If you want to be extraordinary...

If you want to be extraordinary...

by SGI Coach, Ann Fisher

If you want to become whole,

let yourself become partial.

If you want to become straight,

let yourself become crooked.

If you want to become full,

let yourself be empty.

-- Lao Tzu, Tao De Ching, from Chapter 22 *


...If you want to be extraordinary, let yourself be ordinary.  

With apologies to Lao Tzu, this extension seems fitting.  What is so interesting is the paradox in this, in all of the Tao de Ching. Doing by non-doing, leading by not leading.  How can this be?  I don't pretend to have the answers. Wiser folks than I have grappled with an understanding of the words written (or not written, say some) in the 5th century B.C. by a sage (or a collection of wise men).  But what rings true here for me are two things:  the use of the word "let" and the embrace of opposites.

We are so much about doing, about controlling and making things turn out the way we plan.  This remains one of the key leadership competencies these days, being results-oriented, planful and an achiever.  All great qualities, and...does it leave room for the times when, as a leader, we actually need to let things unfold, to let others find the way, to find the flow in things?  This is the most subtle way of leadership, and not often recognized or encouraged. And yet, some of our better leaders do this, naturally, whether it's "Level 5" leaders, or everyday ones we know who are grounded, intuitive, and aware of forces larger than themselves at work.

The embrace of opposites is fascinating. Again, this flies in the face of the "model leader" and all the things we should be.  It's through our own humanity and imperfection that we can taste what the truth is, and what we might be.  For my part, I am learning to be content with being ordinary -- without even the ulterior motive to be extraordinary.  It's not easy, but it's simpler.  It's richer. It keeps me in this moment more often, not in the clouds of aspiration.  It keeps me humble.

Wisdom Gathering:  Look at one of your key goals, and restate it in these terms:  To become ..... let myself become... For example, to become an inspirational leader, let myself be an uninspired leader.  See what happens.

* Source:  Stephen Mitchell's translation, in Real Power, by James Autry & Stephen Mitchell

(originally posted at http://gatheringofwisdom.typepad.com/a_gathering_of_wisdom/2010/03/if-you-want-to-be-extraordinary.html)





For those new to leadership coaching, it can be a bit surprising to hear their coach ask them about what is happening outside of the job.  Yet, leadership coaching is most successful when it involves a holistic process – and that means you might find yourself discussing not only professional but also personal issues (don’t worry…you won’t feel like you are in therapy!) This was actually a topic of discussion at a leadership coaching conference I attended some years back where I heard an intriguing case study that has stayed with me. A coaching company was hired to deliver a six-month coaching assignment in the U.S. and in England.  For the American clients, the coaches were only allowed to discuss topics relevant to the client’s work agenda, without touching any personal matter.  In the English assignment, the coaching work was holistic; professional and personal agendas were put on the table. At the end of the assignment, the American clients found the coaching to be satisfactory, yet chose not to continue. Conversely, the English clients were significantly more positive about the results of the work – citing significant improvements in their business performance – and continued the contract for another six months.


So, why the need for this “all-around approach”? On a simple level, distractions in your personal life can limit your ability to focus on the demands of your leadership role.  That’s something the coach should be aware to help you get back in the game. If chronic issues – like the lack of self-care – are affecting your performance, addressing them is an inevitable part of the process for the leadership coaching to yield the desired results. On a more complex level, insights from different aspects of your life provide the leadership coach with useful information. For example, some people might have handled certain challenges well in their personal life, while not being able to overcome a similar issue in the workplace. Lessons could be drawn from one situation to help with the other. This is often true in the area of conflict management.  A client may employ good emotional intelligence skills at home, never letting an issue go uncommunicated with their spouse or children. Yet, they avoid initiating tough conversations as a leader at work.  Recognizing they do it well and easily at home can give them confidence and the tools to handle conflict management better at work.


In most cases, keeping one’s personal and professional lives separate makes sense.  However, when it comes to powerful, effective leadership coaching everything can help and is open for discussion to understand the bigger picture and work on specific goals. So, don’t be surprised if your coach wants to know how you’ve handled conflict on the home front or asks if you have met your weekly exercise goals.  It’s all important. Are you considering getting leadership coaching? Contact me if you want to know more about my approach and see if it aligns with your goals.

(article originally posted at http://susanspritzmyers.com/7101/leadership-coaching-everythings-table/)



Maximize Performance & ROI: Create A Culture Of Coaching


Coaching is a powerful tool for any leader looking to expand and maximize their performance capacity. However, when organizations truly embrace a culture of coaching, both transformation and return on investment exponentially increase at all levels of the organization. So what does it take for an organization to implement a coaching culture?  

First, organizations must understand (and educate) the distinction between coaching and consulting. While consulting can be strategically valuable, consulting does little to empower leaders. In fact, more often than not, consulting can disempower leaders if an organization becomes more dependent on outside consultation than inside wisdom. Organizations that get the value of coaching get that the return on investment is exponential beyond the immediate challenge or opportunity. 

