April 23, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills / Strategy

Ask Mariposa: Top 4 Executive Coaching Focus Areas


Daniel asked: Can you share the most frequent areas that you help clients improve on with coaching?

Regan Bach, Executive Leadership Coach, responds:

Great question Daniel and you are not alone in wondering what actually occurs during a coaching engagement.  There is a great deal of customizing that occurs with each client’s needs, but here are the Top 4 most frequent areas of coaching focus:

1) Vision/Strategy/Execution

Whether it be for CEOs or new managers, setting a clear vision for yourself and your team is mission critical.  From there it’s all about articulating that vision to others, identifying an “actionable” strategy to execute on the vision, mitigating roadblocks, and tweaking the roadmap/trajectory given inputs over time.  A good coach helps leaders to a) get very clear on strengths and areas of opportunity to improve, b) articulate personal/team/company vision, and c) helps identify action steps to begin executing on a trajectory for success.

2) Going Slow to Go Fast

In today’s fast paced work environments, leaders jump from task to task, project to project, and initiative to initiative.  Rarely do they take time to slow down, unplug, assess the Big Picture, and reflect on what’s working, what’s not working, and what they want to do DIFFERENT moving forward.  Coaches act as a forcing function to help support leaders in unplugging, assessing themselves and their environments, and then identifying areas that need their attention.  What’s critical is helping today’s leaders not only identify where to show up, but also how to show up.

3) Influencing

This is an area where almost everyone can improve.  I have found that individuals, regardless of title, greatly underestimate (and thus under-utilize), their ability to influence others.  I spend a great deal of time working with clients to help identify effective and efficient ways to influence both vertically and horizontally throughout an organization.

4) Feedback, Communication and Relationship-Building

Organizations exist because humans create them.  Thus, many leaders continually struggle and are challenged by behavioral and/or human-centric issues.  At the core, business is all about communication and relationships.  Coaches help leaders create clear lines of communication, implement durable feedback loops into their work, and get clear on how and when they message things to others.

April 10, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: Balancing Team Dynamics


Maggie asked:

My company isn’t lacking for talent, but we have a difficult time with team dynamics – how can we balance the strong personalities on our team?

Sue Bethanis, CEO responded:

Wow, big question, and lots of answers. Here’s one way to look at it:  Everyone has strengths, and the best leaders are able to leverage each person’s strengths (both their emotional intelligence and content knowledge/skills).  Check out the StrengthFinder 2.0 and take the assessment, and see what you think.  Then you can share this with your colleagues.

You may also want to check out one of our hands-on workshops that produce heightened awareness, appreciation, and new ideas to improve the way a team works: Leveraging Your Team’s Strengths.

April 4, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: 3 Tips for Developing Leadership Influence


Andrea asks: I am not in a formal position of power but lead several cross-functional projects and collaboration is critical to our goals.  How can I develop more leadership influence?

Susan Bethanis, CEO of Mariposa responded:

You are smart to be thinking about developing leadership influence skills, even as an informal leader.  Cross-functional initiatives, flatter management structures and virtual teams which sometimes include third parties have become the norm in business today.  Understanding how to influence others is a skill that when honed, serves company goals and your career.

Here are 3 tips:

  • Consult and Pre-Sell.   Meet with stakeholders to share your ideas on achieving a desired outcome.  Solicit their reactions and ideas as well.  By inviting input and balancing it with advocacy, resistance can be minimized while gaining buy-in.
  • Know Your Audience, Tailor the Message.   Develop clear and compelling messages rooted in short and long-term requirements.  Research your stakeholders’ needs and tailor the message based on their interests.
  • Establish Behavioral Rapport.  Match the pace and volume of your speech with that of your stakeholder.  Avoid matching negative emotional states.  Be conscious of your body language, including posture and facial expressions, as unintended non-verbal cues can undermine effective communication of your message.

Want more?

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.

March 27, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management

Ask Mariposa: Coaching vs. Therapy



David asks: What’s the difference between coaching and therapy? 


