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Scott Eblin

Gps1 For each of the past 15 years, my wife, Diane, and I have taken some time in January to map out our course for the upcoming year.  We use a planning tool we created together early in our marriage that we call the Life GPS®. 

While it takes its inspiration from the Global Positioning System, GPS in this case stands for Goals Planning System. Much like the GPS you use when travelling, the Life GPS® helps to get you where you want to go by clarifying the desired destination and outlining the steps you’ll need to take to get there. Sure, you might drift off course from time to time, but having things laid out in a Life GPS® can get you back on track and raise the chances of reaching your desired destination.

Over the past 10 years, hundreds of my executive coaching clients have used the Life GPS® to help them reach their goals in their lives at home, work and in the community. Next month, for the first time, I’m offering an open opportunity to create your own Life GPS® with some coaching and guidance from me.   Because I believe in the Life GPS® approach and have seen how it helps people reach their goals, I’ll be conducting a complementary teleseminar on January 13.  I’ll walk you through the model, share a process for creating your own Life GPS® and fill you in on plans I have to support you in staying on track throughout 2011.

Here’s a link to the registration page for the Life GPS® teleseminar.  I hope to hear you on the call and ask that you share this information with any colleagues, friends or family members who you think could benefit from it.

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True to my intention of unplugging during the holidays, I’m offering this simple post to say thanks to you, my readers, for your support, engagement and ideas.  I’ve gotten to know many of you though your comments and tweets this year and am really grateful for that.  I’m looking forward to continuing the conversations and relationships next year.

In my end of year unPeanuts-xmasplugging post a couple of years ago,  I ran this picture from the Peanuts Christmas TV special.  It’s the Christmas special (along with It’s a Wonderful Life) that I try to watch each year.  Peanuts creator Charles Schulz really understood the human condition and I love the way it’s embodied in  A Charlie Brown Christmas.  For an inside look at how he worked with his collaborators to create this classic, check out this great article that ran a few weeks ago in the Washington Post.  It’s a really cool story about how some creative people with a vision came up with something that has touched the lives of millions and endured through the years.

Whatever your tradition is, I hope you get some time over the next few days to enjoy friends and family and to reflect on what you’ve given and received this year.  I’ll be back a day or two next week with some ideas on how to use a model I call the Life GPS that will help you hit the ground running in 2011. I hope you’ll join me back here then.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear in your comments on what you’re thinking about or feeling this week as 2010 comes to a close.

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2010-calendar Looking for a lot of leadership perspective without a lot of looking? Check out DDI’s list of the Top 20 Leadership Blog Posts of 2010. Compiled by Dan McCarthy, author of the widely read Great Leadership blog, the list includes my take on the leadership lessons we can learn from how the Chilean miners organized themselves in the weeks they were trapped underground. In my humble opinion, that was the best example of leadership we saw all year. A close second was the rescue effort organized by Chilean president Sebastian Pinera. Which I recapped in this post the day after all the miners were hoisted to safety.

Next week begins my annual partial unplugging from this blog. I may write a bit over the next two weeks but not as much as usual. Thanks for all of the engagement this year everyone. It’s been fun. Happy holidays to you and yours.

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Leadership Lessons from Yoga

by Scott Eblin on December 15, 2010 3:30pm

in The Next Level

Yoga1 If you’d wandered into one of my group coaching sessions after lunch yesterday, you would have seen 16 people stretching their hands toward the ceiling, taking three deep breaths in and out through their noses and bending from their waists and letting their heads hang loose for a minute or so.  It just felt like the thing to do.  We’d done a lot of brain work in the morning, had an in-depth discussion with a senior exec over lunch and were getting ready for more coaching and brain work in the afternoon.  It was literally and figuratively a time to stretch some different muscles and take a deep breath to clear our heads. The group had a good time with it and one leader said one of his takeaways for the day was that he was going to introduce stretching into his team meetings.

The idea to call a stretch and breathing break came to me because I’ve been a regular at yoga class three or four times a week for the past three months. I don’t want to bore you with the details or preach with the passion of the converted, but it’s been a great all around experience. I’ve been a runner all my life and never thought I’d find any physical activity that I enjoyed more than that. It’s been pretty amazing, though, to see what happens when you spend 90 minutes stretching, sweating and twisting in a 95 degree room with a bunch of other people on a regular basis. (It’s not as extreme as it might sound.)

Since my compulsion is to look at most things from a leadership angle, here are a few lessons I’ve learned so far from the practice of yoga that seem to apply to the practice of leadership.

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One of the common things that keeps managers from becoming leaders is spending too much time and attention protecting their turf. Over time, their attention gets internally focused on protecting and keeping order in their own little world … Are most managers more concerned with their toes getting stepped on or growing bigger feet?

