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The Art and Craft of Leadership Coaching

Jim Collins in his oft-quoted book “Good to Great” has leaders make sure that those on the bus are also in the right seats. Sage advice. Then it is time for the action to start in earnest.   It is the interactions of these folks that lead to results-oriented processes and organizational innovation. The big question is “How do you track the interactions of individuals as they work together”?   This is where leadership coaching and effective communication often fall short. What is obvious is not always what is truly going on. Picture an iceberg. As the captain of the Titanic sadly found out “what you see is not only what you get”!   High level leadership coaching requires an ability to decode the secret language of relationships that, if not handled, causes untold interpersonal friction. This is more than good people in perfect job placement. It is about the patterns we bring to the workplace from our original organization, the family that get played out even in the board room (just think Hewlett Packard).   Mastering the most important part of the business day, where leadership coaching is critical, beyond creative, visionary, and passionate leadership skills is having a deep understanding of what goes on at the underside of the iceberg where all relationships reside.  ...

The Shadow Side Shows Up

How many more “family values” based politicians will make the news about affairs this season? It is interesting that the latest, Governor Sanford had his press “mea culpa” conference sans wife by his side. He needs to do this alone and it will be interesting to see what he can learn from his philandering.   The news around him is familiar. The talk shows have experts tell why he did what he did and what he should now do differently. Experts who write about narcissism call him a narcissist. Experts who don’t believe in divorce talk about the devastation for the children. Experts who focus on politics dissect his career possibilities.   I would like to offer another point of view about the complex sides of all of us labeled human beings. It is time to bring the “shadow” side of who we are into the light. I have no idea what went on in the Governor’s personal relationship with his wife. That is for them to untangle. I don’t know how his relationship with his sons has evolved. That is for them to dialogue.   What I do know is that when we crusade about a cause, any cause, without being able to look at all sides there is a tendency to fall into the pit of the opposite and take on the energy of what we are so against.   The good Governor was a strong advocate of family values and a vocal judge of those who have “gone astray”. Now, he will have an opportunity to learn from personal experience, or at least one hopes he...

The Legacy of Michael Jackson: For His Children

My first thought hearing of Michael Jackson’s sudden and untimely death was “What about his children”? I know the shock of losing a parent suddenly. My father died of a heart attack when I was fourteen. One evening my parents went to dinner and a movie. The next day we were planning a funeral. There were no headlines surrounding our family. We mourned quietly.   Not so for the children of Michael. He was an international icon. We watched him grow up. The bright shiny penny of a kid grew into a complex and mysterious man. We see the media releases, the tabloids, the books, the gossipy stories. How can we ever know the inner life of another human? Who was Michael Jackson?   His talent was obvious; he was “The King of Pop”. What else can his children hold dear as they make sense out of their famous father? It will be up to them to find the nuggets of truth that will help them shape their own destiny. Youngsters who grow up with celebrity parents have double difficulties sifting through the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful that is their inheritance.   It’s not about the money and the fame. It’s about essence, the core of what is left behind. The big question for his kids will be to find the strong part of their father so they can stand on his shoulders.   In an interview Michael once commented that the song “Childhood” was an autobiographical statement. I went back to scan the lyrics. It says so much “It’s been my fate to compensate...

Understanding Leadership Development Training

Our 40th “Total Leadership Connections“, (TLC) program is in session and it is comforting to see certain aspects of executive education that lead to organizational innovation do not change. Human universals remain the same over time. Searching for essential values and beliefs are at the core of TLC.   We are honored to have two participants in this program who are Members of Parliament from Ghana. They have traveled from West Africa to gain leadership tools and leadership tips to take back to their country.   My husband Herb and I had the pleasure of spending time in Ghana with a third Member of Parliament who is now a facilitator-in-training. Catherine Afeku is a brilliant young woman who has a passion for the possible. When she completed TLC several years ago her dream was to bring leadership development to her country.   We immediately connected when I told her we do a process called “Sankofa Mapping”  in our program. “Sankofa” she exclaimed with pride in her voice, “that is a word from Ghana”. I had come across a film by that name in the 1990’s and was taken with its meaning, “Clear the past to free the present”.   Our leadership program is based on the essence of the word Sankofa. We believe that leading effectively, finding coaching solutions, increasing interpersonal awareness all come from observing, understanding, and transforming patterns from the past.   What a wise culture in Ghana to have one word that says so...

4 Tips to Unlock Leadership Potential

The debate over born or bred leaders is always one of interest. The answer is yes and yes. Many are born into families that encourage self-awareness and interpersonal skills. Others learn leadership adaptability through the ebb and flow of life happenings.   Leadership behavior thrives when it is tended to. One key area that is critical is the ability to literally “practice organizational change”.  We all have a propensity to greet change in one of four main ways. When we can observe ourselves and learn to understand the impact change has on us we can decide if our change style preference is a benefit or a detriment and make some adjustments.   Leadership practices require consistent education to unlock leadership potential. Here is the formula; when stress is high we all go to what is familiar and has helped us out of tough situations in the past. These may not be the most effective communication methods; they are simply the most comfortable:     *Flooding: the tendency to say the same things over and over, getting louder and louder; a “Chicken Little” mindset that the sky is falling, so upsets are forgotten.   *Deflecting: changing the conversation to anything insignificant so that the tensions around change can be diverted to minor problems.   *Indulging: spending time on details that don’t really make all that much difference so that real issues are swept under the rug.   *Compartmentalizing: only seeing one or two parts of a situation so that the tensions are diminished and only small parts of the problem get handled.         Once these underlying behavioral...