In addition to my posts at the Harvard Business Review, I often refer to the posts below in my work with clients and students. I haven't updated this page since December 2014, but more recent posts can be found in my archives.
On Firing a Senior Team Member (December 2014)Sadly but inevitably, a common issue in my coaching practice is helping leaders decide whether or not to fire a senior team member. These decisions are always difficult ones--the clear-cut situations resolve themselves...
Ignoring Bandits and Building Resilience (Aug. 2014)A master monk is meditating in a temple with other monks. Suddenly a fierce bandit storms into the temple, threatening to kill everybody. The other monks flee, but the master monk remains, calmly meditating.
Brené Brown, Vulnerability, Empathy and Leadership (August 2014)[Brown] talks about vulnerability and empathy in a way that I believe has specific relevance for leaders.
Planting a Flag (Thoughts on Teaching Leadership at Stanford) (July 2014)1. Leadership can't be taught, but it can be learned. 2. Influence > positional power. 3. Leadership starts with self-awareness.
Riding the Wave (Conscious Competence) (April 2014)The dynamic nature of most interpersonal experiences means that we usually wind up back where we started, unconsciously incompetent and unaware that our current behavior isn't meeting our goals.
Think Small (The Value of Micro-Goals) (March 2014)The key is paying just enough attention to the large-scale goal to help us get started and then ignoring it in favor of our micro-goals, the smaller daily events that constitute our lived experience.
Racing Up the Ladder of Inference (February 2014)We're generally intelligent people...so why do we do such dumb things?
Startups as Human Systems (December 2013)My work with these clients--as well as my own experience as the first employee at three nonprofit ventures--has led me to view startups as distinct human systems.
Rubbernecking (Stop Wasting Attention) (December 2013)Every instance of rubbernecking represents wasted attention--a valuable, finite resource dedicated to something meaningless and unrewarding.
Leading in Four Dimensions (October 2013)The question isn't "What type of leader am I?" but rather "Can I adjust my leadership style to best fit the needs of the situation? Am I flexible and adaptable as a leader? Can I sense what is called for and deliver it?"
Three Critical Tasks: The Work of Senior Leaders (October 2013)The more I work with senior leaders, the more convinced I am that there are just three critical leadership tasks. They're very simple to understand and tremendously difficult to do.
Creating a Feedback-Rich Culture (August 2013)Leaders need to bear in mind four principles when it comes to promoting feedback (and better communication in general)...
How to Find (and Choose) a Coach (July 2013)You're interested in working with an executive coach--but how do you find one? And once you've identified some options, how do you choose the coach who's right for you?
Give It To Me Straight (Effective Feedback) (February 2013)Feedback is one of the most powerful ways to learn how to be more effective in our interactions with others, particularly when it’s honest and straightforward. But effective feedback doesn’t happen spontaneously.
Emotional Mountaineering (The Three Tasks of Coaching) (February 2013)If I were to distill the work that I do as a coach and experiential educator down to its essence, it would consist of helping people perform three tasks...
A Challenge to Leaders: Help Others Self-Coach (February 2013)Helping people self-coach is a natural fit with knowledge work's emphasis on self-management and flat hierarchies.
Women, Men, Work and Emotion (January 2013)Johnson and Mohr have identified a critical set of universal challenges we all face in professional life, and they're shining a necessary spotlight on the unique difficulties faced by women in surmounting them.
Setting the Table (Difficult Conversations) (January 2013)We know it's going to be difficult because we're not sure it's going to end well. What could we do to make it easier and increase the likelihood of success?
White Bears and Car Crashes (Thinking About Thinking) (December 2012)We need to focus our attention on what's important and devote less of it to what's irrelevant. And yet efforts to actively suppress thoughts can actually be counterproductive--so what CAN we do?
Babies, Bathwater and Goal-Setting (December 2012)When do goals support our growth and development? When do they get in the way? And how can we tell the difference?
The Accumulation of Cultural Debt (December 2012)Invest in the culture you want, or get the culture you deserve. And if you think your organization doesn't have a culture, don't fool yourself--you have one--and the accumulated cultural debt will eventually come due.
The Illusion of Effectiveness (Doing vs. Leading) (December 2012)We undermine our effectiveness by continuing to take responsibility for specific tasks--by doing--when we could have a much greater impact by expanding our scope--by leading.
Coaching and the Cult of Done (June 2012)Coaching is about maintaining forward progress by abandoning imaginary ideal states, addressing practical realities, navigating around obstacles and finding new paths toward our goals.
Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups (June 2012)"Trust, a sense of identity, and a feeling of efficacy arise in environments where emotion is well handled, so groups stand to benefit by building their emotional intelligence."
Risk Management (The Importance of Speaking Up) (June 2012)This defense of speaking up shouldn't be read as a simplistic manifesto to just "speak our minds." If we want to influence others and affect the outcome of the discussion, we must speak up skillfully.
