May 27, 2020

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

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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Self Directed Leadership Defines a New Era for Egypt and the World

Today, Jeannette Paladino wrote a great blog post about the protests in Cairo and the new era of that is community driven…not lead by a dictator directing the lives of others (more about this subject below).  Over the last six days, the anti-Mubarak protesters (those men and women who want to see drastic change in the Egyptian government)  have reportedly been peaceful and cooperative.

But today, the scene took a turn for the worse as pro Mubarak groups prepared to “take over the crowd” by storming into Cairo on the backs of horses and camels.  Bearing sticks and knives, the pro government group looked a bit archaic.  They  resorted to not only beating the protesters but attacking Americans like news CNN anchors Anderson Cooper and Hala Goroni.  Apparently Cooper was struck in the head at least ten times and after being confronted, pushed and hit, Goroni was escorted to safety by a protester.

As Jeannette mentioned, the use of social media and a new thought pattern about community leadership have come together to send us a huge message in our world…our next generation of thinkers and leaders want freedom and a voice.  They know how to drive change by taking a stand (the early group of protesters were primarily men under the age of 30) and by using technology to pull together large crowds of people to drive their cause.  They are sick and tired of being told what to do by government and leaders that are driven by archaic leadership styles.   The fact that pro government groups charged into Cairo on the backs of camels and horses tells me that the current leadership in Egypt is operating with old thinking, and yes…it is time for change, and that change is going to get worse before things get better.  Change hurts, and the majority of changes do often come with a bit of pain and sorrow.  Just ask anyone who was involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.

In May of 2008, by Byron Reeves, Thomas W. Malone, and Tony O’Driscoll wrote a compelling article in Harvard Business ReviewLeadership’s Online Labs.   In the article, the authors speak of a future type of leadership…a form of leadership they predict will be more of the norm based on their observations and research obtained by watching members of Generation Y (born 1977-1997) play online games like Eve Online, EverQuest, and World of Warcraft.  In their studies, the authors predicted a type of leadership that would be similar to watching young men and women play games  in a three-dimensional virtual world, using the best headset from this sades sa 902 7.1 review…one in which thousands of players collaborate with and compete against one another.  With this new type of leadership, the authors also observed an interesting repeating pattern…there was no one leader in these virtual worlds…the groups were self-directed and would evolve even when a player was away from the game or taking a break for several days.

The organized protesters in Cairo are looking a great deal like the type of leadership described in this article.  So, it is no surprise that Egypt is in turmoil and that many of the groups gathering have no true leader…Gen Y does not follow the leader…they follow groups, especially those which are creating change .  What is disturbing is that this “peaceful protest” has now turned into violence.

I encourage you to continue to watch as this process unfolds to see how Generation Y is going to respond.  And, expect to see a change in the way our world leads as a bi-product of this truly historical event.

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TED Video: Barry Schwartz on Doing the Right Thing

This is so odd that this video popped into my email today.  I was just talking with a client yesterday about “doing what is right and virtuous vs. doing what the corporation/society WANT us to do”.  Barry Schwartz really hits the nail on the head in this video…following our wisdom about the right thing to do is key to our happiness and well being.

If you don’t like what you see going on around you, speak up…it’s now or may be never!

3 Tools to Help You Master the Art of Conflict Resolution

"Picture of two people going in conflict resolution going in different directions"

Are you going in different directions and avoiding the elephant in the room?

In the last 11 years of working with conflict resolution and leadership coaching for executives and their teams, I have never met a group of people that did not have some type of conflict going on inside their company.

Conflict Resolution is Tough.

Conflict  is inevitable and to conflict resolution is not an easy task.  As a matter of fact, I believe conflict resolution is getting tougher, but resolving conflict is what can actually help us get to the truth of a situation, can be a stimulus for creativity and can make teams stronger…but only if handled correctly.

Today, I want to leave you with 3 very quick tools which can help you with conflict resolution (believe me…the fear of conflict rests with most people…no one likes conflict and most people don’t want to address it).

Conflict Resolution Tips:

1.  Understand why the conflict exists in the first place.  The reasons may include:

  • A person  feels misunderstood
  • Something was said that was hurtful, and a person is harboring a grudge
  • Two or more people have different values and/or beliefs about an issue
  • A person is just unhappy and always wants to “stir the pot”
  • Needs are not being met
  • Differing communication styles (there are four basic communication styles:  Dominance, Inspirational, Conscientious and Supportive) and these styles can butt heads constantly if not recognized
  • Different career and life goals
  • Low company morale
  • People are simply going in very opposite directions in life
  • Skewed perceptions
  • A “don’t ask, don’t complain, don’t open your mouth” policy
  • Confusion about an issue
  • Your company has a “pecking order” and everyone knows it
  • Playing favorites

Once you understand the root of the conflict, you can then begin to address it on an individual basis.

