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April 3, 2013 / Blog / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

The #1 Leadership Communication Mistake

I have come to the conclusion that there is one pretty universal communication mistake that is the most damaging and causes the most mischief for leaders.

Are you ready?  The mistake is:  not preparing well.  Yes, I know this is not very sexy, but it is incredibly ubiquitos.  People just don’t think about preparing in advance for a crucial conversation, and they typically don’t invest nearly enough time in preparing for a high-stakes presentation or Q & A session.

Think about it this way:  there are probably 5%, maybe 10% at the most, of your communications that are truly extremely important.  Situations where careers, or very large amounts of money are at stake.  My most frequent and important advice is, invest the time to prepare properly for these moments.  The more important the communication, the more time you should invest preparing for it.  More specifically:

  1. For a 1-1 meeting, decide what you will say in advance; and role play the conversation with a skilled communicator whom you trust.  Do the role play as if you were having the actual conversation–don’t just talk about what you plan to say.  Do it fully in role.  Then have them give you feedback, and role play it again.  Practice until you’ve got it down.  It will make for a better outcome, and will also greatly enhance your confidence level going into the conversation, because you have already done it!
  2. For an important Q & A session, write down the questions that you are mostly likely to be asked, and also the questions you most fear.  Then map out your answers, and practice them out loud, again with someone who can give you feedback.  Practice the same question and answer several times, until you really nail it, then move to the next question.  When you have them all, then practice answering a series of questions.
  3. For a presentation, deliver the whole presentation several times, also out loud.  Practicing it in your head is not the same as practicing it aloud, because you are not rehearsing the actual behavior you are preparing for.  And again, if possible, have someone in the room who can give you candid feedback.

About the author:

Eric Nitzberg, is the Principal of Sierra Leadership and an Executive Leadership Coach for Mariposa Leadership, Inc. Want to read more from Eric?  Visit his blog.

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January 17, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: Introvert vs. Extrovert

Ask Mariposa

Carrie asked:

My CEO is a major introvert; I’m a strong extrovert. I thought we could manage these differences but it’s becoming a wedge between us. What do you recommend?

Sue Bethanis, CEO responded:

Great question, Carrie. Here are a few points to consider:

· Typically, introverts need time to reflect. Whether you’re online, in person, in a meeting, or in a group, all parties should create a space for reflection; even if it’s just a 30 seconds for you and him/her to gather one’s thoughts.

· It’s really important that you pace your CEO. In terms of how you speak to him/her — how fast or slow, loud or soft -– matching their pace makes a big difference in terms of meeting them where they’re at. You may want to slow down or speed up but it’s important to think about matching.

· Another thing to note is that it’s really important to have a “process conversation” with your boss and find the best way to communicate with each other. When should you email each other? When is meeting better?

· Susan Cain is an author and speaker and a great resource for how to find the balance between introverts and extroverts. Here’s an inspiring TED talk from her I hope you will enjoy: http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

We welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

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December 18, 2012 / Articles We Like / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills / Recommended Reading

Ask Mariposa: Need Resources to Become a Better Leader?

Jude asked:

What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?

Eric Nitzberg, M.T.S., Senior Leadership Consultant responded:

I would recommend starting with your coworkers, and even friends and family members. The best leaders frequently ask for feedback from the people around them about how how they can become more effective. People who work with you have opinions about your strengths and development areas as a leader, but most won’t share those with you unless you ask them. Also, you have to ask repeatedly over time, and thank them for their feedback, even if you don’t agree with it. That way you will develop an environment where it’s safe to ask for and give feedback.

As for more formal resources, some of my favorites are The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner, Your Brain at Work by David Rock, and anything on Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. I also love the Harvard Business Review.

Share your thoughts on this response in the comments section below, and ask us anything here: http://blog.mariposaleadership.com/ask-mariposa/

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December 11, 2012 / Articles We Like / Ask Mariposa / Blog / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: Book Recommendations for Visionary Leaders

Ask Mariposa
Travis asked:

Can you recommend a book that describes what leaders do to make themselves visionary leaders, inspiring and enrolling others into a clear and compelling vision of the future?

Great question! Several of the Mariposa executive coaches wanted to offer recommendations.

