Lean Into Your Mistakes

Every human being (including every leader) is a work in progress, on a developmental journey, moving away from the person they have been, and moving towards the person they are becoming. Whether you’re engaged in a formal coaching process or not, you are likely to have development goals as part of your annual objectives, intended to advance you on this journey. Even if you don’t have formal development goals, you’re probably aware of ways in which you can be more effective as a leader.   For example, you may want to… do a better job of including others and building consensus on decisions be more thoughtful and rigorous about plans […]

Your 2014 Leadership Development Goals – Get Them Off The Page And Into Reality

It’s that time of year – you’re setting your goals for 2014, including your own development goals. Yet, perhaps your files are cluttered with the evidence of past development resolutions that didn’t fully materialize. How can you approach your development goals differently this year, so that you actually reach your vision for yourself? Here are some guidelines.   Get real about what’s an attainable goal. It’s useful to understand what can and can’t be changed in your leadership style. What you can develop is usually related to your perspective – learning to see and value things differently, which then opens up new options for behavior. For example, you can become […]

The Importance of Purpose

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning   For me, Frankl is on the short list of history’s most important and inspired thinkers.  In his masterwork on meaning, he writes extensively about the unique capacity people have to choose how they will respond to circumstances, and the critical role that meaning plays in life satisfaction.  However, I believe that he talks most eloquently about the importance of purpose.   People today often describe a life that feels like one continuous fire drill, reacting to emergent issues and […]

Why leadership training doesn’t work (and what you can do about it)

How many times have you gone to a leadership development workshop, had a wonderful experience, left feeling great, and then went home and kept doing the same old thing?  Or, perhaps you kept up your new resolutions for a couple of months or weeks, and then went back to doing the same old thing.   Why does this happen so consistently? And why do we, knowing this, keep on sending people to training?   Learning these skills will not lead to doing these skills. That’s because, I’ll suggest, most of the leadership skills and insights being imparted through these events are, in the words of Ronald Heifetz, “adaptive” challenges rather […]

Expose Your Thinking

I borrow this title phrase from a coaching client – I’ll call him Nick – who has identified “exposing his thinking” as a development goal. Nick wanted to have more impact in his organization, and at first he tried to do that by doing more of what he was good at – thinking. He formulated ideas inside his own head and was uncomfortable sharing those ideas until they were fully formed. He asked people questions for the purpose of fleshing out his internal problem analyses, thinking he was being inclusive by doing so, but the reason for his questions was known only to him.  He might be concerned about the […]

Getting Past Our Stuck Points – Joan’s Interview With Dan Oestreich

I recently had the pleasure to be interviewed by Dan Oestreich for his newsletter Unfolding Leadership. Dan is a deep thinker about leadership and change, and he loves to get into deep conversations about the challenges in helping leaders grow and change. Here’s the interview in its entirety. If you’re a leader who’s interested in getting past your stuck points and growing to a more effective place, this interview may provoke some insights.   Joan, can you tell us a little of your own history and learning about individual development?   When I first started working in this area at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) I was 25, a […]

How Hardship Creates Leaders

I’ve been working with a group of young leaders lately. One was talking about his background – high-achieving, top schools, good grades, an early career in a prestigious company filled with other top performers from fancy schools. This leader was frustrated to now be working in a company where, as he put it, “average” performers were the norm.   Looking at this leader’s perspective from where I sit, older and having endured many hiccups and setbacks on life’s journey, I am bemused by the young leader’s notion that being on top of the world is sustainable – and even desirable. Yet I also understand it. We’re all socialized to think […]

Rethinking “Experience” at Work

One of my favorite stories is about the young man who wanted a construction job.  At the first employer, he fiddled with a backhoe for 10 minutes before they kicked him out.  At the second employer, he made it almost half an hour.  By the third, it was up to half a day.  The fourth place he went gave him a job because he had…so much experience! I hear people use this word in many different settings.  I hear them use the word to support judgments they’ve made about another person’s capability.  I hear them use the word whether discussing skills or tasks or assignments.  In short, I hear this […]

Learning By Trying To Do Something Different

Action is a good door into learning. We coaches and consultants often focus on getting you leaders to reflect and gain insight on your style and your impact and your inner conflicts – and that has its place. But when you think about your development as a leader, isn’t the point to become able to take new actions that lead to more of the outcomes you value? A good coaching conversation, for me, gets very concrete about what you are trying to accomplish, and what actions and choices might help you get there. That doesn’t mean I’m completely disinterested in helping you understand your style, your impact, your inner conflicts, […]

“Why Can’t I Get My Employees To … ?”

If you manage people, chances are that you have been frustrated, at one time or another, about some performance or behavior you want from your reports, but can’t get them to consistently display. You may want them to …   …suggest new ideas …make decisions and take responsibility …manage their own performance on an entire task without needing you to monitor and prod …think about how their actions and choices will affect others downstream …give you authentic feedback about how your behavior affects them   If you’ve tried to manage your frustration by exhorting your reports – “Why can’t you just do x?” or “I need you to do x!” […]