Are you energizing and inspiring your people?

Some time ago, in a meeting I was facilitating, people were going around introducing themselves. One of the long-time veterans of that organization stood up and introduced himself in the following way: “My name is Bill. I don’t remember how long I’ve been here, but I have 64 months to go!”

You would think that Bill represents a small minority of cynical people. However, my experience says otherwise. Unfortunately, I find cynical and resigned people at all levels of all organizations.

When I ask senior executives, “How are your people doing?” I often get a stock answer of, “My people are excited and in great shape.” However, when I interact with the organization, I often find people to be uninspired and uninspiring.

The bar for what passes as ‘inspired and energized‘ in corporations today seems to be quite low.

Oddly enough, many leaders still do NOT seem to view the creation of inspiration as a critical aspect of their roles or the success of their business. Some believe it’s a ‘nice to have,’ but many still think it is not up to them to inspire. A few even view inspiration as irrelevant altogether. Many leaders often believe that the only or main thing that truly motivates people is pay, objectives, compensation, and bonuses.

Quite frankly, I believe that money as the most significant source of motivation is a big myth!

Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not disparaging pay, compensation, or bonuses. They are indeed an essential part of any motivational strategy. However, I have seen situations where people could double and triple their bonus if they collaborated and worked together, but they still stayed siloed and didn’t work together. On the other hand, I have seen situations where people had no financial incentive to collaborate, but they still did the right and best thing for their own success and satisfaction, as well as for their company success by collaborating with genuine commitment and passion.

My point is that being energized and inspired is something that comes from within, not from external circumstances. Yes, external stimuli can help, but ultimately they are not the primary source of how people feel and act. When people feel included, valued, cared for, and that they can make a difference, they can’t help themselves but get energized and inspired. And, because any organization is always a reflection of its leaders; inspiration and energy has to start and come from the top.

So, how can you, as a busy leader energize your staff on a day-by-day basis and make sure people are not cynical? Here are a few simple tips to start you off:

  1. Show up and listen. I have often heard the complaint in organizations that leaders and managers simply don’t listen. If you want to energize your people spend some dedicated time each day, week or month walking the floors, showing concern, interacting with team members, asking people how they are doing and what you could do for them. And then follow up with whatever comes out of those interactions and conversations.
  2. Follow up and follow through. So much of the cynicism that people have comes from a lack of follow up and follow through. Teams make decisions, and then there is no follow-up or follow-through. Leaders and managers promise things, and then they don’t do what they said, they don’t acknowledge this and/or change their promises. When it comes to acknowledging what was promised, following through, and doing what you said, there is no difference between big strategic promises and small tactical ones. If you don’t follow up and follow through even on the small things, people will become skeptical and cynical around you.
  3. Praise, recognize, and thank people. I have written so much about this. It doesn’t cost a penny to say, “Thank you!” every day, and it goes a long, long way to engage and motivate people. One of the biggest complaints in organizations today is the lack of recognition. Well, if you want to energize your people and avoid cynicism, go out of your way – every day – to praise, recognize, and thank them. In fact, always recognize people in public and criticize them in private. This way, they’ll feel respected and trusted.
  4. Encourage new ideas. There is always more than one way to get anything done. In addition, different people have different ways, ideas, and styles about how to effectively make things happen. As long as the objectives and key ethical values are clear and adhered to, it’s actually healthy to allow employees some room to innovate. And, it goes a long way to increase ownership and defeat cynicism.
  5. Encourage, promote, and reward high ownership and accountability. People who are making a difference from time-to-time make mistakes. The only way to avoid this is to play so small that your mistakes are irrelevant. When employees play big, the impact of their mistakes tends to be big too. However, responsible people go out of their way to learn from their mistakes and correct them. By showing them that you respect ownership and accountability, they’ll play even harder, bigger, and with more commitment.


Do you just complain or actually do something about it?

I am constantly blown away by my observation that people in organizations – at all levels – prefer to complain and whine about the things they are not happy about rather than doing something about it.

In fact, when things don’t work effectively, people tend to spend more time covering their behind – i.e., making sure everyone in the universe knows it is not their fault, instead of trying to figure out how to fix the problem.

That is why people rarely step up to outright declare, “You can count on me – I will fix this!” Instead, they prefer to copy the entire universe on their self-protection emails…  or as these are referred to – C.Y.A. or “cover your ass”.