Mariposa CEO, Sue Bethanis, Ed.D. says:
Good to Great by Jim Collins is probably the one that will hit closest to what you’re asking for. The Design of Business by Roger Martin is an alternative perspective. I would suggest you listen to the conversation I had with Roger on Wise Talk in May. Go to the Mariposa Wise Talk page and scroll down to 5/4/12.

Senior Leadership Coach, Ruben Perczek, Ph.D. suggests:
1. The Leadership Code by The RBL Group
2. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
3. The HBR article “Moments of Greatness” by Robert Quinn
4. The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone and Benjamin Zander

Senior Leadership Coach, Dave Kashen, M.B.A. says:
I liked The Three Laws of Performance.

Both Senior Leadership Coaches, Eric Nitzberg, M.T.S. and Edie Heilman, M.B.A. suggest:
The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner.

Hope this helps!

Share your thoughts on this response in the comments section below, and ask us anything here: http://blog.mariposaleadership.com/ask-mariposa/

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December 4, 2012 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: Corporate Power Shifts

Harpreet asked:

Our company is going through a power shift where power is being transferred from the owner/founder of our company to our CEO and other top leaders. The owner’s inability to let go is creating problems – how do we start a conversation/solve this issue?

Barbara Baill, Senior Leadership Consultant responded:

This is often a challenging transition for any founder-lead organization. A lot of “the right answer” is situational. Is the founder being forced out by the board or is this a voluntary transition? Has the owner’s future role, if any, been defined?

You seem to imply that founder/owner will continue to remain involved in the company. Someone will need to start the conversation with the owner. Identify a trusted advisor or coach the CEO to take on the role of advisor himself. Let the owner describe their vision for what a successful transition looks like. The owner obviously has invested a lot into building this organization up to this point. If they will have a role after the transition is complete, it has to be clearly defined. It is important to honor their knowledge, experience and contributions, and define how they can continue to be informed and valued in their new role.

The CEO and his team will need to be patient and respectful yet clear in the communication of what the business needs are for the owner in this next phase of the company’s development. As in any difficult conversation, the CEO will need to listen and be empathetic of the founder’s perspective as well as be willing to have a compassionately honest conversation about what is critical for the business now.

Share your thoughts on this response in the comments section below, and ask us anything here: http://blog.mariposaleadership.com/ask-mariposa/

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November 20, 2012 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: Understanding the Culture of Your New Org

Will asked:

How can I help a new employee understand the culture of our organization?

Barbara Baill, Senior Leadership Consultant responded:

The first step is to be able to verbally describe the culture of the organization. We all intuitively know the culture of the organizations in which we live, but it can be challenging to articulate that knowledge and articulate how the organization demonstrates its beliefs, values, underlying assumptions, attitudes and behaviors.

Here are some questions to think about:
• What stories demonstrate the culture? Can you describe situations where individuals have gotten themselves in trouble by unintentionally violating cultural norms?
• What have successful employees done that demonstrate the company values and attitudes?
• If your company has articulated a set of values, what specifics behaviors demonstrate what those values really mean in terms of winning behaviors/successful performance?
• Where is the decision making power in the organization?
• How risk adverse/risk taking is the culture?
• Does communication flow hierarchically (formally) or democratically (informally) across, up and down the organization?
• In what ways and for what reasons do people really get recognized and rewarded?

It’s a good idea to ask multiple people for their input on describing the culture of the organization. You can also give your new employee the task of asking these questions to a list of others that you believe would be honest and open about the culture and who are also highly regarded across the organization.

Over time, continue to mentor your new employee on the cultural realities of your organization. As he or she gains experience in your organization, their contextual understanding of the cultural nuances will grow. Your coaching will help accelerate the integration of the new hire.

Share your thoughts on this response in the comments section below, and ask us anything here: http://blog.mariposaleadership.com/ask-mariposa/

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November 13, 2012 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: Advice on Entering a New Leadership Position

Zack asked:

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Anne Loehr, Senior Leadership Consultant responded:

I’d suggest using Jim Collins’ 80/20 rule, which says that the best leaders listen 80% of the time and speak 20% of the time. During that 20%, good leaders actually ask probing questions to dig deeper into the conversation.

