When Should You Take No For an Answer?

Posted by on Jul 23, 2019 in Boundaries, Time Management, Work | 0 comments

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The consequences of overwork are evident in my coaching practice. In startups, established companies and nonprofits I see teams in a constant state of fire-fighting and leaders who are unable to prioritize, where the quality of work is suffering, individuals are experiencing stress and anxiety, and valuable people are burning out. In a previous post, I wrote about building the “no” muscle—learning to say “no” to certain activities in service of being able to say “yes” to the right things.

But what if you say “no” and your colleagues won’t accept it? “I can say no ‘til the cows come home,” said Gayle, a member of the leadership team of a growing nonprofit organization, “but it’s not heard. I get push back. We have a culture of yes, and it’s killing our team.”


How to Prepare for Critical Feedback

Posted by on Jul 23, 2019 in Feedback, Individual, vulnerability | 0 comments

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“I’m totally terrified,” said a colleague. Was she skydiving or going for a big job interview? Nope. She was preparing to receive feedback—in this case from an interdisciplinary group of experts who were reviewing a draft of her book—and she was afraid of being pummeled by their critique, even though she was also excited for the opportunity. It felt a little like facing a firing squad.

The fear of receiving criticism is not unique to her. Many of my clients enter their 360 feedback sessions with trepidation about what they will hear and how they will handle it. Like my friend, they may be bracing themselves for an attack on their performance or they may be concerned about how they will handle the criticism. Fear of your own reaction is especially acute when you are facing your reviewers in person, as my friend was. Preparation is key. Here are some suggestions to help you face your critics with equanimity and curiosity:


Want to Make a Difference? Focus on Contribution, Not Impact

Posted by on Jul 23, 2019 in Goal Setting, Individual, Success/Promotion, Work | 0 comments

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I nominate “impact” as one of the most annoying and potentially harmful buzzwords in business today.

Countless clients tell me they want to make an impact. Whether they are leaders in growing startups or tech giants, Millennials seeking meaning or mid-career professionals pursuing their next big job, they define success as having this thing they call “impact.” But what is it really about?

Impact is defined as the striking of one object into another, a collision. This kind of impact is violent, even shattering, like a hammer through plate glass. (Echoes of Facebook’s “move fast and break things” mantra?) When used in the term “Impact Investing,” it refers to the pursuit of a social benefit as well as profit. And because measuring social benefit is trickier than measuring profits, there is an ongoing debate about how and if to measure impact. It turns out it can be pretty hard to assess.


Overworked? A People Pleaser’s Guide to Saying No

Posted by on Apr 20, 2019 in Balance, Boundaries, Individual, Leadership, Women | 0 comments

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“I have more work than I can possibly do, my team is stretched to the breaking point, and the requests keep coming,” said an executive coaching client in a large tech company, her eyes welling with tears. She was not the only one to whom I gave a tissue this week.

Overwork is widespread in the U.S., and research indicates that it is bad for people’s health and productivity.  An excessive workload can be caused by many different factors—a demanding organizational culture, poor planning, failure to delegate or a lack of adequate staffing. But often times, it is exacerbated by an inability or unwillingness to say, “no.” People pleasers (you know who you are) hate to let down their colleagues and will sacrifice their own well-being to avoid causing disappointment. If they don’t develop their “no” muscle, they are likely to burn out or make themselves sick. Here are some strategies for people pleasers:  


What Can Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes Teach Us About Feminism?

Posted by on Apr 20, 2019 in Culture, Leadership, leadership, Women | 0 comments

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As Women’s History Month comes to a close, critics and feminists are reflecting on the story of the now infamous CEO of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes. The focus of the HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood In Silicon Valley, Holmes captivated the imaginations and tapped into the greed and hubris of the (mostly male) investor class. She raised over $600 million and took her investors for a ride that ended in disgrace. Her failed product—a fast, cheap, comprehensive blood test using only a finger prick rather than a blood draw—would have been miraculous if it had worked. But it didn’t, and she knew it. She hid its flaws and is now facing federal fraud charges. Her very public rise and fall have some calling her a feminist anti-hero.