This behavior is very pervasive. I see and hear it everywhere, every day.

In fact, I was in an airport taking a flight the other day. It was not a busy time, so hardly any people in the line. As I was going through security, I couldn’t help but hear the security staff whining and complaining about their supervisor. One of them went on and on about how their supervisor didn’t give them enough time to go to the bathroom. Another added her own criticism about the fact that the supervisor reprimanded her for not doing her job correctly. They were feeding off of each other in a frenzy. It went on for 5 minutes.

First of all, I felt embarrassed for them. It wasn’t appropriate for them to have that conversation in front of the customers – me. However, I guess they were so upset and resigned they didn’t even think about that.

More importantly, I wanted to interrupt and ask: “Did you speak with your supervisor about these issues?. Did you try and do something to correct these small easy-to-fix issues?” However, I didn’t. I am sure the answer would have been a resounding, “NO!

Everywhere I go, I people-watch and can sometimes find myself inadvertently eavesdropping on conversations. Obviously, I don’t do it rudely or inappropriately, but people tend to speak loudly when they are passionate or upset about something, so I pick up on it – probably an occupational hazard.

It seems that everywhere I go people are complaining and whining about their hardships, rather than making attempts to do something productive about it.

After all, why take responsibility when you can be a victim and blame others for the issues. It is so much easier to exist this way.

However, being a victim comes with a hefty price. Primarily, you stay small, you lose your power to shape and influence your circumstance, and you feel resigned.

The good news is that anyone can change their orientation at will. If you are fed up with the powerless conversations, change the channel, and start engaging in powerful conversations.

This means start making clear and direct requests; it may require you to promise things in return. In addition, it means stop participating in the around-the-cooler bitching sessions, which don’t make any tangible difference other than promoting self-righteousness.

You always have a choice when you are unhappy about your circumstances or predicaments – you can just complain or actually do something about it!


How to build a High-Performance Team

A lot has been written about this topic. I would like to keep it simple.  

For me a high-performance team is:

  • A team that is truly cohesive, aligned and trusting.
  • Everyone has each other’s back and people feel they are in it together.
  • Team members address and discuss any topic, no matter how sensitive or difficult – in an open, honest, authentic, courageous, effective and respectful way.
  • People give feedback, coaching and hold each other to account.
  • Everyone is comfortable taking a stand and being explicit about what they are committing to.
  • And lastly – there is no tolerance for gossip, blame, and negative conversations.

So, how do you develop a High-Performance team?

Here is a simple and powerful four-step approach for starting the process:

Step One – Choose high-performance:

First, you have to make sure your team members genuinely choose to become a high-performance team. Becoming a powerful team is no small task. It is a challenging roller coaster ride with some high points and many low points along the way. It requires a huge commitment. You can’t assume that people want it enough that they will do whatever it takes. Also, if you are the leader or manager of a team, you can’t mandate it.

At the middle manager level, you don’t need to have every manager fully committed to high performance. You need enough of the managers; a critical mass. However, at the senior-most leadership team, nothing less than a genuine commitment by 100% of the team will be enough.

Once you have determined that all your team members are genuinely on board and committed to doing whatever it takes to go the whole way in order to become a high-performance team you can begin the forming work.

Step Two – Take stock of your starting point:

In order to reach the next level you have to first take an honest look at your starting point; your current reality – especially the areas where you and your team members have the biggest high-performance deficits and gaps.

It’s not enough to just be honest about the gaps. You have to own them too. Even if you didn’t start or cause them; even if they began a long time before you came on board.

Team members that keep blaming others or circumstances for their lack of team effectiveness will not be able to become a high-performance team. Why? Because one of the key characteristics of a high-performance team is its members’ ability to always take responsibility.

By owning I do not mean that your team members have to beat themselves up or feel guilty. You have to be able to see your circumstances at least from the standpoint that you and your team members had something to do with your lack of high performance.  Perhaps you caused it. Perhaps you tolerated it. Perhaps you were blind to it. But, you had some role in it, especially if it has been there for a while.

It would be much more powerful if your team members can look beyond and take full responsibility for their misbehaviors. For example, instances where people didn’t communicate or collaborate; they looked out for their own agendas, or they sold out and didn’t act with courage.

