August 12, 2013 / Articles We Like

On: "The Entrepreneur's "Not Enough" Trap–And How To Avoid It"

This article by Dave Kashen resonates with us.  As executive coaches, we have access to some of the most brilliant minds and regardless of intelligence, the fear of not being enough is a universal part of the human condition.  It’s so powerful, it drives unconscious behavior in an attempt to overcompensate, leading to sometimes unintentional consequences.

In The Entrepreneur’s “Not Enough” Trap–And How To Avoid It, another perspective is offered on how we can channel fear towards more positive, conscious choices.  Read it to find practices to shift from a place of fear and lack to love and inspiration.

What do you do to work with fear in a positive manner?

Comment below! Or pose a question via Ask Mariposa.

August 9, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Difficult Conversations

Erica asks: My department head is an extremely brilliant man and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him.  But lately, I’ve noticed a shift in his behavior that is beginning to strain our working relationship.   He has become very irrational, negative, and all over the map with requests and demands.  What can I do to keep our relationship in tact without stepping over any boundaries?

Eric Nitzberg, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

A lot depends on the level of trust an openness you have with him.  This is a delicate situation, so you’ll want to be thoughtful about any approach.  If you have a pretty open, high trust relationship you might broach the subject directly, “It seems like you have been a little on-edge lately.  I’ve noticed some changes in your leadership style.  Would you be open to talking?”   If you can’t address the issue directly, then I would consider which of the new behaviors are the biggest problem for you, and what you might do about them specifically.  If “requests all over the map” is the most frustrating issue, you might try having a neutral conversation with him about that issue, “I want to make sure I’m aligned with your priorities.  Can we talk about what’s most important among your requests?”

August 1, 2013 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / Mariposa Articles

Leader as Designer

Learn how to utilize Design Thinking in your role as a leader.  This essay, Leader as Designer, by Mariposa Leadership CEO Sue Bethanis, opens up Design Thinking to different applications and audiences that goes beyond product development. She offers a clear 4 step process to easily move from idea-to-innovation. The results: successful services,  new experiences, and novel solutions to old problems.




July 23, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Creating Positive and Collaborative Communication

Demitri asks: My colleague has an answer for everything and dominates all of our team meetings, screaming for attention.  She bulldozes ideas and ridicules anyone who disagrees. No one on our team wants to step up and call her out on this “annoying” behavior.  What can I/we do to create a more effective and positive experience in our meetings when we need to work with this type of person?  

Dina Silver, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

Tough situation!  As you are already experiencing, colleagues who dominate meetings create a range of challenges for other team members including: creating an atmosphere of annoyance, distaste, disaffection and disappointment for all present who are unable to participate fully and see no way to stop the bulldozer.  Meetings become solo acts for the benefit of the loudest voice instead of forums for team collaboration.

It is the responsibility of the team leader to intervene in order to create a safe, innovative and participatory forum for all employees.  Consider speaking to the team leader offline about this issue.  Frame it as a need for stronger team dialogue and a desire for your meetings to be a forum where all voices are essential.   Offer ideas for improving team communication.

Consider these suggestions:

  • Limit the number of minutes each member speaks at a time (3 minutes, for example).  You can use an egg timer, your watch or phone’s timer application.  This will force everyone to pare down his/her thinking and share the crucial core of his idea.
  • Every person who wishes to contribute to the conversation has  the uninterrupted opportunity to do so.
  • Phones and other devices are turned off during the meeting.  If you are present in the room, be present.  This ensures all participants are listening to each other and not simply waiting for their chance to talk.
  • Start and end meetings on time. Do not catch late people up by rehashing what others have heard.  This will be awkward at first, but people will adapt and appreciate this.
  • Agree on meeting communication norms:  no personal attacks, blaming, eye ball rolling or disdainful comments.  Stop the behavior the moment it occurs.

Finally, every person in the room, including you, has a responsibility to enforce positive and collaborative communication.  Do not let old habits creep back. Gently remind team members of the rules of engagement and help the conversation get back on track.

May 16, 2013 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation

Get the Most Out of Brainstorming as Part of the Design Thinking Process

breakthrough model copyFaced with a challenging business problem to solve?  You need an idea.  Not just one idea, but many useful ideas.  In our experience, leaders who think like designers by using a design thinking process for solving business problems generate more potential useful ideas than those who do not.

