Archive for December, 2010

Coaching to Core Ideals – Authentic Person of Strengths and Weaknesses

By heartwoodgroup

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible and 5) Strategic Learners. See this first blog post to get a quick overview and context. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.


  1. Knows who they are as a person of strengths and weaknesses
  2. Doesn’t hesitate to be engaged in meaningful dialogue with people at any level
  3. Is “other” focused

Scores of books and articles have been written about authentic leadership.  I think a lot of it is valid.  Some, well let’s say it makes good title.  Come on who doesn’t want to be authentic?  Of course there might be that person somewhere out there that is saying…”I’m an imposter and it seems to be working pretty darn good”.  Now you also might be that person reading this and thinking…”That’s my boss!  He is incompetent and terrible with people…or…When something goes wrong she is never willing to admit she is wrong”.

Who are you?  If you are a leader new to a team or organization…this is likely the question of those around you.  They don’t come up and ask you in that straightforward way.  It’s more like… “Tell me a little bit about yourself.  What are some of jobs you have had and what’s your experience?” If we dig a little deeper on the reality side of these questions…they are trying sniff out if you are the real deal or not.  What are you?

Collectors of valuables and antiques are always excited when a “letter of authenticity” accompanies a piece of merchandise or heirloom they have purchased. It’s a grounded assessment that it is really what it appears to be.  Not some fake that has had its blemishes or weaknesses covered over. Or something with a facade, a thin layer of disguise for what is really underneath.  Is your list of accomplishments a bunch of fluffy crap that the recruiter wowed the HR person with to get you a job?

Hey, I think I came up with a pretty good analogy with the “letter of authenticity” for what it means to be a leader.  BE REAL!  Come with a letter that’s states exactly what and who you are. Know that you are both your strengths and your weaknesses.  Don’t try to overuse one (your strengths) or try to hide the other (your growth area).  The deal is this.  During my career in sales, sales management, and developing sales organizations I have shared my truth with everyone who I can…and that is…. “People can spot or smell a phony a mile away”.

Some of the lack of being authentic as a leader is more subtle than the blatant examples we all know of leaders who lack self awareness. The main problem we all face as human beings is we are kind of “hard wired” to be worried about looking bad.  Said another way we want to look good.  If you don’t believe me, let me ask you something.  Did you look in the mirror or window to catch your reflection today?

Leaders who are vulnerable in relationships and willing to take some risk generally struggle less in this area of living with (or knowing) their strengths and weaknesses.  Even so, it requires constant vigilance to not fall into a false sense of confidence and state of personal delusion.

The first step in coaching a leader to be more authentic with others is to get them to be more authentic with their own self.  –Mark Uhlenberg (Can you quote yourself and be authentic? Well I just did!)

My most significant breakthrough in being authentic as a leader was working with my coach Jeff Brown.  Jeff was like a “self awareness” strength coach.  He drilled me on the small and simple things that turned out to be a foundation for building a powerful practice of self awareness.  I found out that I was not as authentic as I thought I was.  In fact, the most disappointing thing happened to me.  It’s when a leader finds out he or she believes their bull shist (BS is the common acronym).  It’s bad enough to BS others, but doing it (BSing) to yourself is absurd.  It’s certainly not going to build the platform you need to operate from as a powerful and effective leader.  It works for politicians…it doesn’t work for business owners and people leaders who are striving for the ideal.

If you are coaching a leader caught up in the bovine syndrome of BS.  You have to hold up the mirror of straight talk.  Next step is getting them to practice it with you as a coach.  That’s why coaching relationships become so powerful because the coachee is in the practices of becoming a leader with you.  Talking straight “seems” simple enough until you start practicing it.  A practice is something as a professional you keep on doing and doing.  If you get out of the practice of straight talk; authentic relationships become more difficult or cease to exist all together.

So, in this post related to BEING AUTHENTIC and KNOWING YOURSELF we have opened up the idea that STRAIGHT TALK is a PRACTICE.  That an ideal leader; practices authenticity consistently, becomes a more potent developer of people through their use of their strengths, and doesn’t hide, but minimizes the areas where they are weakest.  Get a coach, an accountability partner, and get real.  Life and work will become a source of joy, peace, and fulfillment.  Don’t fake it…make it…real.

Next post we’ll dive a little deeper into Authentic leadership as an ideal in the area of dialog and speaking.


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Coaching to Core Ideals – Balance the longer and the shorter

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is  1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible and a 5) Strategic Learner. See this first blog post to get a quick overview and context. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.

