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 Many human resource practices that were effective in 2009 are now outdated.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.

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.

skills I learned waitressing

The business skills I learned from waitressing that I still use

As I was working my way through my Ph.D. program, I didn’t know that the skills I learned from waitressing would prove their own education. For several years I waited tables at La Trattoria in Bloomington, Indiana, a fairly high-end restaurant where most of the employees were university students. It was a great job at the time. It paid better than most office or retail jobs, it had flexible hours, and I was on my feet so much that I didn’t have to watch my weight. Nonetheless, I wasn’t sad when I graduated and moved on to professional work.

The unlikely leadership tactic of being the stupidest person in the room

We’ve all met business leaders who always want to be seen as “the smartest person in the room.” Sometimes they really are highly intelligent. Other times they are empty suits. But it’s always wildly irritating to watch them swagger about. They are terrible listeners, they don’t contribute well to team goals, and often their communication is dripping with condescension.

Finding Work/Life Balance

Finding work/life balance by embracing mediocrity and saying no

Everywhere you look, people are feeling stressed, overworked, and inadequate. In our hyper-stimulating environment, we’re trying to do it all and we end up feeling exhausted and empty. We talk about finding work/life balance, but nobody is balanced and the concept just makes us feel worse. As I work with my executive coaching clients to help them be the best leaders they can be, this issue of how to manage yourself for peak productivity is very often on the agenda.