Brenda's Blog

All articles from the 'Coaching' Category

Dinner with the Dean of Harvard Business School

Earlier this week, at a small private dinner for alums, I enjoyed a wonderful conversation with Harvard Business School’s Dean Nitin Nohria. Given our shared passion for developing high-level leaders, the Dean and I had an engaging chat about how to inspire leadership in today’s fast-paced, international world. It was also a terrific opportunity to connect with fellow alumni, reminding me of the importance of consistently networking.

What are some opportunities you could pursue in the coming weeks to broaden your professional contacts?

Be the leader you wish you had

I’ve heard clients say, “I’ve had a series of bad bosses, Brenda—no good role model—so you can’t really fault me for my poor people leadership.”

I see it differently and respond with, “Be the leader you wish you had.” After all, we all know what the characteristics are of a good inspiring people leader. The key is: How often do you embody those characteristics?

The surprising truth about how to create an inspiring leadership legacy

What causes certain leaders to achieve legacy status but not others, no matter how much a leader has accomplished nor how visible he or she has been in a company or in an industry? Just what is it that makes certain leaders so memorable and inspiring – leaving a clear legacy behind – while others are quickly forgotten?

A few months after Xavier was promoted into his new regional CEO role, he came to my office for a coaching session. After he shared a general update on how he was getting along in the job, I asked him to fast-forward in his mind to what success would look like after five years in the post.

He paused, then responded, “I will have left a legacy.”

“That sounds exciting,” I responded. “Tell me more.”

“By then, we will have doubled sales, expanded into five new geographic regions, increased market share by 20%, and added 250 new employees.”

I paused for a moment, then shared: “Xavier, one thing I’ve learned from coaching so many great leaders over the years… Legacy isn’t built by hitting the numbers.”

What does it take to create a legacy?

It’s not unusual for leaders to want to leave an inspiring legacy when they step down from a post. Leaders want to make an impact – to leave their time in office with something noticeable and memorable to show for it.

Yet, just like Xavier, too often leaders fall into a trap of “needing to hit the numbers” and using that, and only that, as the key benchmark for success. As a result, they place all of their short-term attention on the profit and loss statement, moving from quarter to quarter to quarter, achieving incremental growth, satisfying their bosses, their Board, shareholders, and Wall Street. But in the meantime, they haven’t stepped back enough to realize that those achievements are temporary and, by primarily focusing on numbers, leaders won’t have made an impact on the hearts and minds of their team members.

Don’t get me wrong: Of course, you must “hit the numbers!” It’s very clear that, if you’re not meeting stakeholder expectations from a top-line and bottom-line business standpoint, it’s likely your time in position won’t be long.

But true legacy as a leader doesn’t come from statistics and achieving tangible measurable benchmarks. Achieving numbers is the price of entry for leaders, the basic requirement of your job.

What is often overlooked – and that which will truly create a legacy for a leader – is the “how” of leadership.

Ok… so, how do YOU™ start building a legacy?

What about YOU™? If someone in your organization were to stop and ask your team members, your function heads, your direct reports, and peers to state what they felt your legacy was in your post so far, what would they say?

Here are a few questions to consider that will help you get a sense of the kind of legacy you are in the process of building for yourself:

  • Are you focused primarily on building people or on building business?
  • What kind of culture are you instilling (and culture “is” instilled from the top). What are five words to describe the culture you want under your leadership? Is that how people would describe the culture now?
  • What kind of balance are you achieving when it comes to time spent on relationships versus tasks?
  • Are you using a “pull” style – engaging and asking powerful questions – or are you using a “push” style – simply telling people what to do?
  • Is your overall attitude positive or negative? (Just like in the animal kingdom, leaders of any organization establish the overall tone of the entire company.)
  • Is your energy marked by calm confidence or is it rushed and frenetic?
  • Within your organization, are you genuinely focused on helping people grow, learn, and develop, or are you judging them?

