on bigger priorities.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

I’m a constant list-maker. Lists help me prioritize while also generating momentum and satisfaction as I cross items off

Corey Michael Blake
President, Round Table Companies


1.      What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Responding to emails as they come in, instead of setting time aside each day (i.e., once in the a.m. and p.m.).

2.      What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

Making a list of all I tasks I need to accomplish (both work and personal) for the next day. I try to keep it to what is doable for that particular day so I don’t feel overwhelmed.  If I have more than I think I can accomplish and it is a task that can wait, I’ll push it to the next day. You should also hire hvac maintenance schaumburg il when your air conditioning breaks.

Edie Smith
Senior Vice President and Director of Research
ProMatura Group LLC


1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Social networking. If I get on any of my social networks in the morning before I have begun my high priority tasks then I’ve lost 2-3 hours. I have a huge social network from these bouts of getting lost online but was missing the quality funnel to move them through from a lack of direction. After taking Bea and Scott’s Blogging Master Plan I have clearly defined the direction of my company, the message I’m presenting, and allocating the appropriate time to all of my marketing tools. I no longer get on my social networks in the beginning of the day.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

I think in big pictures and on a massive scale which can be too much not just for the people working with me but myself included. I have found making a list – breaking down the activities I need to get done into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks to keeps me from being overwhelmed and keeps me on track for my end result and achieving my goals. If I don’t make my check list of everything that I need or want to do it can become overwhelming and can paralyze me,  causing complete inaction.

Janine Elias
Awakening the Voice of America – Making America a Better Place One Person at a Time!


1. What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

The biggest time waster for me is lack of or inadequate planning. If I plan my week and then each day, I am much more productive – even with interruptions. Having a daily plan helps gets me back on track.

2. What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

Exercising 2-3 times per week really helps my productivity, energy, and focus. After cardio or weights, I usually wrap up with a steam to relax, think, and clear my head. Many times a solution or option I hadn’t thought of presents itself during that time.

Patrick J. Coughlin, CCE
President and CEO


1.     What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Checking, replying to, and organizing email accounts.   I like to keep my messages organized, reply to those that require instant replies (like this one), and prioritize those that are actually tasks and require later action.  So it really isn’t time lost, it is more of a time “thief” J.  So it does “steal” a big chunk of my time.

2.     What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

I use Central Desktop, to manage my projects and clients’ work.  So I am a fanatic about insuring every task, project, and document is entered into the appropriate workspace on Central Desktop.  The first thing I do each day is log into my Central Desktop account.  From my dashboard I can see every single task and project pending and when they are due, for my clients, as well as my own marketing tasks.  I know immediately what my priorities are for the day, week, month.  As my clients and any team support has access to their appropriate workspaces, we can all keep track of status, documents, and any updates as they happen.

Yvonne Thompson, Virtual Partner
Virtual Assistant Services for the Time Strapped Professional


1.     What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day?

I think not following a daily plan messes me up. I tend to go for what I think needs the attention and then I end up with important things not being taken care of by me. I am now starting to say ”No” to all the requests I get in. I think by doing that, I can make time for things that will help me and my business.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

I know when I exercise in the morning, whether it is walking outdoors and on the treadmill, I can go all day and get some much done and also sleep better.

Elizabeth Cassidy
Creativity Coach for Writers and Artist


1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

My office is like a revolving door – constant interruptions all day cause me to lose the most time.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity

I’m up at 5:30am so that I have an hour to enjoy my coffee, read through design blogs and get caught up on the news before I start my day. Caffeine and being “in the know” keep me going!

Tami Watras
Director of Merchandising
Capel Incorporated


1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day?

I feel like I manage time fairly well on a typical day, when my focus is on business or client tasks.  I have found that the one thing that can deter me from my typical routine is dealing with
staff issues.  The majority of time it is simply helping to clarify an expectation, policy or task, or correcting miscommunication between different personalities who may be seeing an issue from different perspectives.  I don’t mind stepping into this role, but it can completely throw off my time management.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that
improves your productivity?

I would say I have one business and one personal.  For Personal – exercise is essential to stay on task! For business weeding out emails from my blackberry before I get to the office! I like to multi-task, and when managing family and business it is essential to my day.  I have found that by having my calendar and emails on my blackberry, I can do business from anywhere.  I also have the majority of my staff on instant messenger, which allows for quick and direct communication.  I know for some, the blackberry can be more of a distraction, but for me it allows me to utilize the time away from my desk to manage business and allows more time at home.