2.  Let your team know that you are going to be meeting with everyone individually for a discussion on how to make your team stronger. Sit down one on one with each team member and say something like this:

“John…you know, I have noticed that our team seems to keep butting heads on a lot of issues and we seem to get nowhere.  We leave meetings angry and without any clear direction, and I am here to take responsibility for this constant state of conflict we are living with.  While I encourage conflict and debate, it seems that we are ending up with a lot of hurt feelings and people are starting to shut down.  I want to talk to you about how you view conflict resolution and see where you stand or how you are feeling about all.  Tell me a bit about your needs, goals and desires.  I would like to know what you feel is working for you and about anything you feel you need that you are not getting on the team.”  (You are digging here to find out what may be the hot spot for this person).

As you talk with each team member, make a few notes.  Your goal here is to look for a repeating pattern of a need not being met, skewed perceptions, differing personality styles or values which are not aligned.

3.  Once you have completed each one on one private conversation, meet with your team to discuss your view of the most common thread which came out of your individual conversations.  WITH YOUR TEAM, come up with a solution on how to go about the conflict resolution process using just one issue which will have the biggest impact on improving the team conflict.  This may be a plan to address the emotional intelligence of the team or communication styles.   I do want to repeat…you don’t want to stop conflict and debate altogether…they will help your team be more creative and growth oriented.   You do, however, want to improve any type of conflict which may be stopping your team from moving forward.

After the above three steps, where do you go with conflict resolution?

After step 3, it may be important for your team to engage in some type of team leadership coaching to work on moving the action forward.  If  conflict resolution something your team is interested in pursuing, please feel free to contact me for more information.

Why Should You Hire a Leadership Coach?

Coaching is Now a Standard Support Mechanism for Some of the World's Top Companies

I get this question about three times each week, and the business owner or CEO usually responds by saying “We have had to cut our budget, and leadership coaching and development were the first things to go.”


Of course, I am going to say this…I am a leadership coach, but here is the reality:  With leadership coaching, training and development, your employees will be:

  • More productive at work (productive time equals greater revenues)
  • Happier at work (when people are happy at work, they show up earlier and call in less often for sick days)
  • More committed to your company (it costs thousands of dollars to replace and train new employees)
  • Promotable (it is so much more cost effective and easier to be able to promote from within…your employees who are moving up KNOW your company, so their learning curve will be much flatter than a newbie exec)
  • More aligned with your company (with leadership coaching, it is much easier to get people on board and aligned with your vision and mission)

Dave and Wendy Ulrich wrote and recently published a must-read book The Why of Work.  It is fabulous.  Their research found the following about companies who actually invested in the development of their people, including coaching and training:

  1. Over a 10-year period (1998-2008) “best companies to work for” have a 6.8 percent stock appreciation versus 1.0 percent for the average firm.
  2. Over a seven-year period, the most admired firms in Fortune’s list of admired companies had doubled the market returns of their competitors
  3. A one-standard-deviation increase in high performance work practices yields $27,044 increase in sales per employee and $3,814 increase in profit per employee.”
The Why of Work Can Teach Your Company How to Become a "Best Company to Work For"

The Why of Work Can Teach Your Company How to Become a "Best Company to Work For"

I am not going to tell you the full list of their findings, because this is in their book, and I truly believe that all leaders and leadership coaches should check out their findings.  (I am not getting one cent for endorsing this book or anything from the authors…I do not know them…I just respect their work).  Just click on the photo to the right and pick up a copy from Amazon.

On page 71, the authors spell out the competencies leaders need to get fully ingrained into their DNA to lead “abundant organizations” (as they call the great companies of the world) and they give examples of best companies who embody these competencies.  (Apple for Innovation and Nike for Strategic Clarity as two examples).  If you follow these companies on page 71, you will see quickly how much they value their employees and the time and effort they invest in their development.  They KNOW their employees are their biggest assets, and of course, if you are smart, you will invest in your top assets.

So, if you really want to know why you should hire a leadership coach, pick up a copy of this book, read it and then take a big step by hiring a leadership coach…I am not saying hire me necessarily…I am suggesting that you hire a leadership coach if you are not currently working with one.  When hiring a coach, make sure to interview at least three coaches to find the best fit.  Some will be great for you and some just won’t click with you or your company.