Your answers to the questions above are the keys to building a legacy.

Let’s put it this way: In years to come, I guarantee no one will ever say, “Do you remember Meredith? She was the Vice President who always hit the numbers!” No, you will be remembered by the impact you made on people and on the organization as a whole, the “feel of the place” while it is under your guidance. If you’re not paying attention to that, you will become “just another leader” who did his/her job.

I’m reminded of this quote by Maya Angelou, which I like to share with leaders I coach: 

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, 
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Create a legacy for yourself by not only hitting the numbers but by being a leader people “want” to work for. Of course, you should achieve success in building the business, but it can be done through engaging people and inspiring them. That’s how you create followership, leave a lasting legacy, and in the process, build an inspiring leadership brand for yourself.

If you’d like to learn more about how to be a leader others want to work for, you might benefit from reading my book Would YOU Want to Work for YOU?

(Also available in e-book and audio book formats.)

A key message to help embrace feedback

I just finished several days of what I playfully call “Book the Coach.” Seated in a conference room at a client site, I laser-coached seven executives per day over the course of seven days. The goal? To help these already gifted leaders become even more inspiring, especially when it comes to providing feedback to direct reports.

I shared this quote—highlighted below—as one key message I personally like to embrace when coaching around feedback. In general, we tend to point out what is “wrong” with something or somebody and, as a result, we fail to inspire others towards what is possible.

To what extent does this quote resonate with you and your own experience of giving (or receiving) feedback?

What is the secret to earning more money and getting promoted?

A raise or promotion can be guaranteed by using one simple yet powerful tip. Watch and learn this sure-fire approach that I have shared with tens of thousands of clients around the world—with amazing outcomes. Excerpted from an interview I did as a guest on Christopher Rainey’s HRD Leaders Podcast, this one method can catapult your career trajectory.

Honored to be one of Thinkers50 World Leaders in Coaching!

I’m excited to share that I have been selected as one of the inaugural Thinkers50 World Leaders in Coaching! This award is named in honor of Marshall Goldsmith, to recognize his extensive contribution to the world of Executive Coaching.

This award will be celebrated in London at the bi-annual Thinkers50 gathering, which recognizes extraordinary management and business thinking.

The picture below was taken at a coaching conference a few years ago where Marshall and I were both keynote speakers. (It was so nice to be able to share with Marshall a copy of one of my books that he had endorsed.)

The surprising truth about sitting “idly” at work

Thinking strategically is a critically important skill that must be developed in order to get promoted to higher levels of an organization … but most aspiring leaders don’t take time to do it. In this video, I share a client’s story you might relate to and emphasizes the importance of occasionally “doing nothing” on the job. Watch to find out why!

What helps YOU feel inspired and creative?

I’m writing my next book, and I tend to write best when I’m near water. So, while searching for a quiet space with water nearby, my husband found this wonderful location. Here’s the view from my latest “writing perch” where, for the next 11 days, I will let creativity “flow” (every pun intended!). Would love to hear what inspires YOU!

Are you doing enough of “this” to build your inspiring leadership brand?

This year marks 25 years since I moved overseas. It was 1994, and although I was still fairly young in my career, my employer Procter & Gamble (“P&G”) had asked me to move to Warsaw, Poland where my mission was to help establish and grow leadership brands for the company in the newly opened Central European region. The Berlin wall had fallen only a few years before, so all eyes were focused on that critical part of the world.

I had been warned that living in Central Europe back then was going to be challenging (for perspective, part of my expat package was flying to Frankfurt so that I could buy canned goods, clothes, etc.). But I had no idea of the difficulties of one particular aspect of living there: How problematic – and expensive – it would be to connect with others. A phone call to my family in the U.S. cost me $4.50 USD per minute, and there was no spontaneity to business calls – they had to be scheduled days in advance so that the line could be put through by an operator.

