Monday, February 24, 2014

My Advice? Stop Giving It!

Today we have a guest blog from Lauren Owen:
“I'll tell you one thing: Don't ever give anybody your best advice, because they're not going to follow it.”  Jack Nicholson
I’m taking a different tack for my 2014 New Year’s resolutions. Instead of committing to start doing something new, I’m committing to stop doing something instead. My goal?  Stop giving unsolicited advice.

Here’s why:
I want to be a better listener. It’s hard to stay present in a conversation if you are constantly engaged in your own internal dialogue, cataloguing all your great solutions to your conversation partner’s problems. A coaching colleague calls this “mental googling” and says when he catches himself doing it he tells himself “Stop!” so he can return to the conversation stream.
I want to be a better role model to my leadership coaching clients. For years, I’ve been advising my executive coaching clients that to become more effective leaders they need to stop giving so much advice to their direct reports. Can you spot the oxymoron in that sentence?
I want to better respect my friends’, clients’ and family members’ ability to come up with their own solutions to their problems. When I jump in with my own laundry list of clever solutions, I am essentially telling them they are incapable of doing so on their own.
Do I think this will be easy? No I do not!
I think advice dispensing is a bit of an addiction. Giving it out gives you a quick hit of satisfaction. Problem?  Got a solution! Another problem? No problem, I have an answer (or two or three) for that one too. It’s the thinking person’s version of the old arcade game, Whack a Mole.
It requires me to stop overdoing one of my strengths. I pride myself on my analytical abilities and talent for coming up with creative solutions. It’s always far more fun to play to your strengths than work on a weakness.
To help make this change, I will:
  • Share this resolution with others and ask for their support in helping me make this change.
  • Work on asking better open-ended questions that encourage my clients to inquire within themselves and come up with their own answers (being careful to avoid questions that steer them one way or another).
  • Ask for permission first. If I absolutely can’t resist, I’m going to ask my conversation partners if they are open to advice before giving it unasked.
  • Keep my eyes on the real end goal: Becoming a better friend, coach, wife, sister and mother in 2014. Here’s to a whole new year.


Lauren Owen, Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

Lauren works with businesses leaders who want to develop and execute succession plans, sharpen their business practices, strengthen their leadership, and create long-lasting value in their businesses. She is a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Leadership Coach. She is also a leader of the Excell Puget Sound Southend Group.

(206) 427-2856, (253) 245.3518

Monday, February 17, 2014

What does the science around creating Joy tell us about leadership

How we approach a task, the inner thoughts we hold around it, to a great extent, determine outcomes.  What it feels like.   Our attitudes, and beliefs all these things have a profound impact on the result we experience. 

Excell is about taking consistent, regular and frequent steps to move from one behavior to new ones.  Excell is designed for business owners and senior executives and is focused on their desire to get to or stay at the top of their game? 

So, back to inner thoughts and their impact on our approach.  Recently, I read some articles and research on creating habits and sustaining change (let me know if you want some of the sources).  After taking in the points of these articles and the research conducted on the impact of seemingly small actions, I decided to experience some of them.  Six months ago, I added to my meditation practice, a practice of finding 3 things about which I felt gratitude. 

I also set some, albeit subjective, measurements to determine changes.  Prior to starting the experience, I began noting how I felt at the beginning and end of each day and asked others to indicate how they experienced me.  For thirty days, I noted, each day, a plus or minus.  Then I began a daily practice of noting three things about which I felt grateful.  What I found was a substantial shift in the number of pluses noted in my calendar. 

While, not a well designed or statistically significant experiment, what I found was a substantial shift in how I approached every situation.  Personally, I am convinced and am looking to extend this practice. 

The sense of well being I feel is palpable.  OK… so why talk about this in this blog.  It is, after all, a business blog…. so, where does the business part come in?  Well, think about how resilient you are.  You lose a big customer, would it take you down?  What if you could experience a stressful moment or a big downturn with more resilience?  Would that aid you in recovering?  I sure bet it would.  I am finding that I am far better inoculated and less impacted by the stuff coming at me and I attribute the shift to the last 6 month experiment. 