Why is this an important skill for first-time leaders? Leaders initially were good at a technical skill. A good programmer will get promoted to lead an IT team; good sales people are asked to lead a sales team. Yet a leader’s job is very different than an individual contributor’s (IC) job. An IC’s job is to complete the task; a leader’s job is to empower their team to do their best thinking about the task, and find better ways to execute the task. To do this, leaders need to listen to their team and ask probing questions to help their employees think outside the box.

So this week, try listening more and talking less. You’ll learn a lot more about your team, and your team will be empowered to share ideas and find new solutions for the organization. That’s a win-win for all!

Share your thoughts on this response in the comments section below, and ask us anything here: http://blog.mariposaleadership.com/ask-mariposa/

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November 6, 2012 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: One Characteristic Every Leader Should Possess

Shannon asked:

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Sue Bethanis, CEO responded:

I hear this question a lot from friends, colleagues, clients; and my response is the same each time, and hasn’t changed over 20 years of being in the coaching industry. BE CLEAR! Clear communication is the single most important aspect of effective leadership. Clear in your requests, clear in your goals/vision, and clear in your expectations of others. With this clarity, followers/employees/colleagues have the perimeters they need to strategize and create products, services, and experiences.

Share your thoughts on this response in the comments section below, and ask us anything here: http://blog.mariposaleadership.com/ask-mariposa/

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October 30, 2012 / Ask Mariposa / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: Behaviors & Traits That Derail Leaders

Michelle asked:

What is the one behavior or trait that you have seen derail more leaders’ careers?

Anne Loehr, Senior Leadership Consultant responded:

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the number one predictor of a successful leader. Leaders lacking EQ will stall in their careers while those with high EQ will shoot to the top.

EQ accounts for more than twice IQ and technical skills combined as a predictor of success. Coined by Daniel Goleman, EQ is comprised of self-awareness (“Who am I? What makes me tick?”) and social-awareness (“How do I use my self-awareness to help build my team”? and “How do I self-manage my negative behaviors that may derail a team?”).

In my 20′s, I was a driven, focused, numbers only-orientated business woman. I wanted to get the job done as quickly as possible, yet my team perceived me as an abrupt and rude manager; they didn’t want to work with me anymore. I was shocked. I learned by fire that my drive for success actually hindered team growth (self-awareness). If I wanted to reduce attrition and improve team dynamics, I had to change my behavior to be more collaborative (social awareness). Over time, working with a coach, I started to increase my EQ to be a more effective leader for me tea,. That’s EQ in action!

Share your thoughts on this response in the comments section below, and ask us anything here: http://blog.mariposaleadership.com/ask-mariposa/

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October 16, 2012 / Ask Mariposa / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: An Executive Resistant to Coaching

Lance asked:

My executive is resistant to the idea of coaching. What steps can I take to change this?

Tawny Lees, COO responded:

I like the way this was asked in terms of “steps” because there is no silver bullet approach to this challenge. Executive coaching only works with a willing and ready participant, and there could be a wide variety of reasons for the resistance. You’ll need to get clear on what the resistance is about. A fear of facing tough feedback? A perspective that coaching indicates weakness? A concern that it takes too much time/energy? Try to get clarity and then put yourself in this leaders’ shoes (empathize) so you can best address the issues. And you need to make sure that coaching is the right approach. Coaching works best under certain conditions – the executive’s performance and potential are highly valuable to the organization, the particular challenge or developmental need is a fit (executive wants to learn how to be more effective via behavioral change), there are key people in the organization ready to support this executive’s efforts to grow and change, and most importantly – the executive is willing.

Some specific ideas/steps might include: you help the executive get feedback from a trusted and credible source, you have a credible peer describe the benefits he/she obtained from coaching, a valued direct report starts coaching first so the executive gets more familiar with the process and its impact, you brainstorm with the executive about he or she can continue to grow as a leader (self-assessments, 360 feedback, high-level training, mentoring, reading, etc. and discuss whether/how coaching could fit in.) The bottom line is likely repeated, open and honest conversations that get to the heart of the resistance and help the executive to see the value and opportunity in taking stock of his/her current leadership effectiveness and seeking expert help to become even more effective.

Share your thoughts on this response in the comments section below, and ask us anything here: http://blog.mariposaleadership.com/ask-mariposa/

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