Amy L. Natt
Aging Outreach Services


1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day?

Checking email all the time instead of scheduling one or two times a day to read, ditch or respond. Can’t resist that new message in the email box.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

I make a to-do list. As I finish a to-do I cross it off. I’ve tried online ticklers but what works for me is writing my to-do’s on a long and somewhat narrow clip-board I got at a street fair a long time ago. The original pad is long gone but I cut paper to fit. It’s always by my computer. When I feel overwhelmed by everything I need to do, writing down the discrete tasks tamps down the anxiety and I when I read the list I see the tasks usually aren’t that daunting after all.

Jeannette Paladino
Write Speak Sell


1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Email and the social media confusion.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

When I schedule my time with only three things to accomplish in that day, making one of the items a significant one. When I schedule more than three things I get scattered.

Dolores Hagen, CPCC

Sixty and Sensational


1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Email and getting off my morning routine.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

Staying on a morning routine of walking my dogs, doing a clean sweep of the house, getting organized for the day, taking a shower and getting dressed.  I’m then ready for the day!

Camie Marion

Portrait Artist


1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Telephone calls and email.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

Waking up early and getting work knocked out first thing in the morning.

Keith Marion


1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

The internet and all those wonderful rabbit holes of interesting info.  I feel so fulfilled with the info I have learned about what Whirling Dervishes are or why men have nipples… but in the end… I haven’t done what I really want to do.
2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

It is simply to PAUSE.  I hit the Pause button on a regular basis during the day and ask myself if a) I am on task and b) will this get me further to where I want to go today.  I often have to set timers or have someone ask me to jolt me back to being on task.  Oh,.. one other thing… I also set a short intention for the day that will encompass what I want to create/accomplish that day.  That is what I draw back to.

Roger DeWitt, PCC, PACG
Coaching NYC Inc.
ADD Coach for The Entertainment Industry… and Beyond


1. What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Keeping up with email can be a big waste of time – dealing with spam and sifting through what’s important and what isn’t.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

Since I got a Blackberry, managing email has become easier. I can use odd moments in line at the grocery store, or when I’m a passenger in a car to clean out my email box. Instead of sitting down and spending hours on email, I can manage it in small bits of time that would have otherwise been wasted.

Not only has it made managing my email easier, but also, it’s given me more time for a life. Because customers expect responsiveness from me, my email has to be checked frequently. The way I used to handle this took time away from my family. While checking the email, I’d get sucked into working on the computer during family time. Now I can check and clear email without even going to the computer. Thus, I’m less likely to get drawn into working when I should be taking personal time.  I can also better manage my email while I travel without the need to log into a computer.

Marnie Pehrson
CES Business Consultants


1. What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day?

Checking email, often looking for acknowledgment (the emotional, needs reassurance me). Also, deleting hundreds
of unrequested, spam emails daily, (This does not include those filtered into a junk box.) SHUTTING OFF MAIL, so I’m not as tempted to look at it. I did gave a computer in a different room that I would go to to work on special projects. Never checked mail on it. That crashed, beyond repair.

Also, reacting to Social Media posts checking links and then more links.

2. What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

Walking almost daily, especially in Nature, with my camera. Using the camera, responding to anything that catches my eye, acts as an immediate focus shifter and re-energizes, opening me up to fresh perspectives. (Same thing happens for people who take my Through and From The Lens courses.

Sheila Finkelstein
Lens to Life Discovery

If you are feeling like your time challenges has you like a tiger by the tail, check out our Time Mastery Profile.  This tool can really help you identify your biggest time robbers with a step by step action plan on how to address it.  For more information, visit our Assessments page.

Several Best Picture Nominees Strike Close to Home with Lessons of Leadership

The year 2010 was certainly a year at the box office.  I saw a few dreadfully boring movies…one that I even left in the middle of, but I saw three that left me in awe, breathless and painfully aware of the deep rooted problems we are having in our world today.

I want to address the three that struck me the most deeply.

The King’s Speech: I drove to Durham, NC, with my friend Camie Marion to see this film at a smaller theater before it came to the larger movie houses because of its rave reviews.  If you were to read some of the more cynical reviews of the movie, you would never go.  But, I am going to be the first to see a movie the challenges of a severe speech impediment could have on the eventual success or failure of a future king…that of Albert Frederick Arthur George (played by Colin Firth).  There were times in the movie that I felt that life was either just bitter or sweet…nothing in the middle.  Yet in the end King Albert Frederick Arthur George (after months of work with a speech therapist) is able to rise to the occasion to deliver a speech to England during one of the worst periods in world history…World War II and the Great Depression.