As a leadership coach, here are a few of the benefits my clients have received.  There are many others, but these are the benefits I usually notice very early on in the coaching sessions:

  1. Clarity on next steps
  2. Improvement in strategic thinking
  3. Coaching skills (to lead in today’s world, you need coaching skills under your belt.  When you work with a leadership coach, you will pick up the skills just by being coached)
  4. Improved ability to influence and inspire others
  5. Ability to listen more deeply
  6. Improved questioning skills (Asking the right questions with an appreciative approach is critical to being able to lead today)
  7. More time to attack critical projects
  8. Improved organization and productivity
  9. Stronger team relationships
  10. Better use of skills and talents of employees
  11. Greater flexibility to adapt to change

If you are someone who is interested in leadership coaching, please contact me today for more information.

If you are a leadership or executive coach, please leave comments below about the type of leadership coaching you offer and benefits your clients have received.  The more we can educate the public about leadership coaching, the greater chance a company will have of becoming a great/best company to work for..

Video: Why You Should Invest in Leadership Development and Leadership Coaching

This is an edition of the Management Minute.

Management guru Peter Drucker once said: “Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”

Recent studies performed by Bersin & Associates, Talent Intelligence, the Harvard Business Review have comments like this: The message is clear leadership development matters. It is hard to find a company which has survived many economic cycles that does not have a proven leadership development strategy in place.


Coaching Employees: 5 Coaching Power Words

Want to learn more about what coaching really is and 5 powerful words to get employees to grow and develop?  Watch this quick video from the Center for Management and Organizational Effectiveness.

Video Rating: 4 / 5

Is Your Social Networking Making You Fat?

Fascinating video from TED on the impact of social networks.  The focus is on obesity, yet the message can apply to financial wealth, happiness, success and a variety of life factors.

3 Behaviors Guaranteed to Destroy Your Credibility as a Leader

In this day and age, I will be the first to admit that it is tough to be a leader.  The world is changing by the minute, and as a leader, hundreds of eyes are on you…watching and critiquing every move you make.

The following behaviors are 3 of the most common I have observed in my work as an executive coach and consultant to be the biggest derailment factors in a leader’s life.  These behaviors can seriously hurt your credibility and prevent you from building trust with others and effectively leading your team.  Over time, if used repeatedly, these behaviors can literally destroy your business or organization.

If any of these behaviors are causing you a challenge in your life as a leader, I invite you to contact me for a consultation to discuss how I can help you begin to design a developmental plan to improve your overall leadership effectiveness.

And…if you would like to receive our pdf download The 100 Behaviors Guaranteed to Destroy Your Credibility as a Leader, scroll over to the right of this blog post, sign up for our mailing list, and you will gain instant access to the full list of 100.

3 Behaviors Guaranteed to  Destroy Your Credibility as a Leader

1) Sarcasm. It seems to me that people just enjoy being sarcastic.  I suppose to some it is a sense of humor, but to the person receiving the sarcasm, it can almost feel like a form of emotional abuse.  Sarcasm is biting, can cut to the core of another human being and is most often used as a way to taunt someone or passively tell them that they “stink” or just aren’t cutting it.

Solution: Sit down and have a passionate, compassionate and direct conversation with the person you are wanting to target.  Apologize for your sarcastic tendencies, and ask your team to call you on the carpet when they hear you moving in the direction of using sarcasm.  If you are going to use humor, the best form of humor is self-depricating.  But…if you are trying to direct your humor at another person’s expense, you will instantly diminish your credibility.

2) Delaying Problem Solving Hoping the Problem Will Just “Go Away.” I see this every day, and here is the reality:  If you have a big problem in your life, in your company or on your desk, ignoring it is going to escalate the problem from being an open sore to a full blown infection in your company.

Solution: When a problem strikes, sit down with your most trusted advisors, and ask for input.  Move out of your comfort zone to start formulating not only a solution to a problem but a proactive plan so that the problem does not rear its ugly head again.

3) Lack of Political Savvy. We live in a world based on political maneuvers.  If you think your business or your company does not play politics, then it’s time to get real…political moves govern the majority of decisions made in life, and as a leader, you have to be willing to 1) Admit that you have politics in your organization and 2) Know how to navigate the political waters so that you promote growth, rapport and build trust.

Solution: Begin to get to know as many people in your organization and the influence they have on others.  Learn what motivates them, what ticks them off and find the best approach so that you can work with the influencers in your company without compromising your core values.  Many people who are politically influential have big egos, so you are going to need to check your ego at the door so that at the end of the day, you can all get the job done.  You will be asked to be flexible…again…without compromising your values and code of ethics.

These leadership skills are not just skills for leaders…they are skills for everyone…business owners, service professionals, parents, teachers and students.  If you are someone who is ready to improve your leadership behaviors so that you live a better, more fulfilling life, please set up a time for a consultation.  We can discuss a developmental plan to help you enhance your leadership skills so that you improve your overall results..