Monday, December 31, 2007

New URL for GottaGettaBLOG!

Please note that GottaGettaBLOG! posts from the years 2003 through 2007 will be permanently archived, here, at, under the heading of "GottaGettaBlog! 2003-2007". But, starting January 2008, blog posts will be posted at:

Furthermore, starting January 2010, new posts will be at:

Please update your bookmarks and automated feeds accordingly.


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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wynton Marsalis: Leadership Lessons

  1. THINK BIG, BUT DON'T BE IMPATIENT. Deferring the rewards of long-term success is difficult but necessary if you are going to have the mental fortitude to achieve them.
  2. BE PERFECT IN INTENTION; YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT IN EXECUTION. Mistakes, by you and your staff, will happen.
  3. YOU CAN ONLY 00 THE BEST THAT YOU CAN DO. Keep your goals high, but don't set yourself up for failure. Be patient.
  4. DON'T APOLOGIZE FOR A MISTAKE. APOLOGIZE IF YOU DON'T PLAY. Knowing that effort is what matters gives people the courage to always try their hardest.
  6. BELIEF IN OTHER PEOPLE'S CREATIVITY ALLOWS PEOPLE AROUND YOU TO BE THEMSELVES AND ACHIEVE THEIR INDIVIDUALITY. If your staff members have the freedom to achieve as individuals, the returns will be manifold.
  7. APPROACH YOUR TASK VERY SERIOUSLY-BUT WITH HUMOR. Discipline should never come at the expense of closing one's self to new ideas, and vice versa.
  9. IT ISN'T MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY. Learn to compromise and be flexible.
  10. WHEN YOU'RE A LEADER, SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW, TOO. Good leaders know they don't have a monopoly on brilliant ideas. Be objective and willing to follow Insights you may have missed.
  11. HUMILITY INSPIRES PEOPLE; ORGANIZATION INSPIRES A STAFF. Always try to give your staff clear plans and goals, but allow them room for self-empowerment.
  12. RESPECT THE FREEDOM OF OTHER PEOPLE AND THEIR CREATIVITY. JAZZ MUSIC TEACHES THAT ABOVE ALL ELSE. Giving your staff the freedom to improvise opens the floodgates on innovation.
  13. YOU CAN'T LOOK AT ANY PERSON AND TELL WHETHER THEY CAN PLAY. ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE CAN PLAY. Some of the best talent can be found in the most unexpected places.
  14. THERE IS A LIMIT TO WHAT YOU CAN DEMAND FROM SOMEBODY ELSE. Nothing erodes the spirit like a boss who can never be pleased.
  15. BE FUNDAMENTALLY TRUTHFUL. Without truth, your success will unravel.
from Success Magazine, July 2007

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Vulnerability, Teamwork, and Personal Growth

Last week I had the opportunity to spend two days on a rustic team building retreat at Joy Outdoor Education Center in Clarksville, Ohio, courtesy of a corporate client, Hill-Rom, where the group learned about their Insights® colors (courtesy of Scott Schwefel), did a high ropes course and related activities, endured gusts up to 34 mph and wind chills down to the teens (brrr!), shared emotionally-moving and personal stories deep into the night by light (and warmth) of a bonfire, slept in cabins, ate camp food, and stretched and grew in ways that were truly amazing. And that was Day One!

Day Two included a morning of coaching and facilitation, courtesy of yours truly, and an afternoon of detailed departmental planning and goal-setting, led by Phillip Saxton, president of MiTowne.

Initially, I perceived, and prepared for, my role as that of catalyst: "an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action," as Merriam Webster might say. But as I settled into my bunk that first night it struck me that the 'change' I was there to provoke had actually already happened. Every single person, in their own special way, had already become so much more open, courageous, real - and vulnerable - with each other. The team knew it, liked it, and matched it, with a collective support, respect, regard, knowing, and appreciation.

That was the good news. The not-so-good news was that pretty much everything I had prepared for the following morning was now unnecessary and wrong! I no longer needed to help them change; my job was to help them solidify their changes.

It's one thing to watch others being vulnerable; it's something entirely different to be vulnerable oneself. Yet to be truly in service of the group I was there to coach, facilitate, and support, I knew I needed to honor and respect where the group now 'was' - and be completely present to, and enabling of, whatever needed to unfold from that point forward.

So, pre-dawn, and in keeping with the "Pushing the Limits" theme of the retreat, I decided to take what was to be the 'end' of my facilitation - an article called "Life is a ten-speed Bicycle," - and use it to start a conversational unfolding, if you will, where I would rely on my coaching instincts and the collective wisdom of the group to reach for something essential, but as of yet, unknown.

And so, for the next 3½ hours, quite powerfully at times, we explored, realized, agreed, and fine-tuned, what else was needed for this group of smart, capable, and caring professionals to truly coalesce into a single, unified, and unshakable, whole.

The ultimate outcome? Well that remains to be seen. To be sure, they're off to a very good start, but the team must consistently apply the Lessons Learned, aha's realized, and courageousness experienced for the ongoing magic to happen.

Will it be easy? Probably not. Is it doable? Definitely so. Is it likely? I actually believe it is.

As for me, I know that like everyone else, my comfort zone was significantly stretched these last few days - and in a number of different ways! (As I reflect on what that means, I feel a contented little smile coming to my face.) So for that, I thank each and every one of you who helped make that my new reality.

Now if I can just get that campfire smoke smell out of my clothing, I'll be all set!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Done with your Performance Reviews Yet?!