Step Three – Create a bold strategy worthy of high-performance:

A team can only become a championship team if its members are aiming to win a championship, and they have to rise to the occasion in order to win it.

So, in order to become a high-performance team, your team has to create a bold vision and strategy; one that would require you all to interact and operate at a significantly higher level than you ever have.

Obviously, your vision has to be desirable. But, it also has to represent a stretch end-result that, even though your team members may not yet fully know how to achieve, you all believe it is achievable.  Make sure you also design and outline the plans for executing and delivering on your plan.

If you do a good job in this step, everyone should feel excited about the aspirational future they created.

Step Four – Align on ground rules for working as a high-performance team:

Once the external game is set up you should spend some time on your team’s internal game. You and your team should align on simple and powerful ground rules for how you will work together as a high-performance team.

You should think about things like:

  1. Addressing issues directly and quickly and not letting issues fester
  2. Speaking with one voice
  3. Recognizing each other’s efforts and achievements

Team principles and ground rules are a great way to cement commitment and begin to turn commitment into action. Keeping the ground rules simple, clear and plain language – not PPT language – will make them more powerful.

In this step, you should also discuss anything else your team members may need in order to feel equipped to stay the course, no matter what, and deal with the inevitable ups and downs of your future journey.

I have helped many teams reach high-performance, and to be honest, taking this game on is demanding and challenging. However, if you stay the course, it is actually very energizing and rewarding. In fact, people often remember these bold initiatives as the highlight of their career.


Don’t forget to enjoy the journey toward your destination

I was coaching a senior executive who was not demonstrating the leadership that he had wanted and that people expected of him in his senior position. During our session, he shared his disappointment and frustration with the fact that he had recently turned 50 and he hadn’t reached the level of promotion that he had wanted. It seemed that his miss behavior was a reaction to his sudden realization and panic that “he was behind on achieving his life goals…”.

As ambitious members of a modern and demanding society, we have the tendency to go through life with the sense that we are “not quite there yet”. We set goals for ourselves and then along the journey we often forget that we are the ones who set these goals. We fall into the trap of feeling that we are behind and/or that only when we realize the goals we set we will have truly made it, and then we can truly relax and enjoy our life to its fullest.

The entire “retirement” concept is predicated on this premise – we work extremely hard throughout our life, often sacrificing and neglecting key areas like family, marriage, health and recreation, in order to achieve financial and professional goals that would allow us to get to that stage in life where we can retire and then “truly start doing what we love to do”.

I love and resonate with this quote from Fr. Alfred D’souza::

 “For a long time, it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last, it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life”.

We so often equate our material achievements and success with our self-worth. We get caught in the hamster wheel of jealousy and competitiveness, and even when we do reach certain milestones we don’t take the time to appreciate and celebrate what we have accomplished. Instead, we move right into the next goal and the rat race continues.

And let’s be honest, the dominance of social media doesn’t help at all! In fact, it only makes the pressure and stresses greater. Instead of only seeing our neighbor’s new car, we are now exposed to thousands of online “friends” who display their lives. No wonder we often feel like the grass is greener on the other side.

Throughout our prime years, as we are working our butts off, we feel like “when we get the next promotion… close the next deal… make the next million… buy the house or car of our dreams” or “get our children through college or married…” – “THEN life will truly be great”.  But then when we reach a certain age we start talking about our life in terms of “the good old days”.

So if throughout our life we feel that “someday” we will start living and then at the prime of our life we feel like “the good old days are behind us”.

When is it our time? When do we ever enjoy today… the moment???

If you understand and appreciate the strong tendency we all have to focus on our future goals and ambitions at the expense of living and enjoying the present you could develop some practices and habits that will change the scale. Here are some ideas:

  1. Keep reminding yourself that you are the one who created your objectives and expectations in the first place. As the author of your future, if you find your goals and timelines to be too daunting and/or stressful change them to ones that empower you.
  2. Acknowledge your accomplishments – every month, week and every day. Focus more on your progress and what you have accomplished, and less on your gaps, deficits and what you haven’t achieved.
  3. Make sure to set time in your busy life for activities that empower you… If you are a workaholic take time for great vacations. If you are married and/or have kids make sure to spend quality time with them on a regular basis… force yourself to do that….
  4. Anticipate now what you will regret in the future if you don’t do or say, and do it today!
  5. Avoid falling into the trap of comparing yourself and your life with others… or even worse, being jealous of others.