Second, organizations must create an accountable community of support to help those in coaching achieve their greatest potential. When coaching is done in a silo, a coachee may realize a certain level of benefit. But true breakthrough takes a village. It requires the coachee's supervisor, direct reports, HRBP and other stakeholders be in the game for both supporting and holding the coachee accountable to the coaching goals they set for themselves. Organizations that create community structures to truly support coachee's in their coaching realize exponential more return on investment from their coaching activities.

Lastly, organizations must be open to change themselves. Long-term business success requires evolution. Expecting leaders to develop more expansive and innovative thinking in coaching while keeping to limited and antiquated mentality as an organization will have your organization miss out on maximizing the full potential your coachee's newly expanded capacity. It's like upgrading from a Toyota to a Ferrari, but then keeping the Ferrari on a dirt road. You want to put your Ferrari on a pristinely paved road to allow it to fully open up its engine. And that requires changing the road as much as the car itself. Organizations that focus on their own evolution as much as that of their coachees realize a far greater return on investment in their leadership development.  

In summary, in order for organizations to maximize their return on investment in coaching, they must also be in the game for creating a truly empowering culture of coaching. Do so sets you up for redefining the performance capacity for not just your individual leaders, but your organization as a whole.


Three Things For Your "Keep Your Cool" List


It can be hot in Singapore sitting in the airport waiting for your plane. And even worse, people can get really irritable when the plane is late. In observing masterful customer service representatives, I’m reminded of how “heated” work can get.  Work life can be filled with pressure, stress, impatient people, and sometimes angry dialogues.  So how do you keep your cool when things get heated, or times get tough? 

Here are 3 things to remember to help you keep your cool.

1) Reframe - Before you fly off the handle, stop for a moment and try to “reframe" the situation.  Look at the facts, and don’t jump to any conclusions or negative assumptions.  We create the meaning of the situation in our own heads, so how you choose to look at the situation makes all the difference in the world!  Instead of focusing on the difficult, stressful or challenging parts of the task at hand, instead focus on the positive in the situation.  Perhaps this is an opportunity for you to try something new, or develop a new skill? Maybe doing a great job on this difficult task will gain you that promotion you’ve been wanting?  Maybe this project will help build and strengthen the working relationship and camaraderie between you and your colleagues, and your team will be better prepared for the next task.

2) Breathe and focus - when things get heated, it can be easy to say something you may later regret.  Before you say or respond to a statement in a sensitive situation, take a moment to breath and focus.  This will help clear your mind, give you time to cool down, relax your body, and formulate what you really want to say in your head.  Count to 10. Just taking a deep breath activates your innate relaxation response.  What you say after doing this will likely be much better and more effective than the reactionary or impulsive statement you wanted to say at first.  The other person who is receiving your message will in turn respond to this, and you may find it to be a useful tool to de-escalate arguments or heated discussions.

3) Take care of yourself - your mental and physical well-being is important for helping you keep your cool.  Be sure to get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise, don’t overwork yourself, and remember that there should be a life outside of work.  People who practice a good work / life balance and overall lifestyle choices for keeping their body and mind in good shape, are less likely to loose their cool at work.  Your stress levels will be lower, you’ll feel better, and be more prepared to tackle the challenges when they do aries.  Before long, you’ll be the “ coolest" person at the office!  



While being highly productive can drive one's promotion and movement within an organization, it can be equally distracting when trying to retain clarity in the midst of constant change and challenge. Executives today need to be exceptionally present — from moment to moment — to ensure the best decision is being made at the best time. But creating a game plan for being present is often the last thing most professionals think about in this age of multi-tasking. Fortunately, being present is far easier than most think when we start to understand that being present is actually the quickest road to the results we desire most. 

An important place to start is to first understand what “being present” really means. Being present does not mean tuning out or ignoring what needs your attention. In fact, being present is exactly the opposite: tuning IN and addressing what needs your attention MOST.  We have all sat in meetings where most people at the table are disengaged or checked out, but the conversation (and decisions) seems to just keep moving forward. No one stops to address what is needed most in that moment. If the meeting leader (or anyone in the meeting for that matter) was truly being present, they would stop the meeting and ensure everyone was fully engaged and thinking critically on the discussion before decisions were made. And in doing so, would avoid the auto default decisions that often lead to project inefficiencies — if not all out breakdowns.

Now, in order for us to be present with others, we must first be present with ourselves. When was the last time you asked yourself, “what does my body feel like right now?” … “what emotion am I experiencing in this moment?” … “what is my energy level in what I’m saying?”  These may seem like simple, almost elementary questions, but these are the very questions that are critical to being truly present. Most us adults have been so programmed to focus on what’s happening outside ourselves that simply asking the above questions can often be met with a struggle to answer them. And if we are not able to answer for ourselves how our body feels, the emotion we are experience, the level of energy we’re demonstrating, we are already out of the game. In this place, we have no power and are simply left with the randomness of however we might be showing up or not. On the other hand, the qualities of great leaders are those who are always in the game, always empowered and always deliberately driving the experience they intend most.

