A free, searchable archive of Executive Coaching Tips to help you be perceived in the workplace the way you want to be perceived.
Hiding in plain sight
“This isn’t rocket science!” is not a phrase you can use around Yolanda. The holder of two masters degrees and a PhD, she is a rocket scientist. Her upbringing in Puerto Rico was, she says, “old-fashioned.” She learned to respect her elders and to be humble about her accomplishments. Those values were great preparation for her years in the Air Force; the hierarchy and structure suited her well. More
Essay questions are a trap
In the Executive Coaching Tip “Sorting & Labeling,” you read about Joseph. Like many technical experts, he struggles to give clear, concise summaries of complex information. The Sorting & Labeling tool is helping him.
At the beginning of a recent coaching session, I asked him, “How’s it going with the execs during your weekly update?”
Seven minutes into his long, rambling answer, I finally held up my hand in surrender. He looked startled—he’d been deep in his own thoughts—then looked a little sheepish. “Oh. I did it again, didn’t I?” More
“I hate politics!”
I was hired to groom Danielle for a promotion. Less than a week after our first coaching session, the head of her division, who had been a fixture for a dozen years, announced he was leaving for another opportunity. Overnight, every senior leader in the division, including Danielle, was thrown into a major game of musical chairs. Some people would zoom upward while others would stay where they were.
Danielle felt this was the perfect opportunity for her to snag her promotion. I agreed it well might be. I began to ask Danielle about the details of her relationships with each of the most senior players in the division. After a bit, Danielle’s shoulders slumped and she muttered, “Ugh! I hate politics.” More
Dig your well before you’re thirsty
Years ago, when the economy was still expanding, I coached a woman named Stephanie. She’d worked for the same company since graduating college and, by the time I met her, was in line to become a director. She was concerned that, having worked at only that one company, she wasn’t as worldly as her peers.
Feeling her concern might have merit, I gave her a rule of thumb: you should spend five percent of your work hours every month looking for your next job—even if you never take another job! Why? When you network skillfully, you A) broaden your professional horizons, B) become able to realistically assess the position you have, and C) build networks that make you a more valuable employee. More
Communicating without making connections
Joseph is overseeing the development of a multi-billion dollar piece of hardware. As project manager, he’s responsible for keeping this seven-year enterprise on schedule and on budget.
Every week he delivers a status report to the division executives. And he’s driving them crazy.
Joseph has a deep knowledge of the hardware and understands how all the different elements interconnect. But he’s stumbling badly with the executives because he’s not making those connections clear to them. More
You can’t talk too fast
At the beginning of my Presentation Skills Coaching course, I ask participants to identify two presentation behaviors: one they think they do well and one they think they do poorly. On the “needs improvement” side, people frequently list: “I talk too fast.”
My contention is that it’s not physically possible to talk faster than our brains can compute. Here are some statistics that support my point. More
A very public failure
Ellie felt like she’d been shot between the eyes.
For six grueling weeks she’d prepped a presentation she would make to the senior execs. She’d painstakingly built a deck of forty-two slides.
During the presentation, the execs began to challenge her at slide four. By slide six they were clearly angry with her. At slide eight they pulled her plug and kicked her out of the room. More
Fears and frustrations
Last fall, in the middle of our coaching engagement, Gavon got laid off. I told him I’d be happy to re-engage with him any time it would be helpful. A few weeks ago he got back in touch. He was still unemployed.
“I’ve been on a bunch of interviews,” he told me. “What’s freaking me out is the anxiety I’m having. I wasn’t anxious before, but since I’m not landing any jobs, I’m beginning to stress about whether I’m as good at interviewing as I think I am. More
An inquiry via email
In response to last month’s Executive Coaching Tip, I got the following email from a guy named Guy:
My boss constantly corrects me and undermines me in meetings. It’s not that she says I’m wrong, exactly, but she makes it clear we have different styles and that my style is worse than hers. How do I approach her about this?
Guy’s situation feels like many others I’ve coached, so my five-step recommendation to him is this month’s Coaching Tip. I wrote: More
Trust erodes by over-promising
At the end of our second session, Sharon told me she’d have her assistant call me to schedule our next appointment. When I hadn’t heard from anyone a week later, I called the assistant myself and we set up the next coaching session.
Personally, I experienced Sharon as a kind person who was eager to please others. But as her coach I was concerned that her desire to please had taken her into dangerous waters: she was eroding trust by agreeing to more than she could deliver. Her feedback had reflected that. One person summed it up with two words and an exclamation point: “Stop over-promising!” More
Distractions affect performance
Marc’s frustration was understandable. He’d been trying to get support for a project since long before our coaching began. In fact, he’d asked for the coaching to learn influencing skills, hoping that would help him generate traction for the project.
The truth was he’d actually moved the ball quite far down the field already: two people had been assigned to the project and a cross-functional team had begun to lay the foundation for the work that would come. But he wasn’t across the goal line yet and he was getting impatient attending endless meetings to drum up support. What worried him wasn’t just that he was feeling impatient, but that he was acting impatiently in those meetings. Worrying about his impatience had become a distraction. More
Weston was disgusted with himself. “Man, did I miss a great opportunity,” he said in the first minutes of our coaching session. “I ran into Brad, the division president, on my way to the parking lot on Monday. For a change he actually had a minute to chat. So first we were talking about our weekends. But then he asked me about the Chandler project and I started babbling like a junior intern. I sure didn’t sound like the project lead! It was horrible.”
Weston knew he’d had an opportunity to give the president an “elevator speech” (a crisp executive summary that lasts no longer than an elevator ride) but because he was unprepared his comments were anything but crisp. More