Edie Heilman, Executive Leadership Coach,  responds:

This question comes up quite often because coaching and psychotherapy are both approaches to the challenges of life and work.  However the purpose and approaches are different.

Psychotherapy deals primarily with a person’s current or past difficulties to enable healing and resolve old pain.  The therapist is licensed, knowledgeable about psychological theories and is the expert in the relationship.  The therapist diagnoses then provides expertise to help improve the patient’s well-being. The process is often open-ended.

Coaching is forward looking with a focus on the client’s effectiveness and impact in their life, or their organization – as in with executive leadership coaching. Together the client and coach explore new ways of thinking, acting and solving problems.  The process includes assessment, feedback, goal setting and practice.  The coach provides tools and guidance to help the client self-observe, try new perspectives and behaviors and make choices that help them achieve their desired outcomes. A typical coaching engagement lasts six months with specific executive development objectives.

Patrick Williams says “therapy is about recovering and uncovering while coaching is about discovering”.


March 21, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management

Ask Mariposa: Criteria for Coach Selection


John asks:  I’m thinking about working with an Executive Coach.  What criteria should I use to select the right coach for me?

Susan Bethanis, CEO of Mariposa responded:

No doubt, executive coaching is a powerful process for overcoming barriers to achieving your personal and organizational goals.  The process is cumulative and builds over time through cycles of appreciation, observation, feedback, option generation, practice, problem solving and action.  Developing rapport with your coach is important to the coaching process so selecting for chemistry, in addition to background experience, is key.

Your coach should both challenge and support you.  As you interview a potential coach, consider the following:

  • Is the coach creating a safe and confidential environment for me?  Can I trust this person?
  • Does he/she understand the issues?  Is he/she credible?
  • Is his/her approach sound?  How will my progress be measured?
  • Is his/her communication style compatible with mine?

Besides chemistry, also consider relevant industry knowledge, client successes, prior corporate experience, and education and certifications as they relate to your coaching goals.  You’ll discover each coach offers a unique perspective based on the sum of their experiences, and this experience contributes significantly to the coaching process.

For additional perspectives on preparing for executive coaching, read the Mariposa article, When Bad Coaches Happen to Good People, and HBR’s blog post, Before Working with A Coach, Challenge Your Self-Assumptions.

March 14, 2013 / Blog / HR / Talent Management

Managing Up: Stepping Into Your Boss’s Shoes


One of the most potentially challenging communication situations is the one between manager and employee. Different perspectives can emerge due to hierarchy, accountability, and unclear expectations. Sometimes the key to finding common ground between you and your manager is to change your perspective – to step in your boss’s shoes.

Imagine for a moment what it would be like if…

  • you had to always keep the whole team in mind?
  • you needed to think about the budget more carefully?
  • you had to think about managing your boss’s boss?
  • you were to remain sensitive to larger internal and external factors impacting decisions?
  • you were the person who takes the hit if things go wrong?

What would you do differently in how you manage up with this new point of view?

Now take off your boss’s shoes and step back into your own. How can you be a more effective partner with your boss? Effective communication starts with a step back and then strides forward. The better you can relate to the conditions you and your boss face, the more successful the outcomes will be for your boss, for you, and for the team.

About the author:

Patrick Reilly, M.S., is the President Resources In Action, Inc. and an Executive Leadership Coach for Mariposa Leadership, Inc. For more interesting articles and blogs by Patrick, visit www.resourcesinaction.com.

March 12, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / HR / Talent Management

Ask Mariposa: Developing Executive Presence


Susan asks: I’ve been told I need to develop “executive presence”.  What does that really mean and how do I go about it?

Edie Heilman, Executive Leadership Coach responded:

Quite often the missing piece in successful leadership is the nebulous “executive presence”.  A very bright person with impressive technical accomplishments can often get stalled professionally if there’s the perception that s/he isn’t looking or sounding like other leaders at the company.