It’s now or never… literally!

The four Es of making a difference with others

If you manage people or if you are simply trying to make a difference through coaching, mentoring or supporting someone you care about, I would like to share with you some thoughts about four distinctions you should focus on.  I refer to these as – The Four Es of Making a Difference


The dictionary defines enable as “To give someone the means to make something possible

So many people get resigned and give up too quickly when they face big challenges. They view their obstacles as bigger than them, so instead of staying the course to overcome their obstacles they quit or simply go through the motion, which is worst.

In fact, too many people fail because they give up, rather than because they give it their all and fail trying. If you want to make a difference, your job is to enable them to achieve the things they want to achieve but they don’t think they can.

As you listen to the person you are coaching, ask yourself the following questions in order to determine your input:

  1. “Do they trust themselves to get the job done – even if they don’t know how or they haven’t been successful in the past?
  2. “Do they trust themselves to overcome whatever challenges and obstacles come their way?”
  3. “Do they believe they are big enough – bigger than their challenges and circumstances, or are their challenges and circumstances bigger than them?”

Make sure your conversation with them leaves them bigger than their circumstances and challenges.


I didn’t know this word even existed in the English language until I checked the dictionary, which defines embolden as: “To give someone the courage and confidence to do something or behave in a certain way

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather acknowledging and embracing the fear and living up to your commitment anyways. You could say that fear is the pre-requisite for courage. No fear, no courage. Courage is often the most important ingredient in overcoming any challenge or adversity, pursuing any opportunity or achieving any success. Unfortunately, lack of courage is also one of the most frequent reasons for why people don’t have what they want. If you want to make a difference, your job is to empower them to be as courageous as they need to be in order to fulfill their commitments and dreams.

As you listen to the person you are coaching, ask yourself the following questions in order to determine your input:

  1. “Are they being courageous?”
  2. “Are they taking courageous actions?”
  3. “Are they willing to do whatever it takes to have what they want?”
  4. “What are they afraid of?”

Your job is to show the person you are making a difference with that (1) they are able to achieve their commitments, (2) they need the courage to do so and (3) they are completely able to be courageous, act courageously – to bring forth courage.


The dictionary defines energize as “To give vitality and enthusiasm”

Most people react to circumstances. If things go well, they are happy and energized. If things don’t go well they get discouraged and de-motivated. Most people expect the circumstances, including others to give them energy and excitement.

Winston Churchill said:

“Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”

The most powerful people self-generate energy and positive attitude in the face of anything. Self-generating commitment, optimism and hope is real power.

As you listen to the person you are coaching, ask yourself the following questions in order to determine your input:

  1. “Are they self-generating positive energy, inspiration and motivation for themselves and others around them?”
  2. “Are they indulging in self-pity or victim mentality?”
  3. “Are they present to the cost of self-pity and victim mentality, and do they want to change that?”
  4. “Do they feel able to generate optimism, hope and commitment, even in the face of challenging circumstances?”

Your job is to inspire the person you are making a difference with to self-generate a different outlook of optimism and hope, as well as energy, passion and enthusiasm – unconditionally.

The best way to do that is to infect the person you are making a difference with, through your own energy, passion and optimism, in your interactions with them. Don’t merely speak about it, demonstrate it in your own behavior.


The dictionary defines empower as “To give someone the authority or power to do something”

Personal power is measured by how quickly someone can transform their vision into reality or achieve what they want. There is a science and art to creating a vision and strategy, as well as executing and achieving it. Most people fail in the science part – they lack the patience and rigor to articulate their vision, to create a robust plan or to do what they said effectively in order to execute and achieve it.

As you listen to the person you are coaching, ask yourself the following questions in order to determine your input:=

  1. “Are they clear enough on their vision and what they want?”
  2. “Do they have a robust enough plan and strategy to fulfill their vision?”
  3. “Are they taking sufficient action to turn their vision, possibilities and commitments into results and reality?”
  4. “Are they doing what is needed and what it takes?”

Your job is to empower the person you are making a difference with to do what it takes to create and achieve their vision and commitment.