Executive Presence is starts first with a being present within ourselves so that we may be then present with others. The third area of being present is in our ability to intuitively feel into an environment or situation to identify what may be important to consider as we make decisions. In any given business, there is an endless pool of data, statistics and information that can be utilized in making decisions. But sometimes (or often), the overwhelm of all that information can cloud a leader’s ability to see the best decision. In these circumstances, it’s critical that we be able to pause, put aside all the information and turn within to listen for the answer that is present in this very moment. The answer is always available to us. But when we are running 10 different directions at once, the answer can often feel elusive. Taking a moment to center within and be fully present separate from the outside chatting is often the place we as leaders will find our greatest wisdom and prudence in making the best decisions for our organizations.

In summary, Executive Presence has 3 primary components that starts with being present within ourselves, then being present with others and finally being present with the environment or situation. Being in practice with these practices will help us develop a natural ability to be present, and thereby always see the best path to choose in front of us.

Lean In And Free Men


Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, is rallying women to pursue leadership positions in business and government despite their fears. In urging women to “Lean In,” she points repeatedly to the confidence of men. She contends that men pursue new jobs and opportunities even if they don’t feel 100% capable of doing the work. Meanwhile, women resist reaching for a professional challenge until they have zero doubt in their ability to succeed. As an executive coach, I can attest that men aren’t always as confident as they may seem. Nor do they always want to lean in.

Men have been told to lean in since the moment of their first stepiStock_000008352989XSmall, their first day on a baseball field and their first date. It’s pretty tough to maintain that always-on stance day after day, year after year and meeting after meeting. Men act in different ways when the pressure is overwhelming.

An executive who I worked with is beloved by his staff, even though he berates them. He is brilliant, but belligerent. Abrasive leaders like my client interpret normal interactions as threats to their existence. They see others like lions in the jungle about to attack them. Obsessing with their potential demise at every turn blinds them to how their behavior impacts others. Which is ironic considering that emotional intelligence is essential in today’s highly collaborative business environment.

According to a study by London’s Cass Business School and executive search firm Odgers Berndtson,  “82% of managers believe that leaders of the post-Baby Boomer era will need to develop so-called ‘feminine’ skills to motivate their workers.” Those traits include emotional intelligence, flexibility and a talent for instilling workers with a sense of purpose, says Richard Boggis-Rolfe, the chair of Odgers Berndtson.

Men are programed from adolescence to act hard, but they need soft skills to succeed in leadership roles in today’s interdependent business environment. Society’s message to men—“don’t cry”—runs deep. Many men have to put in extra effort to gain the self-awareness that is needed to understand and manage their emotions, develop and maintain relationships and cope with changes and challenges, which includes work/life balance.
In my 33 years of working for some of the world’s best corporations, I always felt that the demands on men to constantly lean in, to be the Type A’s the world expected and to be aggressive have placed relentless pressure men who wanted nothing more than a good family, a decent job, recognition and a chance to grow in a direction not dictated by someone else. Some recent research I conducted confirmed the suspicions that I had.

I recently surveyed men and women to determine their desire to take sabbaticals. Men were as likely as women (65% vs. 68%) to take or request a sabbatical. Spending more time with their families was one of the primary reasons men said they would take a sabbatical if it were offered. The men I spoke with truly regretted how much time they lost with their families by living up to the pervasive image of being “the provider.“

The key point is that society has preordained men to act a certain way. Assuming that all men are Don Draper doesn’t benefit women or businesses. As women lean in, we should also free men from the burden of having to do it all, all the time. We need to give them the opportunity to cultivate their emotional intelligence so they can effectively compete in work environments where the command and control model is quickly becoming outdated. Simply put, we should create the conditions where both men and women can lead businesses and governments as well as balanced lives.


How To Use 360-Degree Feedback For Executive Coaching


Executive coaching has been on the rise for decades as a strategic investment in human capital. When well-designed and delivered, coaching has been found to be one of the most effective approaches for developing senior leaders and enhancing the performance of their teams and organizations.

One of the most important components of executive coaching is the 360-degree feedback that the coach gathers for coaching participants about their strengths and development needs, how they are perceived, and what they need to do in order to achieve a higher level of performance and positive impact. Feedback can be gathered via automated online surveys or one-on-one interviews.

The first decision for coaching participants, their managers, and the coach is whether to collect data online or through in-person, video conference, or telephone interviews, or some combination thereof. Online 360s are more convenient and less costly, but, if correctly formulated and well-structured, interviews can help provide additional context and information. Sometimes an executive coach can use both, and follow up on a previous online 360 or performance review by interviewing designated feedback providers, in-person when possible, and via video conference or phone for those who are traveling and/or who work in different locations.