Fast forward to 2019 and, as a human race, we are more connected today than ever in the history of the world. We live on a truly hyper-linked planet and, thanks to modern technology, those connections actually cost very little, or even nothing at all.

So, we are connected, for sure… But are we really connecting? And what is the impact of that on your brand as a leader? More importantly, what can you do about it? That’s the subject we’ll explore in this blog post.

One additional point worth sharing on the topic of connecting:  Read below “A fascinating new way to connect with others at a much deeper level” for a surprising approach to relate to people. I only learned about this in the past 2+ years, and I’ve found it to be a true game-changer in terms of better understanding colleagues, bosses, direct reports, clients, and loved ones, too.  I hope you will find it as amazing and impactful as I have. 

Finally, I want to stay connected with you! In addition to remaining in touch via this newsletter, here are some ways we can connect via social media:

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Are you doing enough of “this” to build your inspiring leadership brand?

We are living in unprecedented times. We are more connected now than ever in the history of the world. In the last 20 years alone, our ability to link to people around the globe has exploded. 

  • Through the internet, we can text/chat, join groups, or email anyone in the world.
  • Cellphones allow us to talk to anybody anywhere, no matter where we are.
  • Social media allows us to stay completely up to date with what is happening with friends, family, college pals, and colleagues.
  • Not only can I stay in touch, but where I used to pay $4.50 USD per minute to make a phone call from Poland back to my native U.S., smartphones now make it simple and accessible to connect with anyone – even for free – and use video while I’m at it. That would have been unimaginable not all that long ago.

So, it really is miraculous how modern technology allows us to be connected, isn’t it? But, in the process of all this … how much are we really connecting?

I was shadowing a meeting at a client site a few months ago. Seated at the back of the conference room, I couldn’t help but notice that, when participants of the meeting showed up early, instead of using a few minutes to talk with their colleagues, everyone was checking emails on their phone or texting – no one spoke to each other directly. I see this in our personal lives, too. Recently while out at dinner, there was a family of four (mother, father, son and daughter) sitting at a table not too far away. The parents were both scrolling through their phones and the two children were playing games on their iPads. Not a word was being said to each other.

I’m not judging here – I’m simply observing – and honestly, I’ve found myself doing this on occasion, as well. (Maybe you, too?) As a result, when clients ask me for advice on how to build a more inspiring leadership brand for themselves, I encourage them to return to the fundamentals and focus on making authentic connections with others.

To bring this topic to light, I developed a series of videos sharing some powerful coaching tools to help YOU™ connect better and become a more inspiring leader – whether you are leading yourself or others. I’ll be adding more videos to this series over time but, for now, the first few videos cover the topics of:

A fascinating new way to connect with others at a much deeper level

There is one tool in particular that I share in this series that deserves a special shout-out. I only discovered this myself a little over two years ago, but it has helped me to build instant and more authentic connections. It’s surprising, unusual, yet incredibly powerful – and it’s written on your face.

To find out more, watch this video:

Click here to find out more about The Power of Face Reading

The rest of the story…

To cap off my experience of working in Poland, I ended up living there five years in total, and to say I gained a lot during that time would be a major understatement (I also met my husband there, a fellow American who was also working in Warsaw at that time.) But one of the key learnings I took away was the importance of staying connected – truly, genuinely, authentically connected. It’s a message that applies to our world today and that will likely continue to apply to our world in the future as well.

What will you do in the coming month to foster deeper connections? I look forward to hearing about it.

Busy? Here’s a great way to stay connected!

I’m working on my next book right now, so my free time is quite limited. But I hate turning down “let’s get together” invitations that come in from friends and colleagues. My solution?  “Virtual drinks.” Agree on a date and time, send a video call invitation, we each show up to the call with a drink in hand – and voila!  We can take a break and connect for about 20-30 minutes or so, without having to leave the office.

If you’re strapped for time, too, and haven’t reached out to key contacts in a while, try a virtual drink – it’s a great way to stay in touch!