Leadership on Point

Are You A Spectator In Your Own Life?

June 21, 2013 John Dowd Jr. - Guest Author

At 50 years old, I got maybe the best gift anyone could ever get… I got fired.

Of course, at the moment it didn’t seem like a gift.  After a wonderful 30-year broadcast career, I found myself at a new chapter in my life with a burning question: What next?

The next logical step that my “mind” told me was to get another radio manager job, which would have been my TENTH.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful to have had a wonderful career.  But, I felt that the meaning in my life was no longer there.  While I did my best to help others, the corporate world had me focused less on people and more on profits.

Should I get a new job and feel like I was a spectator of my life and not living it? Or should I stop and try to finish a book that I had started a few years before, on positive thinking and well-being?  How wonderful to think about this project of slowing down and doing something that brought true meaning into both my life and the lives of others.

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Mentoring As An Act of Freeing

June 4, 2013 Chip Bell - Guest Author

“Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?  Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting?   He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword.  In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.”

These powerful words from Job: 39 open the movie Secretariat, a film about the greatest horse that ever lived.  Not only did Secretariat (real name: Big Red) win the Triple Crown, he won all the three races in record time that all stand today, almost 40 years later. The storyline of the movie was about owner, Penny Chenery Tweedy, insisting his trainer and jockey let Secretariat run his own race–that is, with minimum supervision.

What if mentoring was all about removing, not about adding?  What if mentors believed their protégé was like a prize “race horse” that only needed the permission, proficiency, and protection to achieve greatness?  What if mentors worked as hard to get out of the way as they did to control and direct?

Had Secretariat trainer Lucien Laurin or jockey Ron Turcotte decided they needed to dictate, direct and domesticate Secretariat we might never have gotten to witness his “frenzied excitement to eat up the ground” as he ran the race he was meant to run.  Set your protégé free and let him or her “learn like the wind.”

 

Chip R. Bell is a customer loyalty consultant and the author of several best-selling books.  His newest book (with best-selling author Marshall Goldsmith) is Managers as Mentors:  Building Partnerships for Learning.  He can be reached at www.chipbell.com.  The book can be ordered http://amzn.to/1aqsUf3.

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Will Yahoo’s Ban on Telecommuting Fix The Problem?

March 1, 2013 Richard Levin

As a vocal proponent of telecommuting throughout my career, I am not so sure that Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban telecommuting is necessarily a setback for working parents and work/family policies (many of which I helped develop over the years).

Having visited the Bay Area several times over the past year, it appears to me that despite Silicon Valley’s reputation as the hub of telecommuting, many Bay Area workers spend part of their workweek IN the office.  But here is the key:  Bay Area companies seem to utilize flex time more than telecommuting – workers frequently come to work “late” (after 9 or 10) and leave “early” (before 4 or 5), checking in frequently from home, cars, or trains when they are not in the office.  So the real story here is not necessarily Yahoo’s ban on telecommuting, but whether the company will still encourage flexible hours and avoid the useless metric of facetime, the policy of being in an office for a set number of hours, regardless of your output.

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Presentations Skills Training is not enough!

February 15, 2013 Bob Glover

We all accept the fact that the ability to communicate effectively is an important leadership skill.  We look to Presentation Skills training to help us become better communicators, but is presentation skills training enough?  The number of people who deliver bland, boring, and irrelevant presentations who say, “I’ve had presentation skills training.” is frightening.

In the standard presentation skills training, we learn how to create pictures with gestures and how to use space to bring our message to our audience.  We practice eye contact to engage our audience and begin to modulate our voice to convey our passion and commitment.  These techniques make us better presenters, not communicators.  What about the message?  Presentation Skills training is not an end in itself.

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The Point Of No Return

February 1, 2013 Richard Levin

We have reached the point of no return.  On phone calls and e-mails, I mean.  We have reached a point where so many of us are so busy that we don’t have time to respond to a phone message or e-mail.  We often have the best intention to reply, and we flag the message for later action.  But later becomes later, as work and the-rest-of-life get in the way.

Maybe it is embarrassment or maybe we really have nothing to say in reply, but a lot of us put off responding to a message until we “have something to say”.  Maybe you are calling someone about a decision that is supposed to be made about a business proposal, or you want to know what action was taken on something that was promised.  Rather than report that nothing has happened yet, we wait until there is actual news to report.  Which, more often than not, brings the other person to presume the news is not good and we don’t have the courage to say so.

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“Children And Stress”: A Guide To Helping Children Through Uncertain Times

December 14, 2012 Meghan Vincent

Eleven years ago, during the tragic events of September 11th, Dr. Richard Levin wrote a paper focusing on victims who struggled to understand and comprehend the horror that they had witnessed: the children.  The goal was to provide a resource for parents and caretakers who were tasked with helping these children through such an incredibly difficult time.