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How to Push Back on Your Boss

by Scott Eblin on December 13, 2010 4:00pm

in The Next Level

Obama-clinton-presser Anyone who’s worked in organizations for any length of time has had the experience of being told to do something by the boss that seems like a bad idea. A recent example might be the experience of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs who looked outside his office last week to find Barack Obama and Bill Clinton asking him to unlock the press room so they could conduct an impromptu press conference on income tax reduction extensions. They got a lot of press alright but a lot of it was for Obama leaving the podium after 5 minutes and Clinton continuing for 20 more. A mixed bag of coverage at best.

Based on this behind the scenes account from the New York Times, it sounds like Gibbs had some concerns and tried to push back on his boss. You may not be in the position to have to redirect the wishes of two US presidents at the same time, but if you’re working with or for leaders who are powerful in their own right, there are inevitably going to be times when they ask you to do things that are against your better judgment. 

Here are some thoughts about how to push back on your boss when that happens:

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Musk-space This is the time of year when leaders tend to look back on the past 12 months and ask, “How’s it gone this year?”  If you’re Elon Musk, you’ll probably need a little more time to answer than the average leader to answer that question. In case you haven’t heard of Elon Musk, he’s a cofounder of PayPal, the CEO of Tesla Motors and the CEO of SpaceX.  From what I’ve read lately, Musk has had a pretty good year.

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Meritbadges Last week, while teaching at Georgetown’s leadership coaching program,  I was reminded of something that shaped me as a kid and a leader that I haven’t thought of in a long time.  In a segment where the students share their favorite coaching tools, Graham Segroves from the Leadership Education and Development department of the CIA, acknowledged a resource that was helping him with his newly adopted physical activity of cycling (one of the requirements of the Georgetown program is that the students take on some sort of physical activity that’s new to them). Graham’s tool for learning about cycling? The Boy Scout requirements booklet for the Cycling merit badge.

Graham explained that as a kid he had been a Scout  and that all of the merit badge booklets have the same format.  (Graham was an Eagle Scout as it turns out.  Me too.  You need to earn 21 merit badges for Eagle so you learn the drill over the years.)  They start out with teaching you the basics of the subject and require you to demonstrate proficiency around those basics.  In the case of cycling for instance, you have to show that you can identify the basic parts of the bike, can do basic maintenance and that you know the safety rules and hand traffic signals.  As the requirements build, you have to plan and go on increasingly long bike rides culminating in a 50 miler.  All of this is accomplished with the guidance of a qualified merit badge counselor.  (If you want to see the requirements for other merit badges, they’re all listed on this web site.) 

It was fun to be reminded of the methodical and sequential approach that the Scouts have for the merit badge process.  If you think about it, the whole process of starting with learning the basics of any discipline and methodically working your way up to some level of mastery makes sense for undertakings far beyond Scout merit badges.  It led me to consider, “If there were a merit badge for organizational leadership, what would the requirements be?”

Here’s a really rough cut at the first draft of the requirements for the Organizational Leadership merit badge.  No pride of authorship here.  Would really appreciate your suggestions.  Let’s have some fun with this.

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Inc-work-2011 Winning Workplaces is collaborating with Inc. to recognize “Top Small Company Workplaces” that have built corporate cultures that foster a productive work environment and satisfied employees. The winners will be featured in the June 2011 issue of Inc. Magazine, the premier publication for entrepreneurs and business owners. In addition winners will be featured on Inc.’s and Winning Workplaces’ websites and will gain additional exposure through a nationally distributed press release.

To see if your company qualifies for the award please visit: https://tsw.winningworkplaces.org/

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Every so often, The New York Times will run a long feature on the CEO of a large business.  I love those articles because they’re great opportunities for data mining on leadership.  One of my favorites was one they ran a few years ago on Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer.  This weekend, they ran a feature on Ballmer’s early days colleague from Proctor and Gamble, General Electric CEO, Jeff Immelt.

Immelt The article, “G.E. Goes With What It Knows: Making Stuff,” centers on how Immelt is leading the company away from financial services and “soft services” like broadcasting and back to its historical roots of technology driven manufacturing. There’s a lot to learn from the article about how Immelt is doing that, but one quote from him in particular stood out for me:

Any executive who wants to change things, he says, should be guided by “a point of view about what’s going on in the world, and you invest around that point of view.” 

It sounds like Immelt may have been one of the star pupils of Noel Tichy (who was quoted in the article) and others who ran G.E.’s Crotonville leadership center back in the 1980’s and 1990’s when Immelt was on his way up.  As Tichy argues in his book, Leadership Engine, effective leaders have a teachable point of view that they share as a platform for action.

For Immelt, a big component of his teachable point of view has been G.E.’s ecomagination campaign to promote energy efficient products.  Seeing that clean energy was going to be a growth market, Immelt launched ecomagination in 2005.  The campaign was seen as a gimmick when it started and internal surveys found that employees weren’t really buying it.  Immelt stuck with it and today, G.E. sells $20 billion a year in products that qualify for the ecomagination label.

Clearly, Immelt having a point of view mattered for G.E.  If you’re a leader, how do you develop, share and lead change with a point of view? Here are some thoughts based on the Immelt article, Noel Tichy’s work and my own observations in coaching leaders:

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