Brass Rings and Railroad Tracks (On Self-Validation) (June 2012)The challenge before us is to rely less upon extrinsic rewards for validation and instead put greater faith in our own intrinsic worth and validate ourselves.
The Work and The Job (May 2012)We can change jobs readily; we change our work only with great effort. In the end our jobs are lines on a resume, while our work is our legacy, our epitaph.
Dan Oestreich Interviews Me (March 2012)My role as a coach is both necessary and modest. Necessary in the sense of helping clients know how to get started. And modest in the sense that the goal is for clients to be able to coach themselves after I leave.
Tiny Gestures (and Emotional Bids) (February 2012)Safety and trust are established over a series of interactions through countless tiny gestures [that] take the form of...an emotional bid.
Taking the Plunge (Safety, Risk, Learning and Growth (February 2012)The safer and more trusting we feel, the more risks we can take, the more we learn and grow. Ultimately safety and trust are...even more useful when we push (and extend) their limits.
Skin in the Game (February 2012)While having skin in the game allows us to do our best work, it also exposes us to risk. When we succeed it's all the more gratifying, and when we struggle, it's all the more disheartening
Measuring the Infinite (February 2012)An infinite distance lies between nothing--the unsaid comment, the unwritten letter, the undone act--and something, no matter how much room for improvement remains.
One Stone At A Time (Building Boundaries) (February 2012)The key is recognizing that boundaries aren't static features of a landscape, but dynamic aspects of our relationships, our personal lives and our organizations.
Blocking and Tackling (Fundamentals of Change) (January 2012)No matter how lofty or ambitious the goal, the path to its achievement will be paved with countless small, humble steps.
Why I (Keep Trying To) Meditate (January 2012)I find meditation difficult, I regularly avoid doing it, and yet I persist in the practice. Why?
The Meaning of Mindset (January 2012)Just what do we mean by 'mindset'? Here are 4 inter-related definitions to help us make effective use of the central concept.
Coaching Is A Journey (December 2011)I find myself returning to the metaphor of coaching as a journey at sea...
Corn Mazes and Mental Models (December 2011)They didn't think they were in a cornfield; they thought they were in a maze, and while their failure to recognize the difference says something about their crisis management skills, it also says something about the power of mental models.
Five Leadership Lessons (October 2011)Some reflections on what I've learned over the last five years about leading groups, with an emphasis on leader as coach and guide rather than as directive authority figure.
Experiential Learning Revisited (September 2011)Experiential learning remains central to my work as a coach, particularly in Stanford's Leadership Labs, where we present this model and discuss it explicitly, but it's implicit in everything I do with students and clients.
William James on Habit (July 2011)"The hell to be endured hereafter...is no worse than the hell we make for ourselves in this world by habitually fashioning our characters in the wrong way."
Happiness, Excellence and Boundaries: A Framework for Leaders (September 2010)A 3-part series based on a workshop I developed for leaders. Part 1: Happiness and Intentional Activities, Part 2: Excellence, Signature Strengths and Strategic Quitting, Part 3: Boundaries, Not Balance
Are You in the First Half...Or the Second Half? (April 2010)Asking ourselves where we are in the time horizons that matter most to us is a useful way to get even more specific about our feelings and how they impact the choices we face within that horizon.
Developing Your Professional Vision (April 2010)"Truly great [professionals] understand the difference between what should never change and what should be open for change... This rare ability...is closely linked to the ability to develop a vision."
Peter Drucker on Excellence, Careers and Planning (March 2010)"Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values..."
David Rock on Neuroscience, Leadership and the SCARF Model (March 2010)Rock's SCARF model is a great example of his ability to translate the science into language appropriate for a lay business audience...
Safety, Trust, Intimacy (March 2010)The group's levels of safety, trust and intimacy are the key factors in determining its effectiveness...
David Rock on Neuroscience, Coaching and Leadership (November 2009)Rock's central thesis is that neuroscience research has revealed four big (and surprising) truths with implications for coaching and personal development...
SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness (November 2009)1) Cognitive Training Can Lead to Behavioral Change... 2) Experiential Learning Has a Neurological Basis... 3) Structured Learning Supports Peak Performance...
Teaching Leadership with Stanford's Leadership Fellows (August 2009)Leadership is learned, not taught... Peers are guides and facilitators, not teachers... Leadership is everywhere, not just at the top...
On Change: Inclination, Motivation, Action (July 2009)How do we make change happen in our lives? What supports our efforts? And what gets in our way?
David Foster Wallace on the Meaning of Life (July 2009)These words strike me as so true, so fundamentally right that I can't believe that they lacked the power to save the life of the man who wrote them.
Time Horizons (July 2009)When we assess our lives--our fulfillment, our effectiveness, what's working, what's not working--how far ahead do we look? How far ahead should we look?