Phrasing Matters: How To Be A Constructive Critic

Posted by on Apr 20, 2019 in Feedback, Leadership, Uncategorized | 0 comments

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Are you great at spotting the flaw in the plan? Do you default to criticism rather than appreciation? If so, you could be bringing down the motivation on your team or getting a reputation as a complainer, and it may be time for an intervention. You have valuable insights to offer and it’s important to offer them constructively.

Negativity bias refers to our brain’s greater sensitivity to negative information than to positive. This trait is valuable because it helps us detect potential threats and correct problems. But, when not managed well in the workplace (or at home), it can lead to an over-expression of critique. Its impact is then compounded by the negativity bias of the listener. It can be demotivating, suppress creativity, damage relationships and impede performance. Research suggests that the highest performing organizations have a ratio of higher than 5:1 positive to negative comments.


How To Take Charge And Navigate An Unexpected Change

Posted by on Mar 27, 2019 in Career change/Job search, Change, Change | 0 comments

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Sometimes you need a push. You may not know you need it—you may even resent it—but a push helps (sometimes forces) you to change and can ultimately take you in a good direction. We coaches love to talk about inspiration and lofty goals, but the truth is that many people don’t take action until the status quo gets uncomfortable.

There are two forces that bring about action and change: pull and push.

  • Pull is what draws you forward and positively motivates you. It is a vision, a shiny object, a yearning, goal or aspiration. You reach for it because you want it. Pull is a bright future that excites us, sparks us and calls us to action.
  • Push is what drives you and necessitates action. It can be an external event or an internal discomfort, dissatisfaction or frustration. Push is a force that makes the here and now untenable and requires action.
  • (more…)

Scary Schedule? How to Regain Control Of Your Calendar

Posted by on Mar 6, 2019 in Balance, Culture, Getting Things Done, Individual, Management | 0 comments

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“My calendar is out of control! I have so many meetings that I can’t get my work done.”

This sentiment has become increasingly common among managers and leaders. The need to work collaboratively and cross-functionally has led to a proliferation of meetings, and in many organizations, where calendars are visible to all, colleagues feel free to schedule meetings at any open time. People wind up with chopped up days, back-to-back meetings and, oftentimes, no idea as to why they have been invited. The result? Participants are often late, unprepared and disengaged.

But perhaps the biggest cost for professionals is that they find themselves in low-priority meetings, rather than doing high-value work. Their calendars drive how they spend their time, and other people are at the wheel.

In order to take control of your workload, you must take control of your calendar. This involves playing defense by setting boundaries and saying “no.” More importantly, though, it requires upping your offense by proactively scheduling time for high-priority activities. (more…)

Choosing Delight

Posted by on Mar 3, 2019 in Happiness, Individual, Mindfulness | 0 comments

Choosing Delight

Ross Gay’s Book of Delights is an invitation. Starting and ending on his birthday, the poet wrote an essay a day about the things, people and events that struck his delight – a smile from the person selling him a bus ticket, a song on the radio, his garden, a turn of phrase, fresh lychees on sale, a high-five from a stranger. With each essay, his poetic riffing sweeps you up and carries you away on an infectious tide of delight.

During this year, Gay found that, the more he practiced this discipline – this constant alert for delights – the more delight he found. His life still held sorrow, fear, pain and loss, but his delight grew. The world around him started to call out to him “Write about me!” Delights abounded, and his ability to see them expanded. His delight muscle strengthened. (more…)

Tell Your Story as a Novel from Different Points of View

Posted by on Feb 19, 2019 in creativity, Individual, Perspective | 0 comments

Tell Your Story as a Novel from Different Points of View

Stories have power.

We humans are narrative creatures. Our stories anchor us to our identities and help us understand ourselves. When we are in a new relationship, we dole out our stories as a way of inviting someone to know us, and if you’ve been with someone for a long time, you know his or her stories by heart. We tell children stories to teach them values, like persistence in the Little Engine That Could or generosity in The Giving Tree. History, we know, is written by the victors, who all too often erase inconvenient or unflattering chapters. And leaders and influencers know the power of a compelling story to move people to action — whether to get buy-in on a new strategy, to motivate a team to execute on a plan, or to spur the electorate to vote. 

And yet, great leaders know that as powerful as stories are, they can also get us into trouble, especially when we get too attached to them. (more…)