Grass Roots! Let’s Make It Happen!

American democracy is under assault. The perpetrator? Toxic divisiveness. I’m not taking political sides here. There are various elements of the political spectrum that have discovered the power of misusing EQ. They use empathy skills to figure out what will frighten people. Then they play on those fears for personal or political gain without regard to the long-term damage that is done. “A country divided against itself cannot stand.” Research done by a Columbia University psychologist found that: 86% of Americans are sick to death of these tactics. But there is no organized voice for them. Outrage is addictive. It lights up the same parts of the pleasure center of the brain as does heroin. Many people seek out their daily fix. In my community of Roanoke, Virginia, some of us have formed a group which seeks to give voice to the 86%. We call ourselves The Roanoke Collaboration Project.…

Scrooge

The Spirit of Getting it Right

That unseasonal cold snap we in the Eastern US endured last week, with nearly a foot of snow for some people, made it feel more like Christmas than Easter. In that spirit, I thought I’d share one of my Blue Ridge Business Journal articles, the one that always puts me in mind of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, (even though it has only one spirit, not three). It goes like this: Ken was unhappy. His staff was angry with him. Excited about finishing a project, they had asked to work overtime. Ken would have approved the request, but his boss had emphatically told him to rein in expenses. So Ken denied the request. (Scrooge!) With the staff angry, he knew from experience that their productivity would be lousy until this cloud passed over. Every time there was an upset, it showed itself in performance. Ken sat in his office at the…

What the New Boss Did

My client (let’s call him Tom) and I had been working together for about 18 months when he was asked to take over the leadership of a department numbering about 800 associates. This department had earned a reputation as being “the place where they send projects to die.” As a result, the previous leader had been fired, and Tom was asked to take over. When Tom met with the Senior Leadership “Team” (N = 7) of his new department, he was not received with open arms. Right or wrong, these seven people had loved their previous boss, and were worried about what the “new broom” might have in mind. Their track record gave them good reason to worry. Fortunately, as you will see, rather than losing their jobs, the seven enjoyed success that, initially, they couldn’t see coming. Tom found the seven members of the group (while they were called…

Looking Up at The Illusion of Power

Bottom line: Your coaching clients tend to over-estimate the power of their superiors. Now the details. And why it matters. Think about the comments your coaching clients make about their bosses or their CEOs. My guess is that the ratio of complaints to positives is high. In other words, your clients are more likely to talk about their bosses’ failures than what their bosses have done well. You are likely to hear comments that begin: “If I were in that job, I would . . .” But if they ever do get in that job, they are likely to bump into constraints on power that are not always evident to others. We see this most dramatically with the President of the United States (POTUS). Candidates for that office are full of statements that begin, “And when I am President, I promise that I’ll . . .” George Bush (the first)…

Thought Experiment: Imagine that you are . . .

Thought experiment: Imagine that you are Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s (yes, there are two y’s at the end of his name) executive coach.  How might you approach this assignment? What are the issues that you would have to think through? What emotions might you experience? And finally, how might your thinking about this assignment inform the way you approach your real-life coaching assignments? For myself, I’d first have to get past the awe I have for Zelenskyy’s courage and accomplishments to date, even before the invasion. Being in awe of our clients rarely serves them well. Emotional Self-Awareness with regard to what we feel for our clients is essential. If we’re not tuned into those emotions, unhelpful ones could lead us astray. My own conceptualization of the problem goes this way: President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people seem to have experienced an initial galvanizing adrenalin rush in responding to being…

Coaching for Resilience

Thanks to COVID, pretty much every organization a coach visits these days has more stress than it did two years ago. Want data? The demand for mental health services is at an all time high. People are acting out their fear and anger in unsocialized ways, including more violence, parents yelling at school boards, political hysteria, alienation based on COVID attitudes, increased traffic accidents, you name it. It is a rising tide floating all boats into treacherous waters. The impact on organizations has been immense, with leaders having to face near impossible questions. “Will we be able to stay in business?” “Should we work at the office or at home?” “When should we go back to the office?” “What policies should we have about vaccinations? Masks? Social distancing?” “Should we fire employees who won’t get vaccinated?” “Do we really have to reconstruct our entire ventilation system?” While case counts are…