Been putting off those year-end performance evaluations because you can't figure out exactly how to say what you know needs to be said?

Well help is available in the form of an easily downloadable Special Report called: Employee Performance Discussions: 10 Important Things a Boss MUST Know How to Say.

Employee Performance Discussions e-bookGiving effective employee performance reviews is not about being a jerk. To the contrary - it's about being respectful, caring, succinct, and on-the-money with your observations, comments, recommendations, and requests. The better you do this, the more likely your staff's performance will improve. Perhaps more importantly, though, the better you do this, the more likely your staff's improved performance can be sustained over time.

Employee Discussions shows you how. In it, you'll find:
  • 10 specific conversation "clarifiers" that can dramatically improve the performance of all employees - from your very best, to weakest, and everyone in between
  • Specific phrasings of what to say, including when to say it, and why
  • Concrete examples for you to follow in your own performance management discussions with your direct reports and lower-level employees
  • An Application section that includes typical employee problem scenarios along with clarified and simplified scripts for giving constructive criticism
  • A Locking-in-the-Learning section, where important coaching questions are raised for you to answer, and homework assignments for you to complete, so you can integrate these lessons more quickly and thoroughly into your management skill-set
  • Primary Focus questions that directs your attention to recognizing how best to apply each specific ‘clarifier’ to your current employee performance situation.
Procrastinate no more - get your copy of Employee Performance Discussions at today and finish up those employee evaluations already!

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Coaching Next Level Leaders: ICF Conference Breakout Session

Scott Eblin, president of The Eblin Group, and author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, started this session by positing that a full 40% of new leaders fail within 18 months. Some of the external reasons for that include shifts in the market and organizational dynamics, but it's the internal reasons that are more often the cause:

  • being afraid to say, "I don't know"
  • not listening well enough
  • not getting the "lay of the land"
  • fear
  • not learning the new rules of the position
  • the urge to control things
  • not clarifying expectations and requirements

In looking for what to do about all this, Eblin interviewed several hundred seasoned executives, asking them two key questions:

  1. What do you recommend executives "pick up" and "let go of" in order to be successful in their new roles?
  2. What did you "pick up" and "let go of" that resulted in your success in your new roles?

Three key leadership presence elements emerged - personal presence, team presence, and organizational presence - each having 3 key elements to "pick up" and 3 key elements to "let go of":

Thanks, Scott.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

For Future AND Incumbent Executives - Today

What are the most desired management abilities for Future Executives (and incumbent leaders, too, if you ask me)?

According to Right Management Consultants, they are as follows:

  1. Motivate and engage others
  2. Communicate effectively, strategically, and interpersonally
  3. Think strategically
  4. Lead change
  5. Create a performance organization

Sure, these elements make sense, but let's make them relevant to you and your world. Therefore,

  • What will you do to better motivate and engage others - today?
  • What will you do to improve how effectively, strategically, and interpersonally you communicate - today?
  • What will you think more strategically about - today?
  • What will you do to more assertively lead change - today?
  • What will you do to actually create that performance organization you've been talking about - today?!

Think about it - and then do something desirably executive-like - today - whether you're an incumbent leader, or not.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

The F-L-I-G-H-T of On-Site Executive Coaching

While the vast majority of my work is done by telephone, I've been doing more in-person/on-site work this year, shadowing, observing, debriefing, and coaching my executive clients as they do whatever it is they they have to do on a given day. It's a fascinating, informative, enlightening, fun - yes fun -, intense, different, and often quite powerful day-in-the-life for both me and the individual executive I'm working with that day.

With this, a fair amount of air travel has come, which I've found to be pretty okay, actually - certainly far better than I first expected. I dunno. I guess you could say that there's just something about the flight that I've really come to enjoy:
  • F - Figuring out what to pack, bring, etc. to look and feel my best
  • L - Letting check-in and security personnel do their thing without affecting my mood
  • I - In the air with my thoughts, a good book, some new tunes, or just some pleasant conversation with a fellow passenger
  • G - Getting ready for a full-day of shadowing, and all that implies
  • H - Harvesting whatever observations, insights, and implications the day has to offer and putting them in whatever context best serves my client
  • T - Turning around after a good day's work and heading back home, a bit wired, a bit tired, and very much at ease
I think my clients enjoy the 'flight' too, although perhaps for slightly different reasons:
  • F - Figuring out what meetings to schedule and the agenda for the day
  • L - Letting me interact with more and more of their 'true self' as the day progresses
  • I - Inquiring more and more about what else I was noticing - and what else they seemingly weren't
  • G - Getting more conscious and purposeful about the impact and influence they're having - and can have - on others
  • H - Holding the day just completed as an invigorating, albeit slightly exhausting, growth experience
  • T - Thinking deeply about their Lessons Learned and how best to integrate them on an ongoing basis
So to all those I've shadowed so far, thanks. To all those on the docket to be shadowed, start planning your pre-flight checklist. And to anyone else interested in being shadowed for a day, please give me a call!


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Monday, June 25, 2007

When the cat's away...

