A free, searchable archive of Executive Coaching Tips to help you be perceived in the workplace the way you want to be perceived.
Rehearsal rescues a downward slide
The division’s executive vice-president demands high performance from anyone presenting in front of him. If you’re at the director level or above, he expects you to succinctly summarize key points, then lead a lively discussion.
This works well for many men and women in his division, but not for Kris. The more he prepared for the EVP’s presentations, the more anxious he got. Over time, his performance declined to the point where the EVP was close to banning him from presenting. Kris felt himself hurtling towards a cliff without any way to stop himself from shooting off the edge. More
You should never say this
Vince is a passionate guy who believes good relationships are the key to getting things done. In private, Vince expressed exasperation to me about the way many people handle themselves. “He should have known his email would backfire,” he complained about a subordinate. Or, about the CEO, “Brad should have had the decency to let me know about that announcement.” Or, on a positive note, “My team should be able to pull that off.”
It wasn’t long before I observed that he used the word “should” a lot and asked whose “should” he was referring to. He asked what I meant. “Well, for example, who says Brad ‘should’ have had the decency to let you know? Where is that written?” More
This feels personal, doesn’t it?
Karin once ran a department at a state university and managed a six-figure budget. When she transitioned into the corporate world, her boss wouldn’t let her authorize any expenditures over $100. At first she understood, but after three years, she was steamed.
When I asked why, she said, “I’ve given him every reason to trust me. But he obviously doesn’t!”
“Do you think if someone else was in your role he’d let her handle her own budget?” More
The do’s and don’ts
I’ve known Charlotte more than twenty years. We’ve often joked that somewhere along the line our gender roles got swapped. She is analytical, results-driven and uncomfortable in the realm of feelings. I, on the other hand, am high in empathy and intuition, and enjoy processing things—some say a little too much!
Recently, she asked for a little coaching.
“I’ve got a crier,” she moaned. “This woman’s got high potential but she needs a lot of guidance. The moment I give her any sort of feedback, she looks like I ran over her cat and the river starts flowing. You know me, Tom, I’d rather eat raw eggs than face the waterworks.” More
Marshall, a television executive, was facing open rebellion from the writers he supervised. His president told me, “Marshall’s the smartest guy here. No doubt about it. And his ideas are great, but he can’t get anyone to hear them because he comes across like a sledgehammer. Creative people don’t like to be talked to that way.”
“Who does?” I replied. More
Failing to agree affects results
Sheldon leads a logistics team for one of the world’s largest food distributors. In our coaching, he repeatedly told me stories that went something like this: he would give explicit instructions to his direct reports about an action he wanted them to take. Then, a day or two later, he’d find out they had done something completely different than he’d expected.
He wanted me to help him fix his team. I asked if he experienced them as rebellious or defiant. He said, no, he actually experienced them as sincere, hard-working individuals who just couldn’t seem to get things right. More
Behaviors create “style”
When Lawrence was passed over for promotion to vice-president, the feedback was clear: his expertise was top-notch; his executive presence was not. “He just doesn’t feel like one of our vice-presidents,” the CEO told me.
Lawrence vowed that by the end of the coaching he’d look more vice-presidential than any of the vice-presidents. With lips thinned by determination, he asked, “What do I need to do to ‘feel’ like a VP?” I answered by giving him the following homework. More
Invisibility only works in sci-fi
“Does she even know how smart she is? She really needs to start speaking up so we can get the benefit of what she knows.” That was typical of the feedback about Maureen.
When I asked her what was holding her back from contributing more, she told me she’d always been shy about speaking up. “My folks warned all of us not to be too aggressive. I think the result was that I just stopped talking altogether.” More
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