I am about to undertake a second phase in which I will find an opportunity to tell at least three people each week, that I feel grateful for their part in my life and why?  I am betting that this will not only affect them and increases the strength of the relationship that I have with these various people, it will increase my resilience. 

Like communicating a vision/dream in business, telling people about dream is key to manifesting it.  Let’s see how this turns out. 

Follow along.  Let’s see what happens.  For those of you already doing well at communicating your dream, how do you do that (what are the different ways)?  How often do you tell/repeat your message? 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Open Gate

Today we have a guest blog from Dan Weedin:

Dogs don’t wait at open gates…

We don’t have a gate at my home. We have a beautiful greenbelt behind us, and due to the uneven slope, it’s impossible to have a regular wooden gate. My friends tell me that electric fence works well for dogs. They obviously don’t own a Jack Russell terrier.

My JRT (aka the Jack Russell) is named Captain Jack for a reason.  During his nearly 6 years with us, he has encountered open doors rather than gates. He has made the most of these opportunities to dash out. An open gate to a dog means new adventures, new smells, and boundless fun. All dogs are wired the same for this. Can you imagine a dog approaching a gate that is left far enough ajar for him to make a break for it – pause deeply – consider the consequences of his actions - and sit silently contemplating if the move has enough upside to run through it? Me neither.

That’s exactly what many executives do on a daily basis. They see a wide-open opportunity out beyond a “gate.” That opportunity looks enticing and full of opportunity; yet it also involves risk. They make an initial sprint to the edge of the gate to get a better look, and then stop to pause and ponder. “What if things go wrong?” “What if I get hurt?” “What if I get lost?” “What if I get blamed?”

The problem is that while they sit and wait, opportunity at that moment is either lost forever or (worse) taken by someone else.

I’m pretty sure that if Captain Jack had an electric fence, he would know the ramifications of breaching that barrier. He’s smart that way. Based on my experience with him, he would take the pain to gain the reward. The shock and pain is short-lived and not fatal. The reward is forever (or until I wear both of us out tracking him down). But even then he would have gained through this new adventure and surely risk the open gate again.

You will likely tell me we aren’t dogs and that risk needs to be contemplated, assessed, and prudent. Yawn. At some point you burst through open gates to where you are now. Unfortunately as we age we get more tethered to the yard. Comfort and fear keep us from taking the still smart risks we took before when we weren’t as careful. Don’t turn into an old dog, no matter what your biological age. That actually carries more risk than the alternative.

That’s part of the concept of being “unleashed.” Don’t get caught inside the gate staring wistfully out at opportunity. Life is short and our professional careers even shorter.

What’s out there waiting for you?


Dan Weedin helps turn his clients business risk into rewards. He is able to take the abstract concepts of risk and crisis management to help business owners prepare and respond more effectively and with less time and cost to crisis. Since he doesn’t work for an insurance company or agency, he is able to act as an unbiased advocate for his clients. You can lear ore about Dan and how he can help your business on his web site at

Monday, February 3, 2014

Why are the people of Seattle so excited and what should that tell you about your company?

From the last game with the 49ers, to the match up between the only two states to legalize marijuana provide a huge number of topic ideas for almost anyone writing a blog.  Today, I want to talk about the impact of common vision, 12th man. 

Why the 12th Man? …. because anyone whose job is to lead a company, or part of one, has to figure out what is the lesson of the 12th man or be doomed to  stalling out.  Our country and the American culture has experienced consistent negativism/fear for the last generation.  We are depleted and now focus on the negative.  The 12th Man is creating a culture shift in Seattle and it is wonderful, positive and may continue beyond the Super Bowl (win or lose). 

As I traveled around Seattle, over the last few weeks, the number 12 is everywhere… I mean, everywhere!  The Seattle Metro area has over 3.5 million people. Of those 3.5 million people, only a little more than 50 have an opportunity to actually do something on the field that will create a win.  Only about 70,000 (total) will sit in the stands and perhaps some of those will provide energy and noise level that may impact the outcome. 