What's it like when you return back from a conference or seminar or vacation? Are things running smoothly or are they coming apart at the seams. Which do you prefer? Regardless, each scenario says things about you as a leader - quite different things, actually:
  1. Things are a mess upon your return and you don't like it one, single, bit - Welcome back! And if every fiber in your being is trying to prevent yourself from screaming "Did you do anything right?" at your direct reports, the problem has probably a whole lot less to do with your team than you realize. Chances are that much of the angst can be traced back to you doing a very poor job in preparing them for your absence, or dealing with some long-standing performance issues. Grade: -10.
  2. Things are running smoothly and you don't like it - Welcome back! Your staff did a great job! Every thing's fine, except ... you're suddenly feeling like you're not as needed as you used to be. An extra cog in the wheel? Better off not even being there? Oh my. Is my job at risk? Oh, dear, my job is at risk. Rather than being happy for all that went well in your absence, you're acting small and disrespectful to the people who really worked hard to keep things going. Grade: -5.
  3. Things are a mess and you kinda like it like that - Welcome back! Clearly, you were missed and it's good you're back because you're needed, hero. And yet, if this is the case, it's likely that your ego is getting in the way of you properly challenging and developing your staff. Grade: -15.
  4. Things are running smoothly and you like it - Welcome back! Some good stuff happened while you were away and they're glad you're back. It isn't easy filling in for you when you're gone, but they did a really nice job of it. And now, they're ready to turn the reigns back to you. It's not easy doing what you do. They have a much better understanding of that now. And they're that much more appreciative of just how good of a boss you really are. Bingo! Grade: +10.
The ultimate litmus: If your staff works harder when you're out of the office than when you're in - and you're properly appreciative of the fact - you're probably a pretty good leader.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Practice 'Flexing' your Style

We all have 'default' ways in which we respond to difficult situations at work. Some people react quite seriously - they default to an almost Zen-like belief that when we work we should work. Others default to a far more casual affect. 'Not to worry,' they say, before digging in to get things done.

Even though our natural tendencies may suggest otherwise, there is no one right way to "be." Consider:
  • Sometimes, people need a stern talking-to to get them going;
  • Other times, they need support, encouragement, and a friendly smile more than anything else;
  • And still other times, they don't need much of anything but to be left alone to do what they know they need to do!

A range of possible scenarios implies a range of responses.

So, when faced with a difficult situation at work, it is advisable to stop your 'default' reactions before they happen, and instead, purposefully choose a response that will best serve you - and those around you.

Admittedly, such a 'flexing' of style takes a bit of practice. After all, you don't have to think when you respond out of habit - you just respond! Too, there's that pesky issue of not being able to initially calibrate your flex as accurately as you'd like. Again, it takes practice.

It's like asking a power pitcher to learn to throw a slow curve ball for strikes. At first, it isn't easy - some might say it's impossible! But with practice, he learns how. And once he does, it makes his fastball – and all his pitches for that matter – much more effective.

Similarly, if you typically react one way to problems at work, it may not feel natural to react any other way. But once you learn how, flexing your style actually increases your effectiveness. Why? Because it gets people to naturally pay more attention to you, that's why.

And for a variety of reasons that could be a very good thing, yes?!

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Friday, May 11, 2007

What Next? By When?

"I'm in a real backlog situation, Barry. How can I dig out?"

Although it may seem a bit odd to phrase it this way, the problem here isn't so much that there's too much to do as much as it is that not enough is getting done soon enough.

Phrasing it in terms of having too much to do can actually slow you down. Why? Because the time spent thinking about how much there is to do is time no longer available to get 'er done.

Conversely, phrasing it in terms of not enough getting done soon enough begs the question "What Next?" which is the key to moving things meaningfully forward. Many (most?) managers have a pretty clear sense of what needs to be done, but far fewer really grasp what needs to be done ... next.

Starting there is always a good idea.

A corollary of the "What Next?" question is "By When?"

You don't leave for work in the morning without any sense of when you'll get there, do you? You didn't do your taxes without any sense of when the 15th was, did you? But you probably do assign tasks to your staff without telling them when you need them completed by.

"Jimmy, take care of this," is not nearly as effective as "Jimmy, take care of this by the end of the week," or "Jimmy, take care of this before leaving for lunch today." Deadlines not only help things get done, but they also help things get done sooner. And that's the point, right?!

So the next time you find that not enough is getting done soon enough, try managing based on deadlines rather than just on deliverables and see what "What Next?" and "By When?" can do for you.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Who's asking Whom?

Two items-of-note from the February issue of Training & Development magazine:

  • Item One - Only 33% of employees surveyed say their bosses seldom or never ask them for advice. Now at first blush, this may seem like fairly good news. I mean if 33% are not asked, then that means 67% are asked. But what remains unanswered is what type of questions are those 67% asked? Are they meaningful and important questions or more trivial in nature? Do they require critical thinking and analysis skills or are they just simply yes/no questions? I have my suspicions, don't you?!
  • Item Two - Only 11% of employees see their boss as a source for workplace advice. This separate survey found that more workers rely on a peer (24%), another senior-level employee (15%), a friend outside the company (14%), and a mentor or coach (13%). Have bosses truly become that useless?

So there you have it - bosses don't ask their direct reports questions and direct reports don't ask their bosses questions. No wonder so many organizations are in such disarray.

For the record, asking questions is not a sign of weakness - it's a sign of curiosity. And curiosity is a good thing.

Oh, you say you are asking questions but just not getting the clarity you're looking for? Well ask again. And keep ask. But don't just ask the same exact question over and over again. Be creative. Approach it from different angles. But, above all, be persistent in your pursuit of meaningful information up and down the chain.

Point Last: Who's not been asking you questions lately?! You might want to see if you can stimulate their asking you for workplace advice - especially if you're their boss.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Leadership Coach Interview

Mark Shead over at the Leadership501 blog did an interview Q&A with me and two other leadership coaches this week. You can link here to the full piece. Excerpts from my part are included below:

What is the most common mistake you see made by leaders?

