receiving critical feedback

Receiving critical feedback effectively starts with a fearless analysis

My client, we’ll call her Amy, was receiving critical feedback, and she was upset. Her direct reports were skipping constructive criticism and going straight for harsh descriptions of her leadership style. Several of her team members described her as demanding, too bossy, and overly emotional. 

As a senior executive, Amy understood how important it was to engage and motivate her team. She had worked for both good and bad bosses and recognized the differences between them. She was shocked and hurt by the feedback, and unsure of how to handle the criticism with grace. 

myth of person who has it all

The dangerous myth of the person who has it all

One of the first executives I coached was a golden boy — let’s call him Christopher. In his early thirties, he was bright, handsome, and well-spoken. He had a beautiful wife and three lovely young children. He had been promoted four times in the past twenty months. From others’ perspective, Christopher was leading a charmed life. He had it all. 

So why was he coming to see a psychologist? Underneath his polished exterior, Christopher was paralyzed and overwhelmed. When we finished our first meeting, I offered to see him again in a week. He paused and replied, “If it’s ok with you, I’d like to come back sooner than that.” So I scheduled a meeting for us in four days.

compassionate bereavement policy

A compassionate bereavement policy that sees the employee as a person

“As baby boomers age, ‘we are in for a death boom’” the Chicago Tribune recently proclaimed. The older you are, the more people you know who are dying. Since baby boomers are staying in the workforce longer than recent generations, that means there will be more grieving people in the workplace over the next few years — and more use of the company bereavement policy.

Business leaders may ask, “So what?” It sounds heartless, but the purpose of a for-profit company is to make money. It’s not a therapeutic community. What is the responsibility of employers or colleagues to respond when someone has suffered a personal loss?

optimize HR for the modern workforce

How to optimize HR for the modern workforce

As the shape of business shifts rapidly, it’s crucial to optimize HR for the task of attracting, retaining, and motivating top talent in an evolving landscape. Many human resource practices that were effective in 2009 are now outdated. Here are the top trends in HR today, as outlined by Linda Villalobos at Insperity, along with my recommendations for how business leaders can respond with focus and agility.

free trait theory

How to adapt your leadership toolbox and embrace free trait theory

I call it the leadership toolbox, a model for leadership development that focuses on the tools available to you. After years of helping leaders become more effective by identifying their styles, I needed a way to talk about the behaviors and mental models that come naturally to us. The “toolbox” metaphor fit — a place where we keep all of the techniques that help us achieve results.

generational differences in workplace

Generational differences in the workplace are a myth — and a harmful one

Oh, those millennials and their generational differences in the workplace! We continue to tear out our hair about their horrible qualities — the laziness! the impatience! the entitlement! The list goes on and on. A colleague of mine recently send me a video of speaker Simon Sinek talking about the awful millennials — first, about how useless they are, and second, about how they’re really just helpless victims of their upbringing and their environment.

executive gravitas

When gravitas matters more than authenticity

I came of age in an anti-authoritarian time when executive gravitas rang false to many of us. The suits and ties, the gloves and girdles of the ‘50s were replaced by the sandals and long hair of the hippies. One of our catchphrases was, “If it feels good, do it.” The phrase captured a mindset that being true to yourself and living the good life meant acting on your impulses and sharing everything — thoughts, feelings, desires, and choices.

The current emphasis on “authenticity” shows just how much this stance has swung back into favor. Both in our personal and professional lives, some coaches are advising us, as people and as leaders, to be open and true to our feelings and preferences.

how to write exit letter

How to write an exit letter that balances fantasy with future

The best time to ask how to write an exit letter is before you need one. Wait too late, and you’re likely to send the kind of missive that burns bridges — and burn yourself in the process.

Consider, instead, that you’re planning to leave your job sometime in the next few months. You’ve already started to disengage a little. You’re not working quite such long hours and you’ve stopped making long-term plans for your department. You find yourself thinking about what you’d like to say on your way out.

thank you

Why saying “thank you” at work can cost you money

Etiquette matters in the business world. In spite of the frequent media portrayals of business executives as aggressive boors, in the real world most successful senior leaders are meticulously polite and even formal.  For example, I have received numerous hand-written notes from business leaders, even though this practice is fairly rare in my non-business social circle.  My business colleagues typically shake hands at the beginning and end of a meeting and are careful to introduce people who don’t know each other.

How microaffirmations flip microaggressions for a better work culture

For those seeking to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, “microaggressions” has become a point of focus. The word refers to the multitude of little ways in which we ignore, diminish, or insult people who are different from ourselves, either consciously or unconsciously. It’s an uncomfortable word, because it challenges us to take a hard look at how we treat others, acknowledge that we are not as accepting and open-minded as we would like to believe, and do the work to change our problematic behaviors.