I believe all leaders should see this movie to witness what hard work, the help of specialists and a “never giving up” attitude can do for success.  The King’s Speech is not a fable.  It is based on a very true story of a king who felt he would never be able to lead the people of England because of a stammer.  But the question is…How often are we all just “giving up” these days? I would say more often than not.  I know that our political leaders say they are “trying”, but I feel a sense of apathy in our country.  As I watched Firth play this role, I felt this King’s anguish, doubt and embarrassment.   He was basically hiding that he had a speech impediment, was known as a “sickly” child and here he was…now the kind of England and had to overcome a stammer so that the people of England would have the faith they needed in their leader to guide them through one of the darkest periods in history.

Leadership Lesson:

“When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place.”


The Black Swan. This movie literally gave me nightmares.  It was a dark, very twisted tale of a young woman, played by Natalie Portman (who did receive best actress for her role in the film) who won the lead role in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. I am not a professional ballerina, but I did dance for about five years in my middle school age, and this role is one of the most demanding in the classical ballet repertoire, and Portman played the role to the nth degree.

The sad part of the movie brings to light that millions of young women are binging and purging and starving themselves literally to death.  It brings to light that using drugs and sex are merely tools to help a young woman get through a tough day, and as leaders, we must do something to begin helping the young women in our world who are suffering from low self esteem or doing things to their bodies just to be able to sing, act or dance.  I recall an interview with Jennifer Anniston who was of ideal weight when she went to Hollywood, and the first thing agents told her was to “drop 20 pounds”.  There is something so wrong with this picture, and the lifestyle that was portrayed in the Black Swan was not right…not portraying a healthy lifestyle.  If you are in great health and ten pounds overweight, let your doctor be your judge…not Vogue magazine or Perez Hilton.   I applaud Michelle Obama for dedicating her time to healthy lifestyles, and it’s time for Americans to address the war on anorexia, eating disorders, “hooking up” and getting high.   Our sons and daughters are our futures, and the time is now to model what it looks like to live a healthy life.

Leadership Lesson:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

~Eleanor Roosevelt


The Social Network: I have now seen this movie for the third time.  The movie zooms in the beginning, and the bar scene with Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) left my head spinning, so I had to watch it again just to catch what happened in the first five minutes.  But I have to say…this movie was brilliantly written, produced, directed and acted.  While I am sure that bits and pieces were embellished so that we would all go invest $35-$40 at the movie (this is of course with a stop by the snack bar) at the theater, the real life characters say that the story is pretty darn true.

So, as you all probably know, the movie is a past tense/present tense back and forth movie…showing how Facebook was created and the huge lawsuit that followed…with the Winklevoss twins saying Zuckerberg stole their idea (uh…like they need any more $$…and while they had a great idea, could they have really created FB without Mark?)  and Zuckerberg’s close friend and Facebook co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, suing the company for being somewhat forced out of the deal by private investors.

In leadership, all I have to say on this one is this:  Do the right thing, take care of your people, always have a contract and read the tiny, tiny print at the bottom of every contract.  Also…you have to stay on top of situations.  The Social Network movie just showed to me that at a young age, we all learn tough lessons, and business can be a very messy situation if you don’t dot your i’s and cross your t’s.  And always look out for the smartest guy in the room.

This movie is a must watch for anyone who wants to see the wheels of a genius mind turn.  And…as the movie poster says “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making some enemies.”

Leadership Lesson:

“There are two thoughts that often get lost in the discussion about being effective in building and using influence: Don’t assume you have all the right answers-that’s why a strong team is essential. And, above all, do the right thing-not only for business or economic impact, but also for social and philosophical implications. Ultimately, power is the ability to influence and facilitate change, and people naturally rally around leaders who do the right thing consistently.”

_Ralph Szygenda, Former CIO of GM

Leadership Coaching: How to Know When Your Client is Stuck and How to Get Them Unstuck

picture of woman who is stuck

Is Your Executive Coaching Client Stuck? Maybe It's Time for Some Radical and BOLD Coaching!

Over the past ten years, I have provided leadership coaching services for a large number of clients…I think over 1200 at this point.  I say this not to brag, but to give some credibility to this post.  Because of the number of clients I have coached, I can smell it a mile away when a client is stuck.  I can usually tell in the first interview when a client is truly stuck in an old pattern and not willing to work on, let achieve a big/audacious goal.