BZ: Just one?! How about three?!

With respect to ‘delegation and maximizing their leadership impact’ – Doing work that they’re capable of doing, rather than working on what only they are capable of doing. Too many leaders do their staff’s work instead of their own and then are left wondering why there are so many unanticipated problems and last-minute deadlines that keep cropping up. Job One of a leader is to keep a constant watch on the horizon, not to keep busy.

With respect to ‘consensus-building and collaboration’ – Thinking that the real work happens during meetings, rather than before, and to a much lesser degree, after, them. To paraphrase Walt Disney, if you can get them to agree before they disagree, they’ll never disagree.

With respect to ‘doing a good job’ – Trying to avoid risk-taking, rather than learning to how anticipate and mitigate the risks inherent in forwarding any new idea. As a leader, it’s not about playing it safe, it’s about making a difference.

What is the most important tip you can give for developing leadership skills?

BZ: Time is the ultimate scare resource for an executive, so the ability to eliminate procrastination is an essential competency. Yet, many executives are still uncomfortable with talking to direct reports about performance issues. So they procrastinate (under the guise of being too busy to deal with that right now, of course) and as a direct result, time passes, problems fester, and things slide downhill.

The most important tip I can give for developing leadership skills, then, is to learn how to be ready, willing, and able, to have those difficult conversations, when needed. That’s one of the reasons why I created an e-book called, "Employee Performance Discussions" which provides respectful, but powerful and compelling, language and phrasings to help make those difficult conversations imminently less so.

Which leader has had the biggest personal influence on your life?

BZ: For me, I think it was John Madden back when he was head coach of the Oakland Raiders, from 1968 to 1978. I really respect how he took all the misfits from the league – galoots who had just couldn't play nice with anyone – gave them a home, insisted they be themselves, and with owner Al Davis, challenged them to Just Win, Baby!

Together, they won 17 straight games (across two seasons), won themselves a Super Bowl, never had a losing season, got Madden voted AFL Coach of the Year, gave him the best winning percentage of any coach in NFL history with over 100 wins, and a permanent seat in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

My Lessons Learned from it all?

  1. Be curious about people rather than being in judgment of them
  2. Don’t be afraid of creativity and counter-intuitive thinking
  3. People love, but also need, to do Important Work – so let them
  4. Respecting someone for who they already are, builds regard, rapport, and the ability to create some incredible magic.
Who can benefit from leadership coaching?

BZ: The type of people who can benefit the most from leadership coaching are the ones who, notwithstanding the fruits of their labors, know they can still do better, want to do better still, and are willing to do the necessary legwork to make it so. They tend to be smart, capable, informed, creative, and caring. But whether they’re an up-and-coming star, a proverbial executive’s executive, or someone in between, they know that what brought them success in the past will likely be insufficient in sustaining their success in the future. So they've made it a personal and professional priority to continue to learn and grow and develop and stretch and question and consider and understand as much as they can. Regardless of circumstances or contexts, they want to be at their Absolute Best as often, and as consistently, as possible. Why? Because it’s at that level that the magic happens most regularly.



Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Leadership Development web page added to GottaGettaCoach! web site

Hi All ~ Barry Zweibel, here. To start the new year off with a new page on my website, I offer you:


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Interviewing the Coach

I received an interesting email from an Industrial Psychologist in Copenhagen this morning, wanting to get some perspective on coaching. Here are some excerpts from the thread:

Industrial Psychologist (IP): I have produced some difficult questions - which come to my mind all the time. Perhaps you can help me clarify them.

Barry Zweibel (beezee): These are, as you put it, some difficult questions, indeed! The real answer can only be "it depends." (And, in that my responses will be based more on an American culture than a Scandinavian one, "it REALLY depends," might be an even more accurate answer!) But let's look at some of the extremes and see how they inform you:

IP: What is the impact of the coaching strategy on organization, team and individual levels?

beezee: Best Case - full alignment between organizational goals/ priorities and the successful implementation of individual/ team objectives. Worst Case - a sub-optimization of individual/ team objectives irrespective of organizational goals/ priorities.

IP: What is the impact of coaching on results and employee satisfaction?

beezee: Best Case - employees feel respected, understood, valued, and motivated to do their best work. Worst Case - employees get totally discouraged after seeing the potential of coaching but realizing that managers aren't really interested in improving.

IP: How do you experience (and enable) the maintenance of the coach-process?

beezee: The ongoing nature of the coaching conversation - occurring over time at intervals close enough together so that motivation and traction are sustained, but not so close together that they become burdensome and/ or don't allow enough time to accomplish identified Next Steps.

IP: Have you been able to create a coaching culture? And if yes, where do you experience this in the daily practice?

beezee: This question applies more to my clients' organizations more than my own, but I believe they would say that the more 'conscious and purposeful' they become about their work on a minute-by-minute basis - and the more they take responsibility for the impact they have on others - the more the culture changes.

IP: What are your experiences when it comes to the systematic way of coaching in daily practice (e.g. booked coach-sessions between manager and subordinate)?

beezee: Ad hoc coaching has value, but pre-scheduling a set of coaching conversations is far more effective from an accountability standpoint. It also enables better preparation, and recognition of (and appreciation of) the importance of these meetings.