A great place to start is to look at the leadership team and those who are advancing and ask yourself “what differentiates them besides their work record?”  Most successful business people have strong social intelligence skills.  These skills include self-confidence, great communications skills, the ability to read others and empathy.  Even these days, there can also be expectations about attire.  Once you get clear about the leader profile at your company, you can determine how to further develop your own authentic “presence.” Engage your boss (or whomever gave you the feedback) in the process by telling them about the specific things you are trying and ask for on-going observations. Experiment, get feedback, try again!

To learn more, explore Daniel Goleman’s writings, like the classic HBR article “Social Intelligence Biology”.  I also recommend Executive Presence by Harrison Monarth.

February 21, 2013 / Articles We Like / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Strategy

How to Create a Memorable Employee Recognition Program

employee-appreciation-day-263x400Good business practice involves appreciating and recognizing your employees. Although appreciation should be a natural activity for anyone, the truth is we all have different ways of giving and receiving gifts and appreciation. Some like verbal appreciation, while others like having an extra vacation day. Either way, employes want personal recognition, instead of a standard gift for all. So if you’re not careful, a thoughtless gift may actually backfire on you.

OC Tanner recently commissioned a study conducted by The Cicero Group entitled Optimizing Employee Recognition Programs. This study aimed to discover if awards are a viable form of employee recognition, and if so, whether cash works better than award items.

If your organization is looking to implement an effective employee reward system, I highly recommend reading this entire study as the six pages highlight some interesting findings. The statistics can come in handy when rationalizing employee reward programs to upper management.

The key takeaways for employee recognition programs are:

  • Award items are better than cash bonuses at contributing to the recognition experience.
  • Award items should be geared toward desire versus need. If cash is given, it will likely be spent on “need” items, such as bills. Therefore employees will likely forget about the recognition much faster than a more personalized award.
  • Though you may be rewarding employees with a tangible reward, verbal expressions of appreciation further augment and reinforce recognition and can “increase the degree of effectiveness by roughly 50 percent”.
  • Create a “tailored selection” of reward items that are unique and personal. This tells the employee that you took the time to offer something of value.

About the author:

Anne Loehr is the President of Anne Loehr and Associates, co-founder of Safaris for the Soul, and an Executive Leadership Coach for Mariposa Leadership, Inc. For more good reads, visit Anne Loehr’s personal blog at: www.anneloehr.com/blog/.

February 19, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management

Ask Mariposa: Team Listening Skills


Drew asked:

The CFO of our company is technically fantastic at her job, yet I am hearing from her team that morale is down because she is not that open minded and doesn’t listen well. What are some things she can do?

Barbara Baill, Senior Leadership Consultant responded:


It’s great that your CFO has the technical component of the job down.  Next, she needs to understand that the leadership components of her role are equally important. This is a common challenge for many who come to a leadership role through their technical expertise.  Daniel Goleman, famous for his research in emotional intelligence, has identified that emotional intelligence is critical to effective leadership (refer to HBR, “What Makes A Leader”, Daniel Goleman, November-December 1998).  He has identified five components for emotional intelligence for effective leaders:  self-awareness, self-regulation,  motivation, empathy, and social skills. It sounds like your CFO could benefit from developing the capacity to show more empathy and build more rapport (social skills) with her people through active listening.

Your coaching of her will be key to her continued growth as a leader. Specifically, first give her straight and compassionate feedback. Appreciate the value of her technical expertise to the business. Second, explain her next opportunity for growth is as a leader of her team. As part of this, she will need to spend more team listening to her team in a way that they feel heard and appreciated. “Expert” executives often feel that their job is to have all the answers. You will need to coach her that her job as a leader is broader than that. It begins by having an engaged and empowered team.  The first step in that process is listening to the team, building rapport, and only then, will she be able to motivate them towards a common goal. Through your coaching, you will be increasing her self-awareness as you help her to develop the leadership part of her role.

This is a great opportunity for the two of you to work together to enhance her contributions to the overall business and become an more effective leader.

For more resources on developing leadership skills, refer to previous Ask Mariposa blogs.

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