man standing at middle of cornfield

Uncertainty is always around, but we manage to get through

I started writing my newsletter, The Cautious Optimist, in the spring of 2009. Like today, that was a dark and scary time. The financial world was collapsing around us, unemployment was skyrocketing, and everything was very uncertain. I chose the title deliberately because it captured the attitude I was trying to cultivate – not a rose-colored “Little Mary Sunshine” perspective, but a realistic confidence that things would get better. 

And here we are again. It’s a very different crisis from the 08-09 financial meltdown, but once again we are surrounded by collapse and uncertainty. It’s been 11 years, and I’m still writing The Cautious Optimist, and people are still reading and responding to it. No one knows what the future holds, but I’m confident that cautious optimism is still the best game in town. 

two women in front of whiteboard

What’s Going to Get Businesses out of this Mess?

We’ve been talking about a VUCA world for a long time. VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Ha! We didn’t have a clue what VUCA looks like. The business environment we’re in right now – this is VUCA, this is the real thing.

What are the qualities that will enable a business to survive and thrive in this VUCA world? A recent article in Consulting Psychology Journal provided a very interesting framework to answer this question. 

remote meeting

What crisis leadership looks like during Coronavirus and after

I don’t know about you, but my inbox has been deluged with well-meaning, useless Coronavirus advice. If one more person sends me information on how to wash my hands or socially distance myself or engage with my team, I’m going to say a bad word. As a result, I have been avoiding sending out advice of my own.

And then amid all the noise I got a PowerPoint deck from my colleague Nancy Picard, one of the smartest people I know. Her deck was full of useful guidance about how to lead right now — useful enough that I was moved to share it with you.

person washing hands

How I am choosing to fight COVID-19

As I write this on March 10, I’m feeling helpless. I hate that! So far, my daily life is pretty normal. I’m in my downtown Chicago office, and I just got back from a large lunch meeting listening to some very interesting panelists. My day, and the rest of my week, is heavily scheduled with both in-person and phone meetings. 

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the tidal wave to hit: the day when everything gets cancelled, when my clients suffer severe financial losses, when my travel is curtailed, when people I care about start getting sick, when I get sick. It’s really scary, and it feels as if there’s nothing I can do. As I said, I hate that!

woman in corporate dress standing

Executive coaching benefits rely on these predictive factors

More and more companies have been investing in coaching for their senior leaders in the past 20 years as they recognize the benefits of executive coaching. As a result, coaches now come from a wide variety of professional backgrounds and use many different approaches. How can a company, or an individual leader, predict whether a coaching engagement will be helpful or not?

woman in front of computer with head in hands

Much Ado about Nothing or How to Embrace Boredom

When I’m talking with new coaching clients, I’m often stunned by how busy they are. It’s not unusual to hear that someone has just received a big promotion, is managing a team of 20+ people, has several young children, is looking after an older relative, and is heavily involved with his or her church or other community activities. Please note, this is not just a woman’s problem, although many women think it is. Most of the men I work with are also juggling multiple commitments and responsibilities, and like the women, they often feel they are coming up short. When I hear people describe their lives, I usually respond with the quip, “So what are you doing with all your free time?” And we both laugh ruefully.

man holding book at desk

JOMO: Time to embrace the joy of missing out

Move over FOMO, it’s a new age of JOMO.

A panel of economists recently presented their predictions for 2020 at The Executives’ Club of Chicago. This annual event is always thought-provoking, controversial, and occasionally funny. This year the major theme was the unusual level of economic uncertainty. Between the upcoming US presidential election, Brexit, the fraught US-China trade relationship, and on-going concerns about climate change, the experts were decidedly uneasy.

But the chief take-away for me was not some great tip about where to invest my fortune, such as it is. It was a toss-off comment by “Dr. Bob” Froehlich. In his usual witty manner, Dr. Bob proposed four important trends that would, in his opinion, affect the economy this year. One of them was “JOMO.”

group in office having meeting

Should I go to this? 9 guidelines for effective meetings

I worked hard over the holidays and was pleased with what I accomplished. What was the key to my productivity? Almost no meetings.

Now it’s January, and my schedule is full of meetings once again. Don’t get me wrong – many of the meetings I attend are very valuable. But like everyone else, all too often I find myself trapped in a meeting that’s a waste of my time.

decade resolutions

Resolutions for the new decade

I know, I know – New Year’s resolutions are supposedly a waste of time. Each year we start out with great intentions, but by February they’re usually forgotten. And yet, each year I think about the changes I would like to make in my life and I start again on my self-improvement journey.

Of course, this new year is especially momentous because it is also a start of a new decade. (Once again, I know – the new decade doesn’t technically start until January 2021. But I don’t care – it feels new when that third digit flips over.) A friend recently sent me a post from Steve McClatchy’s email campaign about making new decade resolutions.

work life balance

The Illusion of Work-Life Balance

It’s true – great minds think alike! As many of you know, I’ve been working on the concept of “curating your life,” the idea that instead of thinking about balance as if we’re circus acrobats, we need to think about our lives as if we’re museum curators. What’s my exhibit about? What goes in and what gets excluded? Is it time to update my exhibit? My book on this topic, cleverly titled Curating Your Life, will be coming out in April 2020.

So I was fascinated to read a recent post by James Clear, “The Four Burners Theory: The Downside of Work-Life Balance.” His theory proposes that your life is a stove with four burners: family, friends, health, and work. So far so good – most of us would agree with that. But here’s the kicker – the theory also says that to be outstanding you have to turn off one burner, and to become really great you have to turn off two. 

winning the war on talent

Winning the war for talent — a new strategy for a new decade

In my over 15 years as a leadership coach and consultant, concern about “winning the war for talent” has been a constant. Except in the depths of the 2008-2009 recession, business leaders have been concerned about how to identify, attract, and retain top talent.

Now at the beginning of a new decade, when employment figures are at a high, high-potential employees have plenty of options to choose from. The war for talent is a hot topic once again.