IP: How can coaching be a part of the dialogue from the owner perspective, executive down to business area level?

beezee: I think it's a function of the underlying beliefs that the executives hold with respect to the operative employees - are they capable of great things, or not? What are the organizational constraints affecting employee performance and what can be done about them? Whose responsibility is it to try and bring out the best in each and every employee - the employee only, the boss only, or both? Questions like that.

IP: How do you create a powerful relationship (agreement, clarity about roles, leadership style, values, organizational culture) that supports the coaching between the manager and employee.

beezee: This, frankly, is why an external coach can be so much more effective than a boss-as-coach - especially if a boss doesn't know how (or doesn't want) to deal with the mistakes that a coachee will make along the way. (And make no mistake, coachees WILL make mistakes - that's part of how learning happens.) But you've already answered your own question, in that the way to create a powerful coaching relationship is for coach and coachee to reach agreement on what the relationship will look like, how the roles will work, what conversational style will be used, what values will be mutually honored, how will bumps-in-the-road be handled, etc.) In coaching terms, we call this "designing the alliance" and it's an essential component of setting the stage for an effective coaching engagement.

IP: What happens with the authority when a leader starts coaching his/her employees?

beezee: Best Case: the leader is respected all-the-more for being willing to invest the time and effort. Worst Case: The boss doesn't really coach - he or she just pretends to coach, or coaches poorly. Then respect for the boss drops, as does employee morale engagement.



Monday, October 02, 2006

The Dangerous Allure of Trust

Effective Executive magazine just published my latest article - The Dangerous Allure of Trust. It's about why managers should NOT want their direct reports to trust them.

Provocative enough of a title for ya?!

Here how it starts:

"Much has been written and talked about in leadership circles regarding the importance of trust, specifically what managers can do to improve their trustworthiness with their direct reports. Notwithstanding best efforts to achieve that end, many managers are finding themselves no better off than before they engaged in said undertaking. While faulty implementation may adequately describe the majority of cases, it by no means explains them all. They can’t all be doing it wrong, can they?

"More likely than not, there’s a problem with the underlying assumption of the issue; maybe a manager’s trustworthiness is not as important as customarily thought.

"Maybe a manager even wanting to be trusted by his/her staff is a fundamental flaw in modern leadership thinking. That’s not to say that the goal of modern management should be to be distrusted. But the conclusion I have reached from years of executive coaching and leadership consultant experience – and more than two decades as a leader in various organizations – is that when managers strive for trustworthiness, it is professionally immaterial at best and organizationally toxic, at worse ..."

Let me know what you think about the rest of the piece after you read it.


Monday, July 31, 2006

Speaking the Truth: a Leadership Secret

"The secret that most people seem to forget to their downfall, is the power of unvarnished truth. Learning how to speak the truth, directly and respectfully, is the most effective communication technique known to humankind.

"Yet, too often in our modern world, it is a technique of last resort. Only when we are forced up against the wall with evidence that is undeniable, do we, often embarrassingly, admit to the truth."

- Dan Strutzel


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Close Call Leadership

A United passenger jet came within 300 feet of a colliding with a cargo plane on Sunday in Chicago, prompting yet another O'Hare airport investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). It's the fifth such near-miss at O'Hare in 2006.

Now one close call - let alone a full handful of them - is too many, but I have to say that I'm really impressed that the NTSB is investigating even though no one was actually hurt by the mishap.

In business, near-misses are often seen as irrelevant. No harm, no foul, you might say. It's a pretty strong Leadership Move, though, to take a closer look at what went wrong ... even if nothing untoward happened as a result of the wrongness.

In leadership, the ends do not always justify the means; sometimes the getting somewhere is more important than the destination.

Take a look around your workplace. What close calls might deserve a second look-see? Not overlooking them might help you prevent a deadly crisis.

The NTSB knows that to be true ... literally true.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pimp my ... Leadership?!

I like the MTV show, Pimp My Ride - Those guys at West Coast Customs are pretty wild!

But today's USA TODAY reports that WCC's been 'pimped' in favor of the far more corporate-looking Galpin Motors.

Now in all fairness to Galpin, they are the world's largest Ford dealer (and have been for the last 16 years) and, according to the article, "pioneered the van craze in the 1960s by installing wild touches such as chandeliers and fireplaces" in the first place. Add their brand new Galpin Auto Sports customization shop to their 'cred' and, who knows what insane stuff Xzibit and the boys will come up with in Season Four.

So, okay what's this have to do with leadership?

It's about delegation, actually. It’s about taking a fresh look at how (and what) you delegate.
My guess is that there are a number of ongoing routine tasks (reports, analyses, audits, etc.) that you have on delegation auto-pilot - the same people who've been doing these things continue to do these things. Fine. But maybe, it's time to change things around a bit. Maybe, it's time to look around and see who's bored with their assignments - and who's looking for some new things to be challenged by - and do a little 'customization' of your own.

Shifting who does what is often an excellent motivational tactic. And besides, making little changes like this is often a great way to get staff more 'change-ready' for any larger strategy shifts you may have planned for the second half of the year.

Try it and see for yourself.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Coach K and Chevy's got Leadership all Wrong

March Madness fans, no doubt, know the commercial I'm referring to - one of the ones where Duke's coach, Mike Krzyzewski, is shilling for Chevy trucks. "In leadership," he says, "no word is more important than 'trust'." To that, I say, hooey.

My view is this: Trust makes bosses lazy.

