September 12, 2014 / Coaching Skills / Influencing Skills

“Can you help him have executive presence?”

execpreseAs coaches, we receive this request frequently.  And most often, when we ask our clients to describe what they mean, it’s clear that executive presence is one of the least defined leadership qualities.  We know what it looks like in action, but it can be hard to describe and the definition of executive presence can shift a bit from company to company, depending on the culture.  Yet, executive presence is a critical quality for successful leadership in any company.

In a previous post, we mentioned the importance of observing other leaders who are advancing and attempting to define what sets them apart from their accomplishments.  As a place to start, this helps put your company’s leader profile into focus, and from there you can begin to deduce the intangible leadership traits and behaviors that will make you more effective and fast track your success.  Likely, your observations will fall into one of these categories:

  • Confidence:  Confidence can be communicated via body language or the way you talk.  But it’s also about sharing your point of view, regardless of the audience.
  • Courage:  Leaders who have courage stand up for what they believe in, and take a well-measured risk to initiate and drive change.
  • Credibility:  Credibility is living up to commitments and walking the talk. It’s also about appearance and “looking the part.” (see leader profile comment above).
  • Connection:  Effective leaders achieve results through the strength of their relationships up, down and across the organization. By actively listening to their colleagues, they let them know they care and are supportive of their peers and direct reports.  Emotional intelligence plays a role in establishing connection with others, as does empathy.
  • Clarity/Crispness:   The ability to communicate complex information so it is easily understood by others is an important leadership quality.  Crispness is also about getting to the point quickly and avoiding unnecessary details unless asked.
  • Calmness:  During a crisis, who would you likely follow:  an even-keeled leader or one who emits panic and stress?  Calmness when in the midst of a storm communicates trust.

Try defining your company’s leader profile and then on a scale of 1 (low competence) – 7 (high competence) assess yourself in each category.  Then, create a plan.

What actions do you need to take to increase your Executive Presence?

September 4, 2014 / Coaching Skills

How to Exert Power With Integrity

Like it or not, workplace politics are a part of executive life.  Politics are about power and influence, and using either to get things done.  Some politics can be useful, if for example, the end result benefits the organization.  But other times, power and influence can be used to serve personal agendas, often at the expense of others, or even the organization itself.   So how to exert power with integrity?

Power can be broken down into two levers: power of ideas and power in a person.  A politically savvy executive knows when to use either.

“Power of Ideas” is the least political approach to getting what you want and is characterized by these qualities:

  • Prefers power through substance over use of position:  Demonstrates a passion for and focus on ideas and results.
  • Values feedback and learning:  Genuinely seeks feedback, and doesn’t punish the mistakes of others.
  • Does the right thing:  Models integrity, has an unwavering moral compass, and puts the team and company before self-interest.
  • Makes agendas known:  Agendas are known to others.  Trusts in the good faith of others.
  • Believes in meritocracy-based decisions:  Good work will be rewarded.  Promotes others for work reasons vs. friendship.
  • Lets results and ideas speak for themselves:  Does not hard-sell strengths.  Keeps head down.  Acts with humility.

In contrast, flexing the “Power of Person” is a more political approach:

  • Prefers to use positional power over substance:  Actively studies who is powerful, aligns with those people and uses position power for good.
  • Focuses on image and perception:  Aware of others’ perceptions and strategizes to improve his or her reputation.  Excels at “presenting and packaging”, selling the self.
  • Does what works:  Pursues what is possible with a can-do spirit, compromises as needed and can work the system.
  • Keeps agendas private:  Has strategic, prudent agendas and exerts verbal discipline and caution.
  • Believes in relationship-based decisions:  Stresses loyalty and strong alliances.
  • Self-promotes:  Boldly sells ideas and self, and confidently shares strengths.

Both of these approaches to workplace politics can be effective.  The trick is being conscious of the entire political landscape and deciding when it would be more beneficial to use “Power of Ideas” or “Power of Person” for career success.

Want to know more about office politics?  We recommend:

Survival of the Saavy:  High Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success by Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D.

In what scenarios do you flex Power of Ideas or Power of Person?

Comment below! Or pose a question via Ask Mariposa.