Obviously, all the Es are interlinked and it is often hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. However, if you keep the four Es in front of you as you are communicating with, and trying to make a difference with someone you care about I am sure the conversation itself will present many opportunities to bring these distinctions to life.

Promise results or don’t promise at all!

I was coaching the marketing department of a global technology company in coming up with its strategic plan. They had identified their key strategic areas and were working on articulating the outcomes they wanted to achieve in each area. However, in several of the areas, instead of coming up with clear end results, they identified activities.

For example, instead of promising to grow the number of customers and potential customers who are signed up, and actively contributing to their user-group community to a specific number, they promised to increase the number of events in which they promoted the community. Instead of promising to increase the number of high-end industry events they are invited to speak at to a specific number, they promised to increase the number of training classes they would offer to train people to speak. And, instead of promising to be recognized by the key relevant CEOs as one of the top thought-leaders in their field, they promised to drive a vast list of PR and social media activities including the number of followers on Twitter and LinkedIn, the number of press and analyst briefings and more.

Whilst all these activities are important as part of the means to get to their desired end, they are just that – the means, not the end itself.

This mindset and approach of focusing on the activities that would achieve the results, rather than on the results themselves is very common in organizations. The explanation I often get to this is something to the effect of “We can’t control the results. We can only control our activities…

The problem with the activity-based approach is that it creates a lot of busyness, but after a while, people tend to lose track of what all the busyness is for in the first place. In fact, after a while, people can’t tell the difference between activities and results.

In addition, the focus on the means (activities) versus the end (results) hinders the ability of the team to assess the effectiveness of the activities and if they are in fact achieving the results, and make any necessary changes. Most organizations are good at adding activities, but they are not good at stopping them.

Lastly, the activity-based approach undermines the team’s culture of accountability. Real accountability is always for clear results. It promotes a mindset of overcoming any obstacles. The activity-based approach tolerates and nurtures a culture of circumstance limitations, self-protection and excuses.

At first, I thought that the activities-based approach is more common when outlining a strategy for more subjective business areas like “brand awareness”, “team culture” and “customer satisfaction”. However, my experience has shown me that it is often the same when dealing with the most objective areas such as: “revenues”, “profitability” and “market share”.

In the world of strategy, there seem to be two schools of thought:

Promise your desired results and then put the activities in place to fulfill them.”

Promise the activities that you assume and hope will fulfill your desired results.”

Unfortunately, the second approach seems to be much more prevalent, most of the time in most organizations.

Why is this the case?

My favorite explanation is: It is much easier and safer to promise activities than results. Less risk and responsibility. Less need to challenge the status quo, think outside the box and come up with new ways to do things. And, you are off the hook for the most important piece – the actual outcome!

Another popular excuse that people give for focusing on activities and not results is: “You can’t measure areas such as “brand recognition”, “team culture” and “customer satisfaction”.

But, that is not true! You can measure anything that is important for you. You just need to understand that there are no right or wrong, perfect, and/or factual measures. When it comes to measures you need to choose something that is meaningful to you and then take ownership of it.

In my work with organizations, especially when creating bold future-based strategies teams often create new metrics for new areas they want to take on. It is actually quite refreshing to think differently about new areas, rather than trying to force old metrics on them.

To conclude, in today’s world where opportunities are abundant, resources are scarce, competition is fierce and everyone is looking for ways to scale and do more with less, you can’t afford to waste time and cycles on activities that may or may not deliver the results you want.

Your job as a leader is not to track and report on activities. It is to cause results.

So, if you are not going to promise to cause specific results, don’t promise anything at all!

Are you willing to be empowered and great?

In last week’s blog, I spoke about how to develop and enhance your ability to see and own progress in any circumstance, even when you are facing challenges and adversity. I made the claim that doing this will enhance your positive outlook, energy, and sense of empowerment.

I also recommended a practical exercise that could strengthen your muscles in this area and I added the question:

If it is so easy to do this, why doesn’t everyone – especially those who are frequently complaining that “nothing is progressing” – grab this mindset and approach with open arms?

In this week’s blog, I want to get a bit deeper into this question. In fact, I want to push the question further and ask: Why do people resist being empowered and great?!

This may seem like an odd question. Who wouldn’t want to be empowered and great? Perhaps it’s not as obvious as it seems.