Yet, here we sit in Seattle smiling at our neighbors, actually letting drivers pull in to our lane (yes I have witnessed and experienced this, and if you live in Seattle, you know that is a pretty big deal.  Seattle drivers are consistently selfish and will actually speed up to keep others from entering their lane, getting ahead of them).  In short, some large portion of that 3.5 million people are identifying with and connecting to the Seahawks, being a part of the 12th man. 

Are all those people who identify as the 12th man, football fanatics? I would suggest it is simply about feeling connected, a part of something positive and exciting. 

I believe that the 12th man is about dreaming. What is the dream? 
Do most of us (outside of the 50 or so who will actually play the game) think we are professional football players?  Most of us are not and we know it and a large number are not consistent football fans.  So what is it what we identify with and what is the vision to which we are connecting?

When a positive idea captures us and we climb on board, it is for ourselves.  We are social animals.  We have a powerful need to be with the group.  So, in the midst of divisive culture and fear (politics, religion, weather reports), here is something that is uplifting and connecting. 

You and I can be a part of the 12th man.  We can feel noble and a part of something greater than ourselves.  We seek leaders and identify for ourselves.  We take action whether to put a 12th man flag on our house, car or office  because it means that we belong to that tribe/group who are doing something with passion.  It, the dream, is bigger than ourselves.  It is positive/gives meaning to our lives and it means we are identifying with those around us. 

So, if you get out of bed and are excited to get to work… that’s great!  Who else do you inspire?  To whom do you communicate about why your job, company, work are so all fired important and exciting?  If you don’t do share your vision/dreams it is unlikely that you will create a shared dream and without a shared dream, it is likely that, at some point you will stall. 

What do you do to find, retain and work with people who love the same dream as you? 

Meaning does not lie in the work. Meaning lies in us and we must bring it to our work!

If you are doing something at work, it should have a purpose and the purpose ought to be pretty important.  I often times show up at a client’s office for a consultation and because I am a “ten minute early guy”, I chat for a few minutes with the receptionist or whoever else crosses my path. 

Most of the time, I ask a litmus set of questions.  At one company, I found myself in front of the receptionist and asked her what were the three most important goals the company had for that year.  Some of you may be smiling…., “Oh she’s just the receptionist!”  When she did not know, I asked the next two people who came out to the reception area (one was a senior partner) and they could not tell me. 

My client had a rather rough consultation that day.  The next time I showed up for a consultation at that company, the receptionist recited for me the top three goals for that company.  I then asked her what she was doing and which of those goals she was furthering by her actions. 

Over a six month period, I experienced a growing awareness, focus and direction by those working in this company.  That is a good thing. 

What I next raised, as an issue, was meaning.  The meaning we bring to our work can be a powerful leadership tool or an extraordinary gap between us and our work.  Many people love their work.  Enjoying what you do is different than understanding that your work has meaning (is important) to you. 

Meaning is a fundamental issue for companies that want to grow and sustainably prosper.  There are corporate examples of those who brought meaning to their work.  Steve Jobs stamped his mission of meaning in to every concept, product and practice that Apple developed.  At one point, Bill Gates did the same.  It is powerful to see what happens when vision (one form of meaning) is gone. 

What I would like you to consider is that even your smallest actions should have meaning.  Your company is filled with people who are either doing their work with a sense of meaning/purpose or they are getting a paycheck.  Which do you want in your company? 

If you want zealots and advocates, don’t try and copy what has worked for other companies on a visionary level.  Start with your own sense of meaning.  Then communicate your meaning to others and help them find theirs.  Notice, I did not suggest you have them adopt yours. 

It is not realistic to think that everyone will get jazzed by the same thing you do.  Figure out how you can unearth what they are, or could be jazzed about, and then support them in brining that to work. 

What do you think works to find out a persons meaning?  How do you help your employees bring meaning in to their every action?