September 4th, 2014|Categories: Coaching Skills|
August 26, 2014 / Blog / Coaching Skills / Stress / Work-Life Integration

Five Tips for Setting Boundaries in the Always-on Workplace

I recently attended a panel event on the topic “Lines in the Sand: Setting Boundaries in Today’s Global, Always-On Workplace.” It seems pretty obvious that being “on” and accessible at all hours of the day, on weekends and even during vacations is not a recipe for success – individually or for organizations. People need time to disconnect and recharge in order to be at their most creative and productive when they are working. (Not to mention in order to be a pleasant parent, partner, friend, etc.) But sadly, many organizations constantly push boundaries. It is up to individuals and leaders to keep defining, communicating and demonstrating effective boundary-setting to ensure healthy, productive, engaging work environments.

Here are several great tips from the event:

Establish agreements
Openly establish agreements and boundaries with co-workers. Figure out what works for you and the team and stick with it unless there are extreme circumstances. For example, set a regular start and end time to your day in the office and a time that you might usually scan email later in the evening or first thing in the morning. Or perhaps you will take calls while commuting. Have a clear understanding about how and when you will cover for each other when someone needs to be out of the office during the day, for vacations, etc. Discuss boundaries around weekends. Define “emergencies.”  Teamwork and transparent communication are key.

Boundaries outside of work are important too. Agreements around device-free time, children’s bedtimes, gym time, sleep-in days, etc., can go a long way to enabling regular downtime.

Get clear on what’s important
Get clear on what is important to you outside of work; otherwise it is easy to let work creep into too much of your personal time – robbing you of your work effectiveness and of having a joyful life! For example, many people say that family is important – but get really clear and specific about what is important. Is it important to have dinner together every night? To read bedtime stories? To attend events together? To have family-focused weekends? Clarity and inspiration will make it easier to set and keep boundaries.

Also get clear on what is important at work. Many times boundaries are crossed due to false crises. Don’t create them and don’t overreact when others create them. Often good listening, a few calm questions and quick brainstorming of options can reduce anxiety and panic and allow for a more reasonable approach to an issue that doesn’t have to include it being taken care of tonight. Granted, there are times when crises are real and extra time is needed, but those don’t have to be the norm.

Use technology to your advantage
Leverage technology – especially your calendar. Indicate working hours and/or block out times when you are not available for meetings, including appropriate morning and evening hours. Use auto-reply if you will be unavailable to respond for a longer-than-usual amount of time, e.g. – you are in an all-day meeting. Our love/hate relationship with our addictive mobile devices requires some care too. These things which keep us “on” are also very capable of helping us be “off” by auto-replying to texts if we are driving, in a meeting, sleeping, etc., or by alerting us when a specific person contacts us. (Many apps available.) You can also establish no-device zones or times, e.g. at the dinner table, in the bedroom, on Saturdays.

Be brave – yes is not the only answer
Saying no to a direct request of your time is not easy, especially when the request comes from your boss or an important client. But oftentimes an over-eagerness-to-please can cause you to say yes when you are making an unneeded sacrifice. Always giving an unequivocal yes and/or being overly flexible can set up bad behaviors and expectations from that boss or client. Take a pause and a breath before immediately answering yes. Ask questions to clarify needs and timing – it’s okay to offer alternatives while making sure needs are met.

Remember you have a choice
It can be easy to get overwhelmed with the “always-on” nature of the workplace today and to slip into a victim mentality about it.  But you always have a choice. Focus on what you can control and do your best to maintain healthy boundaries. If your boss or organization has a very different philosophy or culture about boundaries, then it may be time for a new role or organization. You deserve to be thriving, not just surviving.

Let us know your best tips for thriving in today’s always-on workplace. What works for you?

July 3, 2014 / Coaching Skills

The Art of Receiving Feedback

Recently I wrote about the importance of giving feedback to your direct reports and others—openly, candidly and in a way that’s actionable for them. I think 50% of the feedback equation rests on the side of managers, who have to be willing and skilled in giving it.  Today I want to share a few tips on the other 50% of the equation: how to ask for and receive feedback.  How you receive feedback helps set the tone for your whole team.

  • Ask for feedback more than once a year
  • Listen to the feedback with everything you’ve got
  • Clarify the feedback
  • Say thank you

To read more, visit the Sierra Leadership blog.


About the Author:

Eric Nitzberg, M.T.S., is the Principal of Sierra Leadership and an Executive Leadership Coach at Mariposa Leadership, Inc. Visit his blog.