It is my life goal to ignite, energize and empower people. In fact, I am fortunate enough to have this as my job. I ignite, energize and empower people and teams in the workplace environment.

I spend a lot of time and energy reminding people just how great and able they are and can be. When people are cognizant to their greatness in one area of their life, they seem to carry it over into other areas. In fact, as we all know when people feel great it can be quite contagious to others around them.

But I have noticed that often people are not that eager to experience themselves as great, powerful, resourceful, able and larger than their obstacles and circumstances.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I have been in where people were adamantly trying to convince me that they are just not capable or good enough for, or up to the challenge or opportunity they were facing.

It seems that people are afraid that if they accept themselves as great, enabled, empowered and unstoppable, they would have to admit and own that they have the capability and power to create, produce and have so much more than they do today.

Think about it, if you are un-empowered you will aspire to lower standards and goals, you will have fewer opportunities in front of you, you will expect less and you will have less accountability to deliver and have great things. You will also be able to get away with more excuses for why you can’t do things. By experiencing yourself as smaller than your problems and circumstances, you always have a way out.

You also do not have to challenge yourself, to change or think beyond your comfort zone. This is an easier and safer way to live. If you become empowered, if you begin living courageously, you would have to bring creativity, innovation, and resourcefulness to key aspects of your life, and even if you have the talent to do it, this would be scary.

However, the direct consequence of staying un-empowered is dire. Self-expression, self-esteem, and confidence are eroded. You are likely to not pursue and achieve your real dreams. And there is a constant feeling that “maybe I am missing out on something, selling out or not living to my full potential”.

By simply confronting and owning the benefits and costs of adopting the un-empowered mindset and life, you can regain your natural ability to choose. You could choose courageous living, and by doing so reclaim your self-expression and power.

I urge you to look in the mirror and ask yourself: ”How great am I willing to be?

Are you coachable?

When it comes to coaching, it’s important to remember:

  • Not everyone wants to be coached
  • Not everyone needs to be coached
  • Many have no control over who they coach and who coaches them

As a people manager, there is often an expectation that you coach and mentor members of your team. However, being someone’s boss always doesn’t provide a sufficient foundation for successful coaching. There are other factors at play that more determine the outcome. So setting yourself up for success can make the difference between a positive outcome and failure.

As a coach with over 30 years of experience, I have many success stories, but I also have had some notable challenges.  Here’s an account of one such challenge and some practical tips for you to apply ahead of your future coaching assignments.

As part of a large change initiative I was coaching a senior executive in a global service organization and it was not going well because the executive was not behaving in a coachable way.

Even though he said he needed and wanted coaching he wasn’t behaving accordingly. He hired me and paid good money for me to coach and guide him. But, he just wasn’t listening openly, considering and examining what I was proposing.

Every time I suggested that something was not working with the way he was leading or managing he immediately justified himself. Pretty much every time he didn’t like or agree with what I was saying he became defensive and argumentative. In fact, our conversations often ended by him saying: “well that’s just YOUR opinion!”

Even though he insisted that he trusted me and he kept asking me to continue, it was quite evident that he had a very hard time surrendering to my coaching and he did not empower me as his coach.

The challenges were even greater!

This executive was the leader of a significant change initiative that required everyone to think and approach things differently. He himself had to change his leadership style in some fundamental ways in order for the change effort to work. However, because he was un-coachable he also wasn’t willing to reinvent himself and that was hurting his organization and his own brand.

In addition, his lack of being open to coaching was undermining his own ability to mentor, coach and develop others. And, because he wasn’t willing to expose himself to new ideas, gaps and ways of doing things he couldn’t enroll and demand of his people to do the same.

The worst was that because he had a reputation of being highly opinionated, self-righteous and not open to criticism and feedback people around him avoided pushing back, giving him feedback, bringing bad news and telling him how they really felt. You can imagine the inauthentic, ineffective and compromised environment that that dynamic created.

How many times have you tried to coach someone and found him or her to be un-coachable?

What did you do in that situation? Did you stop the coaching? Or did you simply ignore all the signs, continued to plow along and settled for your coaching not making a difference?

My recommendation is: Never compromise! Only coach people who are coachable.

If you sell out on this principle, your coaching attempts will fail, you won’t make a difference, the effort will frustrate you and drain your energy and your reputation may be hurt because people may think “you failed to get the job done.”