Once the approach has been decided on, the next decision is who should participate. The list of feedback providers should generally include anyone who has enough familiarity with the coachee’s work to be able to contribute useful observations and suggestions. The list should also be inclusive rather than exclusive, and should include all of the coachee’s direct reports, peers, and managers. It’s important to take organizational politics into account when drafting the 360 list: internal or external constituencies, such as customers or counter-parties, may also have helpful feedback to provide, and inviting them to participate can send a positive message, indicating that the coachee cares about their views and feedback. In order to ensure that the feedback providers will have a balanced perspective, there should be no sample bias, wherein only those who have positive (or negative) things to say are invited to participate. As far as process is concerned, it’s generally best to have coachees draft the initial list, and then run it by their boss, and possibly even HR, for refinement and approval.

In advance of doing the online 360 or conducting the interviews, it’s important to define who will see the feedback reports, either in full, edited, or summary form, and to clarify whether comments will be given “verbatim” in the feedback providers’ own words, or whether the coach will offer filtered/paraphrased feedback. Generally, we recommend that verbatim comments get shared in the report in order to include the most direct feedback. However, it should be clear to everyone who participates in an online or interview 360 that their verbatim comments will be shared, and in the case of an online 360, it’s useful to provide feedback providers with a sample report so they can see how their comments will be reflected in the report. We also suggest that the online or interview-based 360 should be shared in full, but only with the coaching participants themselves, as this increases the comfort that people have in being open and honest in the feedback that they provide without concern that tough feedback and/or specific criticism will somehow end up in the coachee’s “file.”  However, once participants have received the full report, they should be willing to share a summary of insights gained, and/or developmental plans made, based on the feedback in order to ensure that they will be (and feel) accountable for making progress based on the report. Regardless of which option is chosen, the choice needs to be made and communicated before the interviews are conducted, so that parameters are fully clear in advance to all participants, and they know exactly how, and with whom, their feedback will, and will not, be shared.

Once a consensus has been reached about the list of 360 providers, and who will see the report, the next step is drafting the questions that will be asked. If a standard online 360 will be used, it can be helpful, at times, to include a few additional context-specific questions, including open-ended questions, to gather more relevant information for the coachee. The boss and the coaching participant will likely be interested in each other’s preferred additional open-ended questions, as these questions will reveal their respective priorities and goals for the coaching program. If the boss wants to ask questions about executive presence or presentation skills, that is a signal to the coachee that the boss believes that those areas are relevant and improvable. If the coachee wants to ask what he or she needs to do in order to get promoted, that informs the boss that getting a promotion is a current goal or expectation for the coaching participant.

It’s important to achieve consensus between the boss and the coachee about how broadly or narrowly to focus the questions, whether or not to include questions about the individual's role and organizational constraints, whether to ask about potential future roles for the coachee, and whether or not to ask the same, or different questions to different people. Every question will also send a signal to participants about the coaching participant’s (and potentially the boss’s) coaching concerns and priorities, so it’s important to also consider organizational politics in drafting the questions in order to make sure that they are conveying the right messages. As with the participant list, we recommend that the coaching participants first draft the list of questions and then ask their boss (and possibly HR as well) for any edits, additions or changes.

To learn more about SGI's Qualitative 360 Assessment options, please contact your SGI Senior Consultant or email us at clients@sloanleaders.com.

(article originally posted at https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomaspremuzic/2017/02/09/how-to-use-360-degree-feedback-for-executive-coaching/#7e41991c565a)

4 Simple Steps To Effective Objective Setting

4 Simple Steps To Effective Objective Setting

It's the new year and an important time to set powerful objectives for your teams and your business. In our work with clients, we have found there to be 4 simple, yet important steps in creating effective objectives: 1) Set clear goals 2) Define specific deadlines 3) Establish bottom-line measurability and 4) Create progression tracking.

Let's first take a look at setting clear goals. Setting clear goals is important to objectives because they ensure we (and our teams) are aligned for the trajectory we intend. Without clear goals, we can end up creating unintended conflict or oversights in what is needed to create the success we want most. 

The second step in effective objective setting is defining specific deadlines. Defining specific deadlines ensures we don't get amnesia in remembering to achieve our objective. There is nothing more un-fulfilling to get to the end of your fiscal year only to realize you lost sight of the objectives you had originally set. Setting both full objective deadlines and mini-deadlines along the way help you stay on course throughout the year.

The third step is in establishing bottom-line measurability. In other words, what quantifiable or qualifiable impact will the objective have on your organization's bottom-line performance? And why is that impact important?  Understanding the measurability of your Objective will provide motivation and benefit in moving towards your objective. 

And the fourth step in effective objective setting is creating a way to track the progression of your objective. Tracking your progression will allow you to identify if you are 10%... 40% ... 70% complete with your objective and give you an opportunity to speed up, slow down or course correct as needed.