Think about it. If you're trusted by your employees, you don't have to explain yourself as thoroughly as you might ... because they trust you. You don't need to to communicate as clearly as you might ... because they trust you. Your reasoning doesn't have to be quite so crisp ... because they trust you. So while you may enjoy this freedom from accountability, none of it is good leadership. It's just lazy leadership.

If Coach K (and the writers) knew as much about leadership as they think they know about selling cars, they might have used the word 'consistency' instead. Good leaders are consistent. Their communications are so consistent that their messages are clearly understood - even when they're not there to explain them in a particular instance. Their approach to problem-solving is so consistent that employees know what methodology will yield the most thorough and creative solutions. And their focus on the right priorities is so consistent - both in establishing accountabilities and in having meaningful performance discussions related to them - that employees actually know how to succeed in their jobs.


That you may engender trust along the way is, in my view, an unfortunate byproduct of direct authority. Better your staff continues to challenge you to be that much more intelligent, articulate, respectful, caring, and engaged on a daily basis - on a moment-by-moment basis. It's what you want from them.

So don't force your staff to rely on their trust in you to make sense of your actions and attitudes. Show them you can lead them professionally - and consistently - 24x7, instead.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Peter Principle Antidote

I was recently asked by fellow coach, Christine Pepper-Wong, who my ideal clients are. Here's how I responded:

For me, there's nothing like a good life coaching client, or some occasional coach mentoring, but my sweet spot is really working with executives, managers aspiring to be executives, and other business professionals – especially those who recognize they need some help in improving their leadership, communications, and managerial skills. Often, it's the very successful individual who's been recently promoted into a job where his/her technical/functional skills (the ones that enabled the promotion) are not the same skills that are needed to be successful at this higher level. You've heard of the Peter Principle? I like to think that GottaGettaCoach!, Inc. is its antidote.

Barry Zweibel, CEC, PCC
Certified Executive Coach, Professional Certified Life Coach
GottaGettaCoach!, Incorporated
Executive/Personal Life Coaching
Helping Good People Do Better.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Companies are Losing Middle Managers

According to the above-titled article in this month's Training & Development magazine, "Middle managers are leaving companies at about twice the rate of senior-level executives."
It makes sense. After years of pruning management ranks through layoffs and attrition - and keeping salaries and bonuses depressed - middle managers are fed up. Tired of being given more and more responsibility and less and less recognition, they're taking advantage of an improving job market and jumping ship.

So what are companies doing to stem the tide? Well, according to the research cited, here are the top ways organizations are trying to retain their middle managers:

If we contrast this with what managers say are the top competencies they need for their ongoing success:
      • communications (70%)
      • strategic thinking (67%)
      • leadership (64%)

it seems pretty clear that if your middle managers are starting to make some noise, providing them with a coach-to-call-their-own is a cost-effective, win/win, alternative that you can offer now, on a per-person basis, rather than having to wait for a company-wide Middle Manager Retention Initiative to get going.

And what if you're one of those under-appreciated middle managers contemplating a change? Try asking your boss to provide you with a coach-to-call-your-own and see if that doesn't help you re-engage in your work without the hassle of having to move to a new employer.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

An Executive's Sphere of Influence

The Good News about the Sphere of Influence.The Good News is that the Sphere of Influence of executive leadership runs both deep and wide:

  • Up the Chain
    •  with the boss
    • with the board
    • with key stakeholder
  • Employees
    •  with direct reports
    • with their direct reports
    • with other personnel
  • External Contacts
    •  with customers
    • with vendors
    • with partner
  • Co-Workers
    •  with peers
    • with team members
    • with other internal contacts

The Bad News about the Sphere of Influence.But the Bad News is that the Sphere of Influence of executive leadership can run both deep and wide:

  • Up the Chain
    • by creating unnecessary conflict
    • by diluting organizational focus
    • by poor decision-making
  • Employees
    • by increasing their stress
    • by obstructing their productivity
    • by eroding their trust/loyalty
  • External Contacts
    • by irritating customers
    • by alienating vendors
    • by undermining partnerships
  • Co-Workers
    • by weakening camaraderie
    • by playing bad politics
    • by derailing others' initiatives

The relevant question to consider then is this: How are you mitigating the potential that you may be becoming an increasing organizational risk?


Friday, September 23, 2005

How level is YOUR playing field?

How level IS your playing field? Leadership coach, colleague, and client, Leigh Henderson of the Leadership Training Room, is conducting an on-line survey to find out more about why it is that only five Fortune 500 companies are run by women. She's now gathering information - from both men and women - about what it takes to create a level playing field in the workplace.

If you'd like to share your opinions on this important matter, please link to her survey.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

What is (capital L) Leadership?

Hi All ~ I could use your help.

I'm trying to clarify in my own mind what it means to be a (capital L) Leader and I'm hoping you can weigh in on the following two questions:

Question #1: What are some of the words, actions, thoughts, and intentions, etc. that capture, for you, what it means to be a (capital L) Leader?

Question #2: How do you tell the difference between a real (capital L) Leader and someone who's just masquerading as one?

Now I know that a number of you who actively read my blog entries - thank you for that, by the way - are just not comfortable with posting your comments or reactions on-line. Please know that I am totally okay with that.

But, if you were ever thinking about maybe wanting to post a comment at some point, this would be a pretty excellent opportunity for you to do so. In other words, I could really use your help ... and insight ... on this one!


P.S. If you need it, here's a link on how to post a comment. Again, thanks.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Washington Post quotes Barry Zweibel

Washington Post print edition
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Business Section, Page D02

The Daily Crisis

Quickly filling high-profile vacancies. Tracking down "leakers" on your staff. Working out deals with hostile peers.