May 30, 2014 / Coaching Skills

Saving Your Job

Sometimes I coach leaders who are afraid they are at risk of being fired.  They may have good evidence to support this. For example, they may have just been transferred to a different department or moved to a more junior position; or they may have gotten direct feedback from their boss, HR, or others that there is a problem with their performance.  They may also just “Have a feeling.”  If this sounds like you, here are a few tips:

  1. Find out what your most important stakeholders want you to do differently.
  2. Write down your goals for change.
  3. Do your very best to work on the areas your stakeholders care about.
  4. Look for other ways to shift perception.
  5. Stay positive and take care of yourself.

To read more on these tips, visit the Sierra Leadership blog.


About the Author:

Eric Nitzberg, M.T.S., is the Principal of Sierra Leadership and an Executive Leadership Coach at Mariposa Leadership, Inc.  Visit his blog.

March 27, 2014 / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Leadership

Ask Mariposa | Overworked and Undervalued

Erica asks: I am currently performing job duties that are a step up from my job classification and working roughly 50 hours overtime!  Internal hiring for this advanced position has been delayed for 6 months.  Since I am already doing the work for this position and getting paid at a lower classification, I feel as if I am being taken advantage of.  I want to approach management about this, but not sure how.  What do you suggest I do?

Tawny Lees, COO of Mariposa, responds:

Hi Erica,

Thanks for your question – it’s a good one! And not uncommon. I strongly suggest you talk to your manager about the situation and work together to identify a solution. Here are some specifics for preparing for and handling the conversation:

  • Get really clear about your intended outcomes before having any conversations with management. Do you want to be considered for the higher position? Are you okay with the temporary workload if you are paid appropriately? Do you not want to perform these extra job duties at all?
  • Once you are clear on your intended outcomes, brainstorm (by yourself) some ideas about how you and your manager can meet your needs and the business needs. Promote you and then back-fill your position? Hire a contractor for 6 months? Share the workload with a few other people? Cut back on some specific deliverables for 6 months?
  • Reach out to your manager and ask for a meeting to work together on a plan for handling business needs while the team is lacking a person in the position.
  • Stay positive, constructive and solution-oriented while being firm about what you are and are not willing to do.

I’m sure you are tired from all the work, so my final suggestion would be to get some rest and downtime before you do this thinking and before you have this conversation. You will be much better able to think clearly and manage your emotions.

Good luck!

February 18, 2014 / Coaching Skills / Leadership

The Introvert CEO

Michael asks: I was just named CEO of a small software startup company. I have a fairly introverted personality and realize this new role will require me to move more out of my comfort zone. Any tips?

Therese Tong, PCC, Executive Leadership Coach, responds:


Let’s start with a few assumptions around how your introversion might be showing up:

  • Telling yourself you cannot handle certain situations or leadership roles as well as an extrovert
  • Wanting to say something but not finding the words in the moment
  • Feeling that you need to be more at ease with all the networking and external conversations that come with being CEO

Reasons For and Motivation
Remember the reasons that motivated you to take this role. To make a bigger impact in the company’s success? In the industry? In people’s lives? Every time you catch yourself hesitating or worrying about stepping ‘out of my comfort zone’ – shift your thinking from ‘my comfort zone’ to these motivations and to the ‘others’ involved. See your desired outcome and take the step.

What you are doing here is observing your interpretation

[thinking, head] about an action, retraining your mind to focus differently and also getting in touch with the motivation [feeling, heart] that propels action [will, body].

Use the Gifts of Introverts
As an introvert, you have insight and have thought through issues with clarity and depth. Perhaps you are not as gregarious as the extrovert in selling your idea but you care about others and have great support with close friends and colleagues. From this foundation of insight and care, give voice to your thoughts and what you believe can happen. You can also use your gift of curiosity – when struggling for something to say in a social situation, just get curious and ask a question.

Return to Now
In a room full of too many people – imagine yourself talking to one person in the room, feel the connection you have with this one person; gently and slowly include two, three, four … other people in your dialogue. If you notice any discomfort or anxiety arising, take a deep breath, wiggle your toes. Return to the here and now – your body and the one person you want to share this idea with. Returning to the sense you have in your body, for example, your breath or wiggling your toes can be practiced anytime, especially when stepping out of your comfort zone.

Set Expectations and Allow Quiet Time
As CEO you will have a schedule full of conversations, big and small. For your sanity, you will need to protect adequate quiet time to decompress and reflect. Be clear with your administrative assistant, your direct reports and/or family at home that you must carve out alone time in order to thrive.

Give the above a try and let us know how it has helped you be more courageous to step into some different actions.