So, how do you determine if someone is ready for coaching?

Here is a simple checklist to guide you to coaching success:

1 – Do they have a big enough challenge, opportunity or commitment, for which they need coaching?

Make sure they have a reason for needing coaching. Don’t coach someone who doesn’t have something important enough at stake 

2 – Do they genuinely want coaching?

Never coach someone who just wants to “check it out,” or someone who says, “my boss told me to get coaching.” Make sure the person you are coaching genuinely owns their need and desire to be coached.

3 – Do they choose you as their coach?

It’s ok if they want coaching but for whatever reasons they prefer someone else to coach them.

4 – Do you choose them as someone to coach?

The fact that they want you as a coach doesn’t guarantee that you want to take them on.

5 – Are the ground rules clear?

Create clear ground rules around the logistics of the coaching engagement, as well as the behavioral aspects.

In my example the senior executive clearly needed coaching. However, in spite of saying that they wanted coaching and wanted me as their coach, they didn’t act that way.   Just by being honest about these two principles I could clearly see that we simply didn’t have the condition to succeed.

I ended up firing the executive from our coaching engagement. In doing so I used the principles of the checklist to convey, without any frustration or emotion, why I no longer was willing to coach him. That move probably made a bigger difference than all my attempts to coach him combined.

So that you don’t have to learn the hard way, take advantage of my experience.

Before you begin coaching a new client, employee or peer, carefully work through the checklist above.  This will help ensure that you fully understand the person you are considering coaching and can determine whether they are coachable from the outset.


There is always a mental game

How many times have you seen an athlete or sports team in the midst of their competition or game lagging behind only to somehow, in a miraculous way, turn the tables around and achieve great victory at the end?

There are so many examples:

Take for example the 3-2 victory of the Canadian men hockey team over the USA in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics finals after the Americans scored 2 consecutive goals tying the score to 2-2.

I searched for examples in Tennis and found many, including two of my heroes: Andre Agassi defeating Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 French Open final after being behind in the first two sets. In addition, Roger Federer who defeated Rafael Nadal in the 2005 Miami Masters final after being down two sets and behind 3-5 in the breaker.

Can you imagine the level of pressure and stress these professionals and teams have to endure? Can you imagine the level of focus, concentration, and positive spirit they have to maintain in order to overcome these high expectations and pressures?

Mental stamina and mental endurance are not tangible nor are they hard facts. We cannot see, quantify, or measure them precisely. However, we talk about them and believe they exist.

These mental components help us understand why one performer is superior to another when operating in similar conditions and circumstances. They also give us a set of lens through which to examine and develop our own mental state when we take on difficult challenges and opportunities.

In sports, I often hear commentators attribute an athlete’s success or failure to their Mental Game. In business and corporate life, however, this nuance is almost always ignored.

What a mistake that is.

I have worked with businesses that even in challenging, economical times continued to thrive. I have also worked with companies who struggled even in the best of times. Why?

Companies and teams have a collective mental game, too. It can seen in their team culture, their dynamic, and in people’s outlooks, attitudes and spirits. When people are working together in genuine alignment and unity toward the bigger good of the company, it is a clear sign of a successful mental game. When people are interacting and communicating in an honest, authentic, courageous, and effective way that is another clear sign. When people come to work with a positive, optimistic, passionate, and committed mindset, that is a third sign of a strong mental game.

Whenever we take on a sizable accomplishment, as individuals or a team, in our professional or personal life, there is always a mental game taking place that determines our success or failure.

Our mental game determines what internal conversations we pay attention to or ignore. Sometime we lose patience or get discouraged midcourse because we allow doubt, second guessing, and other negative thoughts and attitudes to needlessly cloud our judgment. This unhealthy mental game directly influences our performance.

For example, when I was a rookie sales manager, I often had very high results in pitches, even though I felt that I was performing very poorly. Had I listened to my inner-criticism, I could have easily given up.

I also had instances in which I felt I was doing so well, yet the results were very poor. Because I was so hypnotized by my inner-praise, my performance became complacent and arrogant, which negatively affected my results.

When asked how they performed so well, athletes often share: “I visualized how I wanted my end-game success to be, and then I stayed focused on that image throughout the race.” Well, we can do the same in our day-to-day commitments and projects.