The IDEAL LEADER is Visionary

  1. Has a vision for their life and work and engages mentors to hold them accountable
  2. Has a compelling reason to offer others to follow them either through both word and action
  3. Sees how to balance the longer view with the need for short term results

Had a sales manager tell me the other day…”thanks for paying attention to the strategic items that are really important.  I want to make time, BUT….” (that 3 letter word that usually precedes a reason for NOT doing something)…you fill in the blank on the answer.   This post is all about BOTH/AND and not about EITHER/OR.  If you are leading an organization, team, family, or yourself; you better learn how to work in the present moment to get stuff done and also keep on task with the plan for the future.

We all know “this stuff”, but making it happen that’s the real deal.  I’m not telling any sales manager or business owner trying to make their numbers for this fiscal year anything they don’t feel in their gut, bank account, or have already heard many times.  Yet before we despair or settle on status quo…let’s see if we can’t move the needle on the dial a little more in your favor with this blog post.  I could have easily declared this 3rd point as “being a strategic thinker”.   I chose to keep it more broadly defined as a characteristic of balancing both thinking AND intuition.  I am a strong advocate for leaders exercising strategic thinking, but I believe this is a tacit skill and not a leadership characteristic.  Strategic thinking is an essential skill for a leader to develop.  Strategic thinking is a discipline that is highly iterative and quite messy.  That is to say, you must identify what is going on, what it means, and speculate what you might do about it almost simultaneously and not any of  those in a particular order.  This skill traverses across all time horizons.

My friend Allen Karlin is a leadership development professional with lots of experience in global leadership development.  Allen gave me a “thumbs up” on the Coaching to Core Ideals concept.  Along with his validation came some good feedback on this third characteristic under the Core Ideal of being VISIONARY.  The balance between the long and short term items in life and business is the hardest part of being a leader….  His interpretation is the following…

A visionary leader can see day-to-day tactical events clearly while having the ability to see the big picture – patterns of events – that shape the organization and the future.” –Allen Karlin

Have you ever experienced a leader that embodies this balancing act that Allen so capably described?   A leader can almost appear magical, they make it look effortless.  It could simply be called balanced thinking in one sense and yet that seems to miss the mark too.   What makes this characteristic unique is that it’s tactical and intuitive.  There is a polarity involved in the decision making and actions being taken. The head and gut, the long and the short view, the tactical and the intuitive…  Have you played with any magnets lately?

If I interview one of these balanced leaders and ask how they do it; they quite often struggle articulating the concrete and tacit steps they take.  I do see them embrace the “struggle” and I love supporting leaders in coaching conversations to interrogate this polarity of being a leader.  It always yields greater awareness and higher likelihood of being able to practice being a balanced leader.   I call this walking the thinking and intuition tight rope.  We can wrongly believe we can think our way out of or into any solution for a problem.   Business in these current times offers shorter time frames and faster transitions to shepherd through, so building enough information or data to make a well reasoned decision is becoming increasingly more difficult for leaders.

I’ve driven thousands of miles as a sales professional.  I have taken safety driving courses.  The biggest and yet simplest awareness you are taught as a driver is to stop focusing on just the bumper of the car ahead of you.  You are told to look as far as you can to the next horizon.  Why?  Because your car is a moving object and “seeing ahead” will keep you out of trouble.  The key point to this concept is trust your peripheral vision and constant scanning around your vehicle.  You will see what’s going on in front of you immediately even though you are looking ahead.

The skills of driving safely saved my life more than once.  A balanced leader will raise their line of sight and trust their peripheral vision to take care of the up close things while focus on the horizon. This balance requires faith and trust that is strengthened over time by better judgment.  It will save your organization if you practice and commit to looking your business and people ahead of the game.  Working with a professional coach can have huge ROI for leaders.  The discipline that coaching brings requires you to dedicate regular time to stay in tune with your balancing act as a leader.  A skilled coach will create a rich learning environment to broaden your perspectives.

Coaching a leader in this domain often involves getting them to raise their “line of sight”.  You can’t keep your head up in the clouds and ignore the pressing needs of today.  However, equally important is the idea that you can’t lead a team or organization with your head down, looking no further ahead than the tips of your toes.  And this is the crux of the matter.  Can you trust yourself to think and act in the best interest of your business and everyone depending on you as a leader?  If not you then who will it be?  Step out on the tight rope and start walking.  It’s the only way you get your balance.

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Coaching to Core Ideals – A Compelling Reason

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is  1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible and 5) Strategic Learners. See this first blog post to get a quick overview and context. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.

The IDEAL LEADER is Visionary

  1. Has a vision for their life and work and engages mentors to hold them accountable
  2. Has a compelling reason to offer others to follow them either through both word and action

Why would anyone want to follow you?  Really, what is the most compelling reason you have to give to your employees, colleagues, or family members to engage with you as a leader?  What is it that you are speaking about that taps into the real needs and the essence of those you have been entrusted with to give direction to about their work and career?  Even more disturbing for most of us is answering the question…How are you living and what are you acting on (as a leader) to set an example to others who are watching you? Click here to see my favorite example!