As a trusted partner, Sloan Group International supports our clients in objective setting in a variety of ways. Most recently, we launched a new online platform called Coaching Manager that now allows clients to effectively define goals, set deadlines, create measurability and track the progression towards those goals for all their coaching engagements. This platform can also provide clients both individual and aggregate perspective across these four objective setting components, which assists in the development of more strategic and effective executive coaching approaches. To learn more about Coaching Manger and other ways SGI can support you in being effective with your objective setting, simply contact your SGI Senior Consultant or reach us directly at +1 (312) 242-1801 or sales@sloanleaders.com.

written by SGI Vice President of Client Experience, Mark Darren Gregor

Applying Aikido Principles to Leadership

Applying Aikido Principles to Leadership
by SGI Coach, Andrew Cohn

“Foster peace in your own life and then apply it to all that you encounter."
"To injure your adversary is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the art of peace.”
“If someone comes against you, they should not feel defeated— they should feel it is useless."
"Life is growth. If we stop growing, technically and spiritually, we are as good as dead.” 

These are impressive and important aspirational principles that can help us stay ‘centered’ and focused on what’s most important, as well as help manage the conflicts we face. They are also some of the core tenets of Aikido. Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba, whose quotations are listed above. It is characterized by flowing movements, entering and turning so as to use an attacker’s energy against them. It is powerful and beautiful— both to watch and to practice. I’ve been fortunate to be a student of Aikido for over 15 years.

Actually, the term Aikido is comprised of three words: Ai, meaning harmony (I’ve also seen it defined as love); Ki, meaning universal energy (you may be more familiar with the Chinese word Chi); and Do, meaning the path or the way (similar to the Chines Tao).  Again, these are lofty words, but in Aikido it’s really about these principles. The martial art doesn’t work very well without Ki. In practicality, this means that if we are not centered, relaxed, and connected to the peace inside ourselves, we are simply not nearly as effective at responding to what comes our way. We are not as able to tune in to what is happening and what are options are. We can’t move smoothly if we’re out of balance.

That’s why Aikido is such a powerful tool and metaphor in leadership. In the ever-more-complex world of work, leaders at all levels need to maintain their center, to stay balanced and peaceful. If we get rattled, the people who depend upon us feel it, and our results can suffer. 

One aspect of the martial art that I think is particularly important is taking care of our ‘opponents’. On the Aikido mat that means when we’re attacked we neutralize the attack, often throwing the attacker, but with care for them so they are least likely to be injured. And at work that principle is critically important for two reasons. First, the principle of ‘you get what you give’ is in action— I’d suggest that we don’t want to practice conquest and defeating other people. What comes around goes around. And second, for purely practical reasons we can rarely afford to defeat people outright, because we’re likely to see them again. A peer, manager, employee, customer will likely cross our path again in the future; do we want to have to watch our back when we see their name on the org chart? Or worry about how they’ll treat our business if they move to another organization? Of course, we cannot control people and they will do what they do. But we can influence through our actions— so do we want to act to defeat or act in a way that optimizes the chances of maintaining a positive relationship?

The concepts of Aikido have migrated into the literature about leadership in a number of ways. For example, my colleagues and I often talk about “verbal aikido” in a number of settings, and I know of many Aikido-related leadership retreats. I invite you to read about, and more importantly to practice, some of what this wonderful art can teach us.

written by SGI Executive Coach, Andrew Cohn


Endurance in Leadership

The word ‘Endurance’ conjures up visions of great hardship – extreme climate, extreme terrain, triathlons, expeditions and army boot camps. Rightfully so as the very definition of the word in the Cambridge Dictionary is “the ability to keep doing something difficult, unpleasant, or painful for a long time”. 

However, as everyone knows, the need for endurance isn’t limited to the choice of journeys one may undertake intermittently or the select challenges one chooses to overcome. It’s a daily requirement in our lives, irrespective of choice. Routines of daily life often described as ‘the daily grind’, beg the question whether we are consciously building endurance to embrace what the world has in store for us or are passive participants tossed about on the waves of change.  
So how do great leaders build endurance? As the new world order is one with no order, no rules and no guarantees, leaders must prepare themselves and their teams for the unknown. Here are a few ways you can develop a willingness to face the uncertain, a resilience to meet it head on and the courage to outlast the challenges along the way.

