solo ceo

Being a Solo CEO, but embracing big-business thinking

“Solo CEO” — what a great label! Several months ago, I was invited to speak at the SoloCEO Summit, a conference created by my colleague, Terra Winston. The one-day event was designed for “solopreneurs,” people who had established and were operating a business by themselves. The goal was to provide opportunities for small business people to learn from experts, build community, and create an action plan to move forward. 

Terra put together a great team of presenters with a wide range of skills: marketing, coaching, law, operations, and many other aspects of business leadership. The event was striking in its diversity, both among the presenters and the attendees — people leading all sorts of businesses; men and women; old and young; racially diverse. The energy in the room was powerful. 

roi of executive education

The ROI of executive education — do benefits outweigh costs?

The ROI of executive education is rarely measured, but that hasn’t stopped the courses from proliferating. Some are customized for specific companies, while others are open to students from many different employers. Business schools, consulting firms — all kinds of organizations develop and offer these courses to build business acumen and specific leadership skills.

Frankly, executive education is a real cash cow for many academic institutions. Corporations often shell out big bucks to send senior executives or high-potential leaders to prestigious exec ed programs. Other companies spend money to develop their own in-house programs. Some years ago, Motorola had such an extensive program that it was labelled “Motorola University.” Consulting firms also get in on the action, working with their corporate clients to develop educational offerings.

contract negotiating tips

8 contract negotiation tips, as demonstrated by Rahm Emanuel

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not the first person I’d turn to for contract negotiation tips. He does not have a strong reputation as a conciliator. He is not known to make nice with people. His brand is that he’s an aggressive, stubborn leader who’s quite willing to dig in his heels and pound the other side into submission.

And yet, he was able to help end The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s seven-week strike, the longest one in their history. Negotiations had been ongoing for most of that time, but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement — until then-Mayor Emanuel intervened.

leadership lessons

6 leadership lessons learned by crash landing a plane

In a sea of demoralizing news stories, it’s important to remember the leadership lessons learned during the wonderful events. It’s been 10 years since Captain “Sully” Sullenberger managed to land his disabled passenger plane on the Hudson River, saving the lives of every single passenger and crew member. It was a remarkable and inspiring achievement.

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.

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.