So, here are a few of the signs and approaches you can use to help “unstick” your leadership coaching clients:

Sign: The client comes in with a BIG goal that they have been trying to achieve for over three years with no movement.  This is often common if a client is in a corporate structure that dictates what they can and cannot do, so you have to do a bit of digging on the cultural side of things.  But…at the end of the day, if a client has been going through a revolving door for over three years and have not yet hit the mark…they are stuck.  I am being generous here…the stuck time frame is really more like one year, but I am giving some time knowing how the world works.

Coaching Strategy: Step up the goal/Play a bigger game.  The majority of the clients who seem stuck are just plain bored.  They don’t have a big enough game to play, so you have to bump up the game and make it meaningful.  It may be something as simple as challenging/directing the client to take on a brand new activity like improv or public speaking or coaching their teams using a new, fresh approach.  At the end of the day, if a client is stuck, and if they are bored, doing the same day in and day out routine will not result in action.  It just results in stagnation.  A brand new, challenging activity can often spill over into other life areas and build confidence around big game/big goal setting.

Sign: You and the client set a BIG goal, and you always seem to get off topic.  In the world of leadership coaching, we often describe this as the client pulling you down a rabbit hole or YOU are chasing the client down a rabbit hole, because you just really don’t know what to do.

Coaching Strategy: Reel the client back into the original goal.  Say something like this “You know, the initial goal was for you to bring in more networking partners for the company, and we are suddenly talking about your boss and his problems.   I can only coach you.   Let’s get back to the goal of bringing in more networking partners, and if your boss fits into this, we will address this sooner rather than later.  What is your next step, and how will I know you actually did it?”

Sign: The client starts dictating to you how the coaching sessions need to “go”.  I have seen this a FEW times.  The client comes in and says “Here is what I want to talk about today, and I really need to say a few things.”  I just don’t agree that the client always needs to dictate the coaching conversation.   To me, this is a big red flag that the client feels like he/she is being challenged, and they want to work on “something else that is more comfortable.”

Coaching Strategy: Shift!  If the client said in the initial interview that he/she wanted to build up a larger networking strategy, and then suddenly wants to switch to talking about their daughter’s overuse of text messaging or her husband’s financial problems, it is very appropriate to ask “How does this relate to the original goal of increasing networking partners in your company.”  If there is a legitimate reason, then go there.  If not, SHIFT the conversation or say “We are going to STOP this conversation…it has nothing to do with the original goal.”  If the client cannot demonstrate a clear connection to their personal challenges and the original goal, he/she is simply trying to get you off topic to avoid having to take on a big step.  This is the time to stop the conversation and go back to the original goal.

Sign: The client begins criticizing your coaching by saying things like “I don’t get that we are connecting or you don’t seem to get my issue.”

Coaching Strategy: Get bold…be upfront!   It may be true….that you and the client are not connecting and you are not getting it.  What I have found more often that not is that you are not “getting” that the client wants to take you way off into never-never land so that you can avoid the topic at hand.  If this is the case, you owe your client an obligation:  to be upfront.  You have to say something like this “I respect that you perceive we are not connecting.  May I offer up to you a few perceptions of my own?  You seem to switch subjects a great deal, I feel like I am being pulled into a rabbit hole and I am perceiving that you want to avoid taking on the big action steps I am asking of you.  So, here’s the deal…you hired me to help you expand your networking efforts, and we are now talking about your daughter’s excessive text messaging and your husband’s financial issues.  I still don’t clearly understand what this has to do with your original goal, so we have two options:  We can either end the coaching relationship or get back to the original goal you SAID you wanted to achieve.”

Sign: The client begins canceling coaching calls or is late for coaching calls.

Coaching Strategy: Ask the client this question “Where in your business or personal life are you canceling commitments or showing up late?”  This may be a sign to you that the client does not want to be confronted about not doing field work or not following through in other life areas.  Again…they are just stuck!

In closing…I don’t give up on clients.  I will try every strategy possible to get them to shift:  Interrupting them, calling them on their stuff, making a bold statement that they “did not do what was asked” or putting the coaching “on hold” until the client is really ready to move forward.  There will be times with clients when you simply have to end the coaching agreement (firing the client).  The client is not going to move into action, they just are not ready or they have not bought into coaching as a tool for growth.  As I say this, I encourage you to be as bold as possible for the well being of your clients.  We are not here to say what clients “want to hear”.  As coaches, we are here to ask tough questions and say what our clients “need to hear” in order to be the best they can be in their leadership roles.