 

It is with extreme sadness that I re-introduce this document.  My hope is that the families and children affected by the horrific events that occurred today at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT can find the support they need to endure such a frightening experience.  The paper explores the possible reactions that children might demonstrate and how to help, focusing on five age groups (ranging from under three through adolescence).

 

I encourage parents and caretakers to download this paper (a downloadable version can be found here: Children and Stress or on our website, here: http://www.richardlevinassociates.com/publications.html) and use it as a guide when navigating such a horrendous situation.

 

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Newtown, CT.

 

 

Written by RLA Associate Meghan Vincent. For more information, Meghan can be contacted at: mvincent@richardlevinassociates.com

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Since When Is Executive Coaching A Bad Thing?

November 14, 2012 Meghan Vincent

While reading Boston.com this past weekend, I came across the article, “New T Manager Underwent Professional Counseling in Atlanta” and was a bit surprised by the tone of both the article itself and – even more so – the reader-added comments that followed.  It seems to me that one of the larger issues (from my subjective perspective, at least) is the general lack of understanding of what executive coaching is – and what it can do for the leader of an organization.

Concern has been expressed over the fact that the newly selected director of the MBTA, Beverly Scott, received “individual coaching and consultation” while serving as the head of Atlanta’s transit system (MARTA). While we don’t personally know Scott or the consulting firm that was hired to work with her, we are familiar with some of the drivers behind the decision to hire a coach (information and quotes taken directly from the article):

  • Scott’s relationship with her board of directors in Atlanta had grown strained
  • “She has so much energy and that for some people can be complicated”
  • “She demands a lot of people.”
  • Scott was a “change agent, and that is often difficult and not always appreciated in an entrenched organization.”

 

Speaking from experience, none of these bullet points raise a red flag in my mind.  In fact, they are quite common.  The relationship between boards and senior management is often a harried one, many times requiring outside help to manage the conflict(s) that develop as a result.  Furthermore, leaders are frequently hired or promoted based on technical abilities and business acumen, with little regard for the “soft skills” that make a leader effective.

The job of an executive coach in this situation is to work with a leader to refine those aforementioned ‘soft skills’ (self-awareness, presentation skills, active listening, stress management, change management, communication skills and messaging, to name a few).  The end result is the development of a true leader – not in the sense of his or her title but rather in action, someone who can inspire and lead his or her organization towards growth and success.

The part of this article that I found most shocking was the quote provided by Mike Jacobs, a state representative in Georgia who heads the legislative committee that oversees MARTA.  He stated, “it’s cause for concern when a consultant is hired for this sort of purpose to address a major leadership position.”  I cannot possible emphasize how much I disagree with this statement.  A cause for concern would be someone who refused coaching and/or refused to acknowledge that he or she had any weaknesses that needed to be addressed.  No one is perfect – and no one should be faulted for trying to address those areas in which there is opportunity for growth and development.

I wonder what Mike Jacobs would think if he knew how many great leaders – in the corporate, government and non-profit sectors – have worked with an executive coach?

 

Written by RLA Associate Meghan Vincent. For follow up, Meghan can be contacted at: mvincent@richardlevinassociates.com

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Making Lasting Impressions

October 3, 2012 Jeff Golumbuk - Guest Author

 

Having spent the past 23 years in the advertising specialty industry,  I have seen numerous instances where promotional products have been used effectively for brand enhancement, and as a leadership tool as well.

Effective marketing and promotions grab people’s attention and get them to respond. Human nature encourages people to identify with a cause or a person, be attracted to participate, and belong to a certain group.  Promotional products have proven very effective in this regard.  This effectiveness is directly related to the age old cultural norms around the rule of reciprocity.  When you are given something, your likely response is to give something back.  Marketing professionals, as well as good leaders, are keenly aware of this concept and utilize it daily.

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The Myth of Work/Life Balance

August 23, 2012 Richard Levin

I have come to a disappointing realization.  It is now 14 years since my colleagues and I published our much-talked-about book, Shared Purpose, whose premise was that employers, families, communities, governments, and schools must work together to address the work/family imbalance facing working parents.  At the time, we urged our readers not to view “work and family” as a women’s issue, but as a serious challenge we must collectively address as a society.

It is why I am so saddened to read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic: “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”, whose conclusion is that society has reneged on its commitment to working moms and has continued to place the burden of “work/life balance” on women.  (Anne-Marie Slaughter is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, and the mother of two teenage boys. She served as the director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011.)

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Lessons Learned At the Beach

July 23, 2012 Meghan Vincent

As most New Englanders can be found doing during the summer months, I was enjoying some sun at the beach last weekend when I witnessed an event, courtesy of a 7 year-old, that even senior executives could learn from.

I watched as the aforementioned boy finished removing his brand new shovel from its packaging and began feverishly digging in the sand.  In one swift motion, a giant shovelful of dry sand went flying into the air and… all over a nearby sunbather.

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