One of the things that many “new” leaders find out too late (for better and for the worse) is that you are being watched.  As a leader “all eyes are on me” and you better believe people are watching your actions even more than what you say.  AND they want to see that they (words and actions) are in alignment.  You are being watched; by an individual, a team, and maybe an entire global organization is watching your character in the big and the small things.  When it counts for a lot and when it counts for a little.  Do you schedule people off your calendar for what you “think” are bigger items?  What does that tell them?  What if it is your family or child that you scheduled off your calendar?

Why the word “COMPELLING” to describe your vision and your action?  If you look at the definition it means you have an undeniable ability to persuade and to get others in the same grasp of your vision…in the same way that it has gripped you.  A vision often chooses us and lays hold of us and won’t let go.  It comes to us over time or in a “gripping” moment.  We may think we acquire, choose, or build a vision ourselves.  As an experienced coach it seems the vision is there waiting for the client or leader to find it.  It is almost like we often are running from our own vision and just won’t give it a chance to grab us.  Just like Isaac wrestled with God all night long for a blessing, God had a vision for him and he had to wrestle with it in order to receive it. It came with a limp and a new name as a result.

Lastly, if you clicked on my favorite example above…you saw Gene Kranz portrayed in Apollo 13 movie.  He set the example of leadership in his role as Flight Leader at NASA.   It is powerful when a leader can produce a gripping and convincing story that not only he or she believes in, but that others see them in action towards their vision with true conviction.  When someone is drawn toward their vision like the thirsty are to water it makes others around thirst as well.  Nothing quenches the thirst of a compelling vision until you invest yourself in it by both word and deed.  Speak it and live it.  It’s simple, powerful, and the hardest thing a leader faces when the real challenges start happening.

Next post… The Ideal Leader sees how you balance the longer view with the need for short term results.

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Coaching to Core Ideals for Leaders

In the most recent Blog on  Coaching to Core Ideals for Leaders five ideals or characteristics were listed that would provide a core framework for some very simple yet powerful criteria to coach and support leaders in their development.  Leaders in the broadest sense, because I firmly believe that a leader is a learner with a vision.  It is the idea of moving and learning or leaning towards something, but also the paradigm of living in these Core Ideals as well.  By living in them I could also say that these are practices and areas of focus that a leader should seek to master over time.  So, let’s begin to look at each one of these five ideals (Visionary, Authentic, Disciplined, Accessible, and Strategic Learner) by beginning with Visionary.

Warren Bennis has written several books on Leadership and I recommend them all, but his book ‘Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge’ has influenced my work with leadership teams and individual leaders greatly.  He brings easily understood strategies in a powerfully simple process.  Warren Bennis, my coaches and mentors influence my approach and the desire to help leaders whenever and wherever they show up in my life as a certified Hudson Institute coach or consulting on human resource development.

The IDEAL LEADER is Visionary

  1. Has a vision for their life and work and engages mentors to hold them accountable

Take me somewhere!  I have seen this sentiment play out far too many times for business owners and executives.  They have an organization willing and wanting to follow them.  These leaders lack the awareness that the vision for their life and work provides invaluable support to those depending on them for direction.  I’m not talking about great orations and fancy platitudes.  It is simpler than that.

Just the fact that you as a leader clearly understand where you are going makes you show up differently without even saying a word.  And when you engage  a coach or mentor to hold YOU accountable it builds into you (the leader) the experience of BEING accountable.  So that (I love those two little words “SO THAT”), you can then generate accountability within others knowing what it “feels” like from your own experience.  Leadership is intellectual (The Mind), physical (The Body), and spiritual (The Soul). Each of these human dimensions are all involved in being a leader.  This is why coaching individuals and teams of leaders to BE THE VISION for their business is so powerful. There are most certainly leadership activities to “do” more effectively, but it is who and how we are BEING that wins the day.

In coaching or leading there is one simple prerequisite in my book.  It is an experience,  for both you and those you have been blessed to “be” a leader in their life or career.   You have to have been led or coached.  Having the experience of being a follower or being coached generated within you gives you the greater likelihood that you can generate it within another.  Leaders leading leaders should be the goal for many organizations.  There is plenty of demand and room for leaders.

If you liked this conversation subscribe RSS at the bottom of the post ….or just come on back.   I cherish your input and hope to build a learning community that wants to grow as compassionate and “all in” leaders.

Next time… The Ideal Leader has a compelling reason to offer others for why they should follow them either through both word and action.

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