October 15, 2013 / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management

Two Cool Ways the Skill of Reframing Benefits Leadership Team Development

Great leaders help others come up with their own solutions to problems through strategic questioning and listening techniques.  This is the hallmark of In-The-Moment (ITM) Coaching, and the best tool leaders can use for leadership team development.

The final step of ITM Coaching is Reframe, and learning how to reframe in a coaching conversation is a mutually beneficial process. Here are two cool ways reframing develops your direct report – and you as a coach:

  • Reframing both empowers your direct report and establishes accountability.  In Assess, you arrived at an understanding of the most important problem that needs to be solved right away.  Now, the questions you ask will help your direct report arrive at his/her own plan of action.  In doing so, you empower him/her to take the steps necessary while gaining his/her commitment to specific actions.
  • To successfully reframe, leaders need to be self-aware.  Are you present or distracted?  Do you understand the problem to be solved or are you pushing the conversation towards a solution too quickly?  In the role of coach – and in other roles leaders play – understanding the drivers of your own behavior helps to prevent derailing the conversation.  Self-awareness is an essential leadership skill.

The goal of ITM Coaching is to help others generate solutions for their own issues and Reframe is the step where the rubber meets the road.  For tips to help you master Reframe and other how-to’s on ITM Coaching, download the free Executive Guide to In-The-Moment Coaching.

October 15th, 2013|Categories: Coaching Skills, HR / Talent Management|
September 5, 2013 / Coaching Skills

Learn the Skills of “Assess” for Effective Leadership Team Development

Developing your leadership team is best done through effective and frequent coaching. We recently shared two ways rapport benefits leadership team development through coaching.  And establishing rapport is the critical first step in our In-The-Moment Coaching model.   So what happens next?

Understand the problem that needs solving.  This occurs in the “Assess” step in our In-The-Moment (ITM) Coaching model.  Here are three reasons leaders who learn the skills of Assess are highly effective at leadership team development through ITM Coaching.

  • They understand they aren’t on point to solve the problem.  Assess is exploring another person’s perspective on a situation in order to understand the current frame and uncovering the most important problem that needs solving right now.  Once it’s uncovered, the leader’s job is to help him/her arrive at a solution to address it.  This is “teaching others to fish,” which boosts the level of motivation, accountability, and engagement in taking action.
  • They open up thinking with strategic questions.  The key to successfully assess is through the use of open-ended questions.  Leaders who allow open-ended questions to emerge from a place of curiosity rather than a defined set of questions receive more information that helps them set the problem.
  • They pick up on nuances by staying present.  In Assess, the leader’s job is not only to ask questions and listen, but to notice how the situation is being described, the other person’s reaction to it and motivations.   Specifically, they are listening for specific word usage that implies constraints on thinking and views on others.  By staying present in the conversation, leaders are able to pick up on these cues, ask the right questions and quickly set the most important problem that needs solving.

Successful leadership team development through ITM Coaching relies on learning how to stay in Assess versus solving others’ problems for them. For more tips to help you do this and other how-to’s on ITM Coaching, download the free Executive Guide to In-The-Moment Coaching.

August 30, 2013 / Coaching Skills

Two Ways Rapport Benefits Leadership Team Development

Want to get more from your leadership team? Then coaching effectively and often, especially with our In-The-Moment Coaching model, is an indispensable skill for you. Establishing rapport is a critical component to building relationships with others and it is a prerequisite for a successful coaching conversation.

Here are two ways rapport benefits coaching and thus leadership team development:

  • It creates trust and safetyRapport connects through “sameness” in language, tone and behavior, thus calming the mind.  Match your body language, voice quality, words and sense of urgency with that of another to establish this “sameness.” Strong differences in behaviors and speech can elicit a fight, flight or freeze response – not what you are looking for.  Instead, matching cultivates trust and safety so the mind is primed to explore ideas and solutions.
  • It requires your presence.  You have no shortage of distractions:  text messages, emails, people queuing up at your desk.  To further cultivate trust and safety, you must clear those distractions – such as silencing/closing your device or moving to a non-distracting locationin order to be fully present in the conversation.  Once established, maintain rapport in coaching (or any) conversations to maintain trust and safety, allowing the mind of your team member to open up to new possibilities.

Rapport is the critical first step you must master in a leadership team development skill like coaching.  For further tips on establishing rapport and other how-to’s on In-The-Moment Coaching, download the free Executive Guide to In-The-Moment Coaching

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