In our work, we take our clients through a design thinking process using our Breakthrough! model. This 4-step process helps leaders generate and execute innovative ideas because it blends practicality with imagination. Through the brainstorming step, it is possible to generate a vast number of ideas – if the session is set up properly.  To get the most out of your brainstorming session, consider these critical success factors:

  • Be clear about the specific problem upfront.  Clarity on the problem guides the brainstorming process.
  • Encourage imagination.  Unconstrained thinking is the backbone of innovation!
  • Break the large group into smaller groups. A large group format limits idea generation as well as lends itself to groupthink and creates a potential scenario in which one person might dominate while others remain silent.
  • Each small group member produces an idea…and another…with limited time.  First individuals generate ideas alone on sticky notes. Then, in a small group format, the ideas are shared/posted aloud quickly without commentary.  Members are then challenged to add a large number of ideas in a limited period of time. With several small groups, the net is cast wide for maximum idea generation potential.

For additional tips on frenetic brainstorming as part of a design thinking process, culling the list of ideas, and other steps in the Breakthrough! model, download our Free Executive Guide to Design Thinking.

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.

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.

January 15, 2013 / HR / Talent Management / News / Strategy / Wise Talk

The Passion Behind Your Business Strategy


There are several key factors that go into a winning business – a great idea, a great team, great passion, and great leadership. All are important, but great passion can be the fire that helps fuel the success. Consequently, it can also destroy the business when it is misguided.

Like all fires, passion can spark other flames and become contagious, igniting the passion of investors, business partners, and customers, as well as employees. If left uncontrolled, passion can consume, destroy, and leave a business with an empty dream. However, when controlled, directed, and focused, it can boost a business’ chance for success.

Here at Mariposa, we’re fired up about strategy! It being our leadership theme for 2013, we’re excited to start off this year by peeking into one of the more popular classes at Harvard Business School, a strategy course taught by professor Cynthia Montgomery. This class is also the basis of Montgomery’s book, The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs. In it, Montgomery identifies that an effective purpose and the passion behind it are what initiate value creation and capture.

Join us Thursday, January 24th at 1pm PT, on Wise Talk as Mariposa Leadership, Inc. CEO Sue Bethanis talks with HBS professor Cynthia Montgomery on how to transform sparks into strategic fire!

Topics for the interactive discussion will include:

• What’s your definition of a strategist?

• How do strategists keep a competitive edge?

• What is a common mistake you have seen executives make when it comes to strategy?

We welcome you to join Wise Talk, our free monthly teleconference and submit your own questions for discussion. Sign up and be entered to win a copy of this month’s leadership resource, The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs.
One winning listener will be announced at the end of the talk!

December 13, 2012 / Articles We Like / Blog / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / HR / Talent Management / Wise Talk

What is the future of organizational leadership? Join the experiment.

hierarchies have got to go

Organizational practices are changing – an always evolving business environment and constant innovation have become the new norm.

Communication between people is changing – we are acknowledging the necessary balance between choice and overload from the non-stop flow of information coming toward us.

The way people relate within organizations is changing – linear thinking is out and interdisciplinary collaboration is encouraged; more often becoming required to stay ahead of the curve.

So, what’s next?
As these different facets work with these changes, organizational structures must be called into question. We are presented with an opportunity to transition from hierarchy into a networked leadership model. As we welcome the advantages of collaboration and social technologies, we focus on the attributes needed to deliver results across organizational boundaries. Theories become facts as we discover ourselves in the future of leadership development and business management practices that really work.

In A Field Guide to Creating Cultures of Innovation by, we are given a web of concepts and tools so that we may better embrace this new norm of leadership and productivity.

We are provided with concepts, practices, videos, examples, and even a handy glossary to help us navigate the new ideas being presented and inspire collaboration.

This is a leadership experiment in the making and we hope you will join us for our next Wise Talk on Tuesday, December 18th from 2-3pm pacific time as Mariposa Leadership CEO, Sue Bethanis discusses the transition from hierarchy to networked organizational structures with innovation team consultant, cyborg anthropologist, and founder of, MJ Petroni.

Topics for the interactive discussion will include:
• How do you define this new normal of networked structures?
• How can creative thinkers, be they introverted or extroverted, leaders or technicians, be supported in this new model?
• How can structural and cultural components you and your clients put in place create more innovative and effective organization?
• What practical first steps will make a more creative, hospitable workplace?

Click here to learn more, sign up to join the conversation, and submit your own questions and ideas!

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:

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