  • Accept The Uncertain: As all leaders know, difficulties are inevitable and the question is not if we will face them, but how we choose to respond. It’s critical to both expect and accept success and hardship along the way. Positive leaders see an opportunity in every crisis – they demonstrate an eagerness to see what lies beyond the next curve in the path and prepare their organizations for the same. They approach life and work with a sense of balance and realistic optimism. 
  • Flex Your Muscle: When you exercise your physical, mental and moral muscles frequently, they function better, faster and smoother when required. Athletes training for ultra-endurance events know, that their success is more in the preparation that precedes the actual race itself. Like safety drills test the preparedness of your plans against multiple variables, they also instil a level of confidence among staff in their organization as a whole.  Leaders who have refused to remain complacent in good times, who keep pushing themselves and their teams to remain watchful, agile and lean are the ones that stay in the race. 
  • Bite Size Goals: While keeping an eye on the destination is important, focusing on the next step is critical. Breaking up the largest challenges into small, achievable tasks ironically act as small distractions along the long journey ahead. Leaders play a critical role in making their teams believe in the ability to win. A real captain will be able to steer his / her ship through the worst storms only if the crew truly believe they can overcome the challenges they face through a disciplined focus on each of their roles. 
  • Persistence: Leadership is never easy – it requires physical stamina, emotional intelligence and an unwavering moral compass to be a great leader. The leader who in the face of crushing defeat finds the strength to stand up, dust off and get going again is likely to gain both the respect of his team as well as the prize. The ability to show up and keep trying, no matter what, is a quality that many great leaders possess. “The quality of continuing for a long time” is how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Endurance; it could well be defining persistence.
  • The Larger Good: Ultimately the greatest driving force in an enduring leader remains their belief in their own role in the universe. Understanding how their lives or their business can be a force for good and articulating how this translates in daily life will make a positive difference in the world. It is their stories that endure the passage of time and of changing world values, stories that inspire and awaken people to work towards a better future for all of us.


The Biology of Leadership

The Biology of Leadership

The question “What makes a Leader?” has always intrigued us. Such a simple question, and yet there has been so much written about this topic and so little that we all agree on. Typical answers to this question would revolve around concepts like intelligence, mental toughness, resolve, vision, technical skills, analytical thinking and so on. But are leaders actually wired differently from the rest? 

Psychologist and best selling author, Daniel Goleman introduced the dimension of Emotional Intelligence and defined it in terms of qualities including self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and social skill. These “unbusinesslike” qualities were found to directly correlate leadership and tangible business results that exceeded the norm. 

In the past five years, research in neuroscience has come up with significant insights into what actually goes on in the brain when human beings interact and this could lead to a whole new understanding of the Biology of Leadership.

In my earlier blog on Social Intelligence, a correlation between social skills and effective team dynamics was created and I urged readers to ask themselves a few questions to understand where they stand in the continuum of Social Intelligence. Its time to dig a little deeper. One of the more interesting discoveries in recent times in the field of neuroscience involves mirror neurons. Accidently discovered in Italy, in monkeys, these neurons are what makes us mimic the behavior of other people that we are in contact with. Leaders tend to act in certain ways and through mirror neurons, team members tend to emulate those behaviors creating an overall environment of high performance. Recent research has also shown that these behaviors when coupled with positive emotional signals (smiles, nods), as opposed to negative signals (frowns) tended to strengthen the “mimicry” observed. If leaders want to create truly high performance teams, they need to not only exhibit strong leadership behavior, but also ensure that it is coupled with positivity. 

Other findings include the discovery of a class of neurons called spindle cells that are now known to be responsible for intuition – that gut feel about whether to trust someone or not. Another set of neurons, called oscillators, understood to have an impact on physical resonance – think of when two musicians play together in perfect harmony. 

While it is not yet understood how to actually influence the existence of these super neurons, or how to get them to fire more, it is widely believed that the only change we can make to become better leaders is a change in behavior. While lasting change (especially in behavior) is extremely hard, organizations globally are investing billions of dollars in trying to get people to not only think, but also act differently. In a world where the complexity of staying ahead in business is multiplying everyday, it might seem a little too “soft” to focus on upping the game when it comes to social intelligence. Biology and constant discoveries in neuroscience could prove after all that soft skills like social intelligence could make a world of difference when it comes to creating the next generation of high performing leaders. 

Why Social Intelligence Matters At Work

Why Social Intelligence Matters At Work

Leadership in today’s fast-paced and dynamic world just got a whole lot more complex. The days of relying on raw power intelligence, with impressive presentation skills and a dominant personality are passé. With so many dimensions to teams today including culture, location and demography, social intelligence is quickly becoming the make or break factor in effective leadership, globally. 

In recent times, the study of what really happens in the brain when people interact is beginning to reveal subtle new truths about what makes a good leader. Popular writer Daniel Goleman has drawn on social neuroscience research to propose that social intelligence is made up of social awareness (including empathy, attunement, empathic accuracy, and social cognition) and social facility (including synchrony, self-presentation, influence, and concern). Goleman’s research indicates that our social relationships have a direct affect on our physical health and the deeper the relationship, the deeper the impact.

As leaders, we are largely determined not only by how good our teams are, but also how aligned they are with the overall purpose and goal. Alignment goes beyond stating the goal. To be truly aligned implies that they believe in (and will work towards) it from deep within and represent that ambition in a demonstrable manner. That’s where the intersection of leadership and social intelligence comes in. Our ability to not only effectively navigate and negotiate complex relationships and environments within the workplace, but also to emerge as an inspiring and capable leader will drive our success, to a large extent. Throw in today’s heterogeneity within a global workforce, and the need to understand social dynamics suddenly becomes a critical success factor. 

As our understanding of social circuitry continues to develop (we are definitely on our way, but far from being there yet), this might be a good time to ask yourself a few important questions that can help you up the game when it comes to social intelligence. Or at least know where you stand.