Does that sound more like the Oval Office or your office?

Even if you don't work in the White House, chances are that keeping cool in a crisis is a key part of your job description.

A survey by Creative Group, a staffing firm based in California, found that marketing and advertising executives report spending about a third of their time at work responding to crises. It's an improvement over the 2001 survey, in which respondents said 43 percent of an executive's time was consumed by putting out fires.

So that means things are relaxing a bit in the nation's corner offices, right?

Not exactly, said Barry K. Zweibel, an executive/leadership coach in the Chicago area. He thinks that shift reflects a change in perception more than a reduction in the actual number of emergencies that executives are experiencing at work.

They might have reset their crisis meters, he said, but there is no shortage of people "trying to paint the airplane in mid-flight."

-- Mary Ellen Slayter
© 2005 The Washington Post Company



Monday, July 18, 2005

Leadership Development: How well do you brag about your staff?

Singing the praises of your staff - in a meaningful and appropriate way - is an important leadership move to master and one that has implications up, down, and across the organization. Yet, many managers and executives are reluctant to share their teams' success stories with others. Why? Perhaps it's because of their upbringing, or stories they've heard about how certain braggarts got their just desserts. But here's the shift - sharing good news like this is not so much about making you look good as it is about showcasing the skills and talents of your direct reports AND your boss, for that matter.

Bragging about your employees will benefit them because:

  • Employees get enough bad news ... the good news will be seen as a refreshing change
  • Employees will appreciate the recognition up the chain and the kudos that will most-likely flow back to them as a result of it
  • Employees will see that you're proud of them which may very well bolster their pride in themselves
  • Employees tend to appreciate appreciation
  • Employees like being seen as part of the success community
  • Employees like knowing that they're doing important work

And bragging about your employees will benefit your boss because:

  • Your boss gets enough bad news ... the good news will be seen as a refreshing change (it's everywhere!)
  • Your boss gets some stories to share with his/her boss ... and others inside and out of the organization
  • Your boss will most-likely receive kudos from his/her boss
  • Your boss will most-likely be recognized for his/her leadership acumen

Undeniably, you'll benefit, too. But if that's stopping your from sharing these successes with others, consider it an incidental and unavoidable byproduct of your ultimate goal - helping your staff and boss look good, feel great, and be motivated.

In this context, bragging about your staff's achievements is a pretty selfless act. And an indispensable leadership development move.

Leadership Development Link


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Planning, Precision ... Crash and Burn

It took about six years of planning, a 268-million miles flight plan, and six months of getting there just to get to a place in outer space where Deep Impact, the NASA probe could even try to collide the Temple-1 comet. And when it finally got in the neighborhood, the thing crashed and burned ... just like they hoped it would.

The Leadership Lesson is a strong one, but first, consider what actually happened:

  • The space craft, roughly the size of a Volkswagen, was sent hurling into outer space so it could, about six months later, release an 'impactor' probe (about the size of a coffee table) that would crash into some comet out there, about half the size of Manhattan. What planning!
  • At the time of impact, the probe was humming along at 23,000 miles per hour - I'm told that that's like driving that Volkswagen (and coffee table) from from New York to Los Angeles ... in about a second!
  • There were no explosives on board the probe, per se. But the probe was just the right density to maximize its impact - literally! If the probe was not dense enough, it would have just gone "splat!" just like an egg hitting a cement sidewalk. And if it was too dense, it would have shot right through the comet like a speeding bullet, leaving only a hole. But, Goldilocks, it was just right, and a crater roughly the size of a huge football stadium was created and set all sorts of debris into space that the Volkswagen mother-ship could photograph at very close range. What precision!

The Leadership Lesson: Sometimes you have to be willing to crash and burn because with the proper planning and precision, things just might turn out even better than planned.



Friday, June 17, 2005

Managing Results or Decisions

I had a very interesting discussion with an executive coaching client this morning about what to do about several managers not meeting their key performance metrics. Objectively, there were some pretty significant organizational/infrastructure constraints in play that affected their ability to get the job done. But one manager in particular did a particularly poor job in dealing with these constraints. It was my view that to merely evaluate that person on results would miss a true developmental opportunity to discuss the quality of the decisions that manager made along the way.

Better decision-making does not always guarantee better results. And there are times when the right decision still yields the wrong outcome. But by and large, I believe it's a stronger Leadership Move to focus more on staff's decision-making than just on their results.

Results end with the quarter. But the ability to make better decisions lasts a lifetime.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What would a leadership consultant recommend?

The situation is this: An employee, with some great ideas, is just not being listened to by her boss. What would you recommend if you were her leadership consultant - or leadership coach?

Please post your comments.


Monday, February 14, 2005

Are you a CEO "Personality"?

This just in from the AP Wire -

"For Most CEOs, Stardom Doesn't Equal Success"

Superstar chief executives such as Hewlett-Packard Co.'s now ex-CEO Carly Fiorina may earn megapay, grace business magazine covers and hobnob with world leaders, but they may not be the best leaders for their companies.

Academics who study successful CEOs say companies are better off with a little-known CEOs who disdain fame and mind the business.