Would so welcome your comments below.

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The 5 Qualities Required for a Leader to Make it to the Top

Climging to the top

Do you have what it takes to climb to the top in 2011 and beyond?

In leadership coaching, I am always reading articles about what it takes to be a better leader, and they are really all about the same.  The March issue of Harvard Business Review just came to my mailbox, and the lead article is The New Path to the C-Suite.

The article discusses in depth what the authors feel need to change in our modern day leaders considering how our business landscape has changed in the last ten years.  The article is split into sections for CEOs, CIOs, Chief Marketing Officers, the General  Counsel, Chief Human Resource Officer, the Chief Supply-Chain Management Officer and CFOs.  For today, I want to focus on the CEO.

The Harvard article is a great one, but I feel it misses a few points.  The article discusses how CEOs owe their jobs much more to the Board of Directors and their predecessors and that much of the time, the new CEOs who are hired actually a member of the board.   The other skills mentioned are the ones we have heard for years…communication, empathy, collaboration, the ability to build trust and strategic planning and agility.

A few things the article missed about the CEO are really glaring, and here are 5 qualities that I truly believe are going to be required in the future for a leader to make it to the top:

1.  A deep understanding of the different AND similar values of the four generations in our workforce and how to leverage those values for collaboration. Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y all have a unique set of values based on the world events which formed those values and as a leader, if you do not understand this, it’s time to get educated.  A strong CEO would take the time to form a cross generational sub committee to address the clashes and grumblings across generations.  I did not see this mentioned in the article.

2.  An understanding of the world of new media. Do I think the CEO needs to know how to use Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging?  YES!  I do.  Some of the top CEOs in our world are now very active on these sites, and as a CEO, if you know nothing about new media and don’t know how to use it, you will be viewed as a dinosaur by your employees, the outside world and the top talent you so want to attract.  If you really don’t want to use the tools, at least take the time to sit down with your CIO and get fully educated and play with the tools enough to be able to use them in a crisis.  Twitter is one of the best crisis tools we have at our fingertips today, and as a CEO, if you cannot get out a message to millions in a matter of minutes, you are losing an opportunity to build a strong public relations presence in the public.

3.  Speed. We are in an “I want it now world” and CEOs need the ability to act with agility, responsiveness (notice I used the word respond…not react), the capacity to change on a dime and the ability to be flexible when the market shifts overnight or something goes awry in the world or in the company.

4.  The ability to coach and be coached. Most people don’t think they need a coach, and I disagree.  I am an Executive Coach by trade, and I did not choose this profession until I hired a coach of my own.  As a CEO, you cannot see yourself on the outside…you cannot see the scowl on your face or the way you may appear distracted or the way you talk to others.  With coaching, you can improve these skills in a matter of weeks.  On the same note, great leaders need to learn how to use a coaching approach with their executive teams and with all employees in the company.  With coaching, you are empowering others to come to conclusions which merit focus and you are not throwing around unwanted advice right and left.

5.  A willingness to experiment and to innovate. While these skills may be pushed down to the Creative Department, Marketing Department or the IT Department, the ability to innovate is going to determine which companies succeed and which ones fail.  The CEO needs to back up this principle.  If you are not willing to take a risk (and know how to mitigate risk), your company will find itself stuck.  Surround yourself with big thought leaders and let their ideas and big thinking rub off on you.  Times are exciting and as a CEO, getting on board around the topic of change is critical for your future success.

If any of these leadership qualities are ones which you feel you are ready to hone, contact me today for a consultation at 910.692.6118 or email me at  I would so enjoy a conversation with you to see how I can help.

Assessment: Are You Truly a Digitally Savvy Leader?

Social Networking SitesI think it is safe to say that the old ways of branding (fancy logos plastered on newspaper ads and television screens) are outdated and are simply not working. With DVRs and remote controls, people block out advertising, and if you have not noticed, newspapers are becoming thinner and thinner and are being replaced by online marketing mechanisms.

New media (online social networking, forums, bookmarketing sites and news feeds) are forcing all of us to rethink our approaches to marketing if we want to stay alive in the world of business.

So, take a few minutes and assess yourself by answering these ten statements: Are You Truly a Digitally Savvy Leader? If you do not answer “yes” to each of these questions, the time is now to brush up on your skill sets.  Take the assessment here.

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