  1. Empathy: Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds? Are you sensitive to their needs?
  2. Organizational Awareness: Do you appreciate your company’s culture and values? Do you understand social networks and know their unspoken norms?
  3. Influence: Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion, appeal to their interests and get support from key people?
  4. Developing Others: Do you coach and mentor others with compassion? 
  5. Inspiration: Can you articulate a compelling vision, build group pride, foster a positive emotional tone, and lead by bringing the best out in people?

Work relationships can be a double-edge sword. Positive relationships have a beneficial impact on our working environment and teams, while toxic ones can create unhealthy interpersonal dynamics and slow down the organization. Knowing where you stand, and what you need to do could make the difference between success and failure, of not just you as a leader, but at a much larger scale. 

Leadership and Teamwork

Leadership and Teamwork

Have you ever worked for someone who was not capable of leading a group? It makes for a very challenging team experience when the person making the decisions is not acting in the best interests of the team. 

Effective team leaders have four qualities that differentiate them:

1.) Effective team leaders have EMPATHY. They understand the needs of the members of the team, and speak to how they feel, not just what they think. If the team is disengaged the empathic leader can help them get motivated. 

2.) Effective team leaders are CLEAR and DECISIVE. They don’t stay in ambiguity for long, because the team needs a path to achieve its goals.  They may change direction or make new decisions based on new information, but they focus on decisive action. 

3.) Effective team leaders are CALM. They are able to manage their own doubts, fears, worries and concerns and help others to do the same. They find a way to stay flexible calm even in the face of difficulties. 

4.) Effective team leaders are OPTIMISTIC. They believe in a positive future and inspire others to do the same. 

If you’ve had an inspiring team leader let us know - we’d love to hear from you.

Parallels Between Olympians & Business Leaders


Parallels Between Olympians & Business Leaders

The Olympic Games test the sporting spirit and mettle of athletes all around the world. It is a time for years of their hard work and dedication to finally pay off in an international arena. But they are not alone in their journey towards glory. As Aristotle was to Alexander so is a coach to an athlete. And much like sports, coaching forms an important aspect of a high potential leadership development program. 

Olympic athletes and successful business leaders have quite a lot of things in common which makes them stay at the top of their game. Mentioned below are some such attributes:

  • Partnership with the coach - A successful coach-athlete relationship is highly instrumental in overcoming challenges in sports. Similarly, executive coaches and their coachees must form a bond of understanding, expectations and trust to achieve the highest form of leadership attainable. With the right guidance and direction of the coach, athletes and corporate leaders have the power to “Go for the Gold”.
  • Dedication & Perseverance – Commitment is the word ringing out loud in the countless hours devoted by athletes in training to become truly world class. Dedicated leaders also hone their skills and abilities everyday to be perfect in their sport of leading corporations.
  • Self-Awareness – Similar to Olympic Champions, successful business leaders become aware of their individual strengths and areas of improvement through constant interactions with their coaches and feedback.  A great leader with enhanced self-awareness is able to perform under any condition.
  • Lifestyle – Health, relationships, support network all have an important role to play in delivery of high performance in sports as well as business.  Maintaining a well-balanced and managed life is of paramount importance to stay at the top of the game.
  • Proper Equipment – Successful athletes excel in their respective games by making use of proper & quality equipment. Similarly the strength & efficiency of business leaders lies in the resources, books, activities, tools, assessments offered by their executive coaches.

For leaders and athletes to become Olympians in their areas of expertise, it is necessary to keep in mind these aspects of ‘The Game’.  Champions are not made overnight. To become one, it is essential to put in time, effort, sweat and focus. 



The Legal Team of a Financial Services Organization


To assist the Legal Team within a Financial Services Company to achieve their strategic vision through:
1. Improving communications and relationships between the legal team and the lines of business within the organization (their internal clients) to achieve business results
2. Developing their leadership presence and abilities to enable them to develop talent and increase engagement within the legal team



What is Cultural Intelligence? (and why do resilient leaders care?)

Those of you who read one of my last blog posts (Resilience in the face of a Violent World) will know why I believe this is such an important topic in this time of global challenge.  Leaders who have Cultural Intelligence are able to more easily adapt, learn, and bounce back from the issues that arise during the era we've entered; the Age of Interdependence. 

What is Cultural Intelligence?

          Earley and Ang (2003) define cultural intelligence as “a person’s capability to adapt effectively to new cultural contexts” (59). This involves the ability to “create new mental framework for understanding what is experienced and witnessed” (61). To be able to adapt to a new culture, the authors suggest that one must have an aptitude for direction (knowing what to do), adaptation (implementing), and criticism (critiquing one’s approach). Their model on cultural intelligence brings together a cognitive, motivational, and behavioral basis needed to display cultural intelligence. 