Leading is Lonely and Other Thoughts (June 2009)Leading is lonely. Information-gathering is not decision-making. Position power is not influence.
Do You Have to Leap...Or Can You Grow? (April 2009)One of the many topics we talked about was how you move from one stage of your life to the next. And the way we framed the issue was: Do you have to take a leap, or can you grow there?
On Decision-Making (March 2009)Initiate the process in divergent thinking mode, generating as many options as possible. Be deliberate about keeping all options on the table in this stage, and stay there as long as necessary and no longer.
Authentic Leadership and Your "Crucible Story" (February 2009)"A transformative experience may come at any point in your life... But as much as we all want positive experiences...transformations for many leaders result from going through a crucible."
Sonia Lyubomirsky and The How of Happiness (February 2009)What makes us happy? How can we become happier? And is happiness sustainable?
Three Things You (Probably) Won't Learn in Business School (January 2009)I don't know that we'll be teaching these lessons to our current students, either--perhaps because they're best learned after graduation.
The Influence Pyramid 2.0 (January 2009)We can understand at ever-deeper levels not merely how to be more influential but what implicit and unchallenged assumptions we hold about power and influence.
Gestalt Coaching (January 2009)When we speak of using Gestalt therapy with organizations or at the organization level, the fact remains that we ultimately are going to be using this approach with individuals or groups of individuals.
Peter Drucker on Knowledge Workers, Management and Leadership (October 2008)Am I being managed, or am I being led? Am I managing, or am I leading?
Double-Loop Learning (May 2008)A number of people wind up here after searching for 'double-loop learning'...so I thought I'd provide a simple graphic overview.
Organizational Effectiveness (May 2008)What makes organizations effective? For that matter, what do we even mean by effectiveness?
Energy vs. Intensity (February 2008)Understanding the subtle difference between [energy and intensity] can help us be more aware of the choices we're making and allow us to tailor our approach to a given interaction.
Experiential Learning Cycles (October 2007)The point is to recognize how much can be learned from our every experience and interaction, and to begin to capture more of that learning on a consistent basis.
Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good People (September 2007)Why do so many well-meaning people give such bad presentations? Last year Andy Goodman and Cause Communications sought to answer that question.
Ground Rules for Meetings (September 2007)What makes a meeting successful?...The culture we established at the outset with these ground rules seems to have helped the group stay focused and productive despite the disruptions.
Successful Debriefing: Ask, Don't Tell (September 2007)To get people to talk in clear, readily understandable and quotable language, you have to ask really simple questions that can have the effect of making you look uninformed at best and foolish at worst.
Bill George on Teaching Leadership (August 2007)"The hardest thing we have to do is see ourselves as others see us. And do you gain that self-awareness? Some people think they have it, but they've never really tested themselves, and that is crucial."
The Dip: Seth Godin on Strategic Quitting (July 2007)Only excellence matters. Improving from incompetence to mediocrity is worse than useless... Where can I deliver excellence? Where should I expect excellence in return? And how can I focus my time and energy to make this as likely as possible?
The Problem with Positive Feedback (February 2007)Too much praise will eventually have the same effect as no praise at all. But by uncoupling the feedback from any goals other than rewarding the recipient, you'll increase its value as a motivator.
The Value of Soft Startups (January 2007)Spouses are much more likely to resolve difficult conversations successfully when they use a soft startup, and I'm inclined to believe that the same is true in most of our professional relationships as well.
Double-Loop Learning and Executive Coaching (December 2006)When we begin a double-loop learning process, everything comes to a full stop while we ask such challenging questions as 'Why do we do this task this way?' and 'Why do we do this task at all?'
Agreement vs. Alignment (October 2006)Agreement = Everyone gets their first choice (difficult and time-consuming to obtain.) Alignment = Everyone can fully support the choice that is made (much easier to obtain.)
The Inner Game of Work: Who Are You Working For? (September 2006)We need to listen to our inner voice and work freely for ourselves without simply giving in to indulgent whims. And we need to be of service and to create value for others without simply responding to external demands.
Johnny Cash on Doing it Your Way (June 2006)"It doesn't matter to me that I only know three or four chords... I just believe that when it all comes together it's the right way for me to do it."
Organizational Development: Is Humanism Overrated? (June 2006)A better understanding of how our brains function will allow organizations to embrace change and tackle new initiatives much more effectively. But I wouldn't throw the humanistic baby out with the bathwater just yet.
Pfeffer and Sutton on Leadership (May 2006)We tend to assign more credit and blame to leaders than...they actually deserve... But...leadership can make a difference, and Pfeffer and Sutton have a short checklist to help leaders be as effective as possible.
Matt Doherty: Live and Learn? (February 2006)There's more to leadership than command authority, and Matt Doherty's experience during and since his time at UNC suggests three big take-aways for the rest of us...