Consider some superstars for whom ubiquity didn't equal success:

  • Donald Trump is the master of the universe on his TV show, but that didn't prevent his casino and hotel business from filing for bankruptcy a second time in November.
  • L. Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco International Ltd. graced the cover of BusinessWeek as "The Most Aggressive CEO" and was held up as a model, until his company-sponsored lavish living triggered a government investigation and felony charges.
  • And don't forget superagent Michael Ovitz, who was supposed to save Walt Disney Co. from a leaderless future but lasted only 14 months before walking away with a $140 million severance package.

They make Fiorina's fall look mild. Fiorina was pushed out by the board last week after almost six years of keynote speeches, leading pep rallies and flights on the corporate jet, for personal and professional trips.

"She was spending more time in front a video camera than she was with her people," said Warren Bennis, founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California.

The company's board signaled that it agrees.

Patricia C. Dunn, whom the company appointed as interim non-executive chairman, said the job, in the future, would be "very reliant on hands-on execution."

Translation: The next CEO will spend less time in the spotlight and more time visiting customers, talking to workers and crunching numbers.

A model for the company's next CEO may be International Business Machines Inc. CEO Samuel J. Palmisano, who joined the company in 1973. If Fiorina is viewed as flashy, Palmisano is seen as tweedy. While she became the public face of HP, Palmisano rarely gives interviews.

Some measure of fame may be unavoidable for the CEO of a high-profile company. But other famous CEOs, like Apple Computer Inc.'s Steve Jobs, have tried to create a cult following for products, not themselves.

Could having a famous executive hurt a company? Some research suggests it might.

Ulrike M. Malmendier, an assistant professor of finance at Stanford University's graduate school of business, studied CEOs who made lists of best managers and found many afterward extracted higher compensation while spending more time and effort on outside activities, such as writing books."

The companies of superstar CEOs subsequently underperform," Malmendier wrote, with both the stock and return on assets lagging peers.

James T. Hamilton at Duke University and Richard Zeckhauser at Harvard University found that 20 percent of chief executives generate 80 percent of media coverage.

They found no statistically significant difference in average shareholder returns between companies with a celebrity CEO and other companies.

But they did find that chief executives who generate soft news stories, articles that contain words such as "personality," "married," "divorced," "smile," "style" and "wife," were more likely to be charged later with evading regulations or misusing company resources than other CEOs.

Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

Question: Is your ego driving your leadership style a bit too much?

Please comment.


Saturday, January 03, 2004

Fast Company Issue 78: The Corporate Shrink

It's not on line yet, but the question posed in The Corporate Shirknk column of the January 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine read like this:

"I seem to be on the fast track at my company. The firm sends me to off-site leadership-training programs every year. Frankly, though, while I enjoy the week off and always come back energized, a month later I'm back to my old habits. Is it me, or is leadership training less than it's cracked up to be?"

The response, in part, read something like this:

"Ah, you've hit on one of the great unspoken dilemmas of the business world ... Your experience of leadership training is common. It's flattering to be sent and sometimes inspiring to attend ... But we just don't change our stripes all that much after a week of nearly anything ..."

This speaks DIRECTLY to the inherent value of the ongoing coaching process - something I've been talking about for quite some time. One of the pages on my website specifically discusses how coaching augments training, seminars and conferences. If you haven't looked at it recently, you may want to. And as you think about what seminars and conferences you'll be sending your direct reports to this year, you might want to consider augmenting them (or replacing them entirely) with an ONGOING commitment to your managers' professional development through 1-on-1 coaching, mentoring, and performance consulting.

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Monday, July 21, 2003

Management as Jazz Music

My son attended a week-long jazz camp offered by the Midwest Young Artists. Each night, starting around 9pm, the students would gather for 90-minutes or so of improv. They'd come on stage as a combo 7 or 8 person combo - trumpet, a sax or two, trombone, guitar, piano, bass, drummer - pick a song ... and play it. What was particularly interesting to me was that many of these combo players never actually played together before, yet ... they each knew exactly what to play, when to play it, and how long to play it for.

Combo Jazz songs, like Tenor Madness (Sonny Rollins), A Night in Tunisia (Dizzy Gillespie), and Watermelon Man (Herbie Hancock) to name just a few, are a fascinating in that they allow for such total improvization. But they do it within a pre-determined, formalized structure. I don't know how to explain it really.

Unlike professional jazz musicians, the students at the jazz camp made all sorts of mistakes - missed notes, wrong keys, off-tempo. But no matter how messy things got, the combo would always bring the song home in the end. No one ever got too far adrift that the song couldn't be rescued. No one ever got left out on a limb.

It's an interesting metaphor to play with. Think about your job, as example, and the people you work with. They're YOUR Combo. They're the ones who you need to be able to rely on when your solo goes sour. They're the ones who will be there to celebrate your great solo with. They're the ones who will be there to back you up and for you to back them up. The unexpected is an essential ingredient of jazz, yet one thing you can count on is that every player will know where the song is at any given moment.

Who do you know on your work team that doesn't know where the song is and how can you help bring them home?

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Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Affecting Change

Wandering the web this morning I came upon an article that asks the question, "Is Coaching for Everyone?" The answer from the author is 'no' and I agree entirely because it's one thing to WANT change and it's something entirely different to be WORK FOR change. Does WHAT you want to change make a difference though? On the surface, executives wanting to improve their management, communications and leadership skills, as example, might think their needs are different from new coaches looking to build their coaching practice. And maybe they are. But they're also similiar in that BOTH need the personal and professional commitment to truly affect the change. Those what want change need to be, as the article says, "people who are ready to really learn how they can have the things in their life and career that will be truly meaningful to them, and who are ready to do the work" independant of whatever the particulars happen to be.

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