          Cognitive basis. The cognitive basis refer to “using knowledge of self, knowledge of social environment, and knowledge of information handling” to understand what to do in a given cultural context as well as how to do it” (68). According to the Earley and Ang (2003), we need culture to define who we are, and we define ourselves in reference to roles and expectations given to us by our culture. We may have multiple identities based on what we receive form our culture.  Therefore, highly adaptive individuals have a malleable self-concept and are able to adapt by incorporating new identities into their self-concept. Highly adaptive individuals are able to generate declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge about a culture using inductive/analogical reasoning, pattern recognition, external scanning, and self-awareness.

          Motivational basis. According to Earley and Ang (2003) “Cultural intelligence reflects self-concept and directs and motivates adaptation to new cultural surroundings” (73). One might be motivated to adapt to a culture via a strong sense of self-efficacy, persistence, desire for enhancement/acceptance by others, and value questioning and integration.  

          Behavioral basis. The behavior component involves the “ability to acquire new behaviors appropriate for a new culture” (Earley and Ang, 2003, 82). The culturally adaptive person is able to incorporate practices, rituals, and habits of another culture into their own behavioral repertoire. He or she uses “cues from others to infer accurately their states and views” and  “various behavioral cues provided by others to interpret their actions and underlying motives” (84).

Global leaders in particular need to be aware of their own cognitive, behavioral, and motivational bias. The whole world benefits. 


Good Business and the Nepal Earthquake

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Good Business and the Nepal Earthquake

Many of you know that KS&C has a deep connection to Nepal through our relationship with the Shanti Children’s Foundation, a small not for profit that helps to feed, clothe, house, and educate children who would otherwise have no access to those things.  


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A List of Resources for Executives

Are you an executive who has been looking for a valuable list of resources?  If so, we thought these handy twitter resources would be useful to you:


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Resilience in a Violent World: A Response to Paris and a Word from Russell Brand

With the kinds of horrific violent attacks we have seen in France - with the kind of fear and stress we are living with globally - it is high time for us to cultivate resilience on all levels.

As leaders we must be aware of the tone we set during times of fear.  Leaders are role models for the behavior they wish to see in the people they lead. If we are not conscious of our own foibles, our own fears, and our own bias, we can demonstrate behaviors that damage our organizations. Instead of building our resilience, we can tear it down. 

In global organizations resilience isn't only about developing our own personal ability to bounce back from a crisis or to learn from a challenging experience - real resilience requires us to practice respect, inquiry, and empathy for the experiences of the people we work with.  It requires us to lead consciously and with an eye for how to help others cope with the strange and difficult range of experiences we need to contend with.

I'm writing this post on assignment in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. This is a country that has ferociously condemned the violence of ISIS and other terrorist groups, and a country in fear that the cancer of violence will take root here. I fear for the world that the attacks are labeled "Islamic" and not ruthless murder by violent extremists. 

We as humans tend to create patterns out of what we see. We quickly categorize experiences and people. Groups become the “Other” without being seen from a human perspective. We see the horrific violence as an “Us versus Them” paradigm, and we are quick to name “Them” in the best way we know. When we have only a vague understanding of other cultures, we can group people together as if everyone is a part of the "Other" that we must defend from.  

When there is violence, horrific violence, we are at our most black and white because our amazing human brains are ready to protect us from danger. If we can categorize it we believe we can control it, rid ourselves of it, kill it, or avoid it. If we categorize this latest wave of killings as Islamic Terrorism we can wrap it into something we think we understand. But violent extremists are not the Islamic world as a whole and it is dangerous to create a story that villainizes millions of innocent people.  

In our original research as an organization we've found that the stories we tell are at the heart of our resilience. When we tell stories of triumph and positivity and of collective action and shared success, we broaden and build those qualities. When we tell stories of fear, of problems without solutions, of our inability to succeed, we broaden and build that instead.  In times of great fear leaders who can build a narrative of strength, of togetherness, and of respect as we move forward together will bring a great message to their teams who may be worried for their safety. 

In looking for someone to quote about this I found many incredible articulate articles...but one post stood out to me, penned by the ubiquitous Russell Brand. To read the whole post check this out: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/russell-brand/paris_1_b_6463550.html

The only answer is in the territory of the spirit, in the deep interconnectedness within us all. In the acceptance that all action on this plane is the manifestation of an inner realm and violence of an inner malady. Our only hope is compassion and love. To marshall vigorously the only terror and violence we can absolutely control; that which is within us individually.

When we are afraid of the "Other" it is impossible to get work done or to cultivate our shared accomplishments across geographic, ethnic, and religious boundaries.  

In order to be resilient in a violent world, we must remember what we share. We love our families. We pray for peace. 



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New Beginnings

It’s the end of another dynamic year here at Karlin Sloan & Company, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the changes and growth we’ve undergone! Our network of coaches is strong and remains the key resource in the work we do to promote a better way of working and living. We saw the opening of our online store, the beginnings of new projects, and took a big step towards expanding our business! With our leadership team growing and a fresh new look in the works, 2015 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for all of us.