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Leadership Lessons Ripped from the Headlines

Through his work as an executive coach, leadership strategist, speaker and author, Scott Eblin has become known as a thought leader in identifying the behaviors that executives need to pick up and let go as they transition into new and larger roles. President of the leadership development and strategy firm The Eblin Group Inc., Scott is a former Fortune 500 executive, with a coaching client list that runs the gamut from Astra Zeneca to the U.S. Navy. He is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success which Business Book Review calls a “fascinating read” that “is full of potentially career-saving advice.”

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Crossedfingers As I wrote in a post, Leadership Lessons from Yoga, a few weeks ago, I’ve been a regular at my local studio since last October. On January 2, I realized that if I wanted to get a space for my mat in class, I needed to get there earlier.  The studio was packed to the walls.  It stayed that way for every class until a couple of days ago when things started thinning out.  Last night, January 13, there was plenty of room.

My guess is that there’s an algorithm  that correlates the extra space at yoga with the annual new year’s resolution attrition rate. 

Recently, I spoke about leadership to a group of newly promoted senior managers. Like just about every other leadership group I speak to everyone in the room agreed that one of their biggest challenges is getting any work done other than going to meetings. One fellow diplomatically noted that his company’s culture is very collaborative and, as such, the tendency is to invite lots of people to meetings so they all have a chance to provide input.  With such large invitation lists, it frequently happens that a lot of people don’t even know why they’re in the meeting.

Faremeter This manager had an interesting idea when he said, “I wish there were a meter running so people could see what the total cost of the meeting is in the salaries that are represented in the room.”  That got me thinking about how you might implement a system to make sure that the time managers and executives spend in meetings actually adds value. 

I think I’ve come up with something that could work.  Every manager gets an annual meeting budget.  It would work like this.  

Leaders, Your Words Matter

by on January 10, 2011 9:30am
in The Next Level

In response to the horrific wounding of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others and the killing in Arizona this weekend of a nine year old girl, a Federal judge, a Congressional staffer and three citizens who came to the local shopping plaza to talk with their member of Congress, President Obama has asked for a national moment of silence at 11:00 am on January 10.  Let’s use that moment of silence to remember the dead and wounded, but let’s also use it as a pause to consider the impact of what we say and how we say it.

Last month, I was interviewed by Kristi Hedges, executive coach and columnist for WomenEntrepeneur.com, on how women leading their own businesses can develop themselves for next level performance.  The article came out this week and Kristi did a great job putting it together.  It's a perfect time of year for it as lots of folks are still mapping out their development game plan for 2011.

A lot of what we talked about applies to leaders in other organizations or who happen to be men.  Here are the first couple of questions to give you a flavor of what we covered:

How does next-level leadership apply to women entrepreneurs?

Leading a business, like life, is an ongoing series of transitions. With just about any transition, there are different results that are expected. If you need different results, you likely will have to do some things differently. There are things that have worked for you in the past that you'll need to keep doing, but there are also new behaviors and mind-sets that you'll have to pick up, and others that you'll need to let go of to lead and succeed at the next level.

What are some typical habits you have seen that entrepreneurs need to let go of?

The lowest-rated behavior in our research on leaders is the skill of pacing oneself by building in regular breaks from work. That can be a particular challenge for entrepreneurs who are trying to do it all. The entrepreneurial mind-set is often that of the "go to" person. You've gotten where you are because you get stuff done. You're the closer. It's all too easy to get sucked into that mind-set and lose your perspective.

The interview continues with some easy, low cost or no cost steps you can take to raise your game this year.  Check it out at this link.

And, if you're working on your roadmap for this year, be sure to join me on January 13 for a conversation on "Charting Your Course in 2011 with a Life GPS®."

Hopefully, I’m catching you with this post at a time when you still have a bit of that post-holiday season reflective, what am I trying to do with my life thing going on.  My research with leaders shows that increasingly many have very little time to think about what’s most important and what they’re really trying to accomplish.

Before you get too deep into the mode of running flat out, here’s a question that might be worth considering.  What’s your vocation?  By vocation, I don’t mean your job or your career.  I’m going back to the Latin root of the word, vocare, which means “to call.”  Years ago, the American writer Frederick Buechner summed up the idea of vocation pretty well when he wrote, "Where our deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet, we hear a further call."

In an interview with PBS, Buechner explained what he meant by that:

Kingspeech1 There are a lot of great things about the holidays. One is that email traffic slows to a trickle. Another is taking in some of the new movies that are released at the end of the year. My viewing card this season included a Jeff Bridges double feature, Tron (visually compelling and fun) and True Grit (fantastic script, acting and cinematography.  See it even if you don’t like Westerns.  It’s more than that.)  Also saw the focus of this post, The King’s Speech, with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter. 

You probably know the back story of the film. In the England of the late 1930’s, Prince Albert has to become King when his older brother decides he’d rather marry Wallis Simpson than be King of England. The problem for Albert (or as his family calls him, Bertie) is that he has a severe stammer when he speaks in public. The rise of Hitler in Germany and the growing importance of communicating well over radio has Bertie at his wit’s end. Enter speech therapist Lionel Logue who, to say the least, is unconventional in his approach and demeanor. To put it bluntly, Lionel doesn’t do the whole sucking up to power thing. (For a terrific synopsis of the entire story and film, see this article  by Stephen Holden of the New York Times and, for a taste of the dialogue between Bertie and Lionel, this script excerpt which also ran in the Times.)

It’s probably every leadership coach’s fantasy to coach a world leader during momentous times.  Based on all of the posts, tweets and notes I’ve seen from coaches on The King’s Speech, I feel pretty safe in that assessment. In any case, there’s a lot that coaches can learn from watching the way that Lionel works with Bertie. And, even if you don’t think of yourself as a coach, there are some good lessons for anyone who has to influence someone with more formal power and authority. If you haven’t seen the movie, I hope you will and that my write up on some of the things I noticed will serve as a viewer’s guide. If you have seen the movie, I’m sure you have your own points you want to make so feel free to add them in the Comments.

Herewith, the coach’s viewers guide to The King’s Speech:

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.

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.

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.

Leadership Lessons from Yoga

by 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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