When taking on any project, from losing weight, or finding a great relationship, to creating a new business, you can visualize your desired end state, and then keep that image in front of you throughout the process without allowing anything to distract you. That is an example of a powerful mental game.

The more you are aware of the impact of your mental game, as well as your ability to form and shape it, the more powerful of a performer you will be in any game.

Try it, and see how it works.

Practical steps for taking your game to the next level

A lot of my one-on-one coaching work is focused on helping leaders and professionals take themselves, their performance, and results to the next level.

I coach people who are in various stages of their evolution and growth. Some are at the beginning of their professional careers. They are often working on getting their business started or establishing consistent results.

Others are senior executives – directors, general managers, presidents or CEOs – who are at the prime of their career. They command large organizations with hundreds or thousands of employees. They are often concerned about how to get all their team members and functions on the same page, rowing in the same direction.

While each coaching conversation is unique and different, many of the principles that I use to support people are the same.

In my previous blog “How to make meaningful progress when taking your game to the next level,” I shared some “do’s” and “don’ts” for staying focused and effective when you are in the process of raising your game to the next level. Really, this week’s blog precedes the one posted on September 25th.

In this blog, I want to continue the trend by providing four simple steps for how to take your game to the next level, especially when the next level requires you to think and do new or different things.

Whether you are a beginner or veteran at your game, if you want to elevate your current reality, performance and results to a higher level, follow these simple, but powerful steps:

  1. Get clear on your desired end state. Project yourself into your future – at least a year or two from now – and imagine that you are extremely successful. Then, describe what your success looks like. Write it down and be as clear and vivid as possible.
  1. Visualize how you are behaving and performing in your new future state. When you visualize your future, take notice of how you are behaving and acting in that reality. Pay special attention to areas where you are doing things differently from today. Record a few practices and behaviors that you can start applying today in order to start driving and drawing yourdesired state to you.
  1. Start behaving consistently with your future state now. Start applying the practices and behaviors that you outlined in the previous step in your day-to-day routines. Every time you find yourself regressing to old habits, stop and correct yourself back to behaving consistently with your list of future reality practices.
  1. Start recording accomplishments and wins. At the end of each day reflect on your day, and list all the specific areas where you have had wins and made progress consistent with your desired practices and future from pervious steps. Don’t be concerned with the size of the wins or if others would recognize or appreciate them too. Any win that has meaning to you counts and should be included in your list. The more accomplishments and wins you record (or “collect”) the better.

The last step is often the one most underestimated, ignored and/or avoided. In order to drive and materialize your new future state most effectively, you need to have the right mindset and behavior. Listing accomplishments and wins will empower you to overcome any skepticism and/or doubts and replace them with genuine enthusiasm and confidence about what you are creating. The more you believe in the viability of your aspiration the more you are likely to stay the course to its fulfillment.

While these steps may not come naturally at first, they will over time.  Make them your new normal, for they are essential when it comes to taking your game to the next level.

Photo by: Tim Pierce

Taking a stand ALWAYS requires courage

No matter how committed we are to living courageously, and how experienced we are at taking a stand for the future and living accordingly, it doesn’t seem to get easier or less scary with time.

I have been a student and teacher of these concepts and conversations for more than 30 years. I practice them in my own personal and professional life, and I teach and coach others to do the same. Still, with all my experience, every time I need to take a stand in my life, I find myself confronting my own fears, doubts and skepticisms.

It takes openness, faith, trust and courage to live consistently with your stand and commitment.

Openness to the idea that our internal mindset and commitment really do affect, impact and shape our external world and circumstances.

Most people don’t reach this level of enlightenment. They are too skeptical, pragmatic or close-minded to even consider or accept the notion that there is more to life than what they can physically see. Whether it is Religion, Astrology, or the Law of Attraction, I often hear smart and successful people reject these by saying things like, “I don’t believe in that Voodoo, BS or Nonsense stuff…”

Faith and trust in your own ability to take your life to a new level, starting with a bold stand. Also, have faith and trust that the universe will reciprocate consistently with your commitment and energy.

Even when people believe in the Law of Attraction notion, many don’t believe that it could work for them – that their life could ever be as blissful as they truly desire. So, they maintain a conceptual, theoretical and academic mindset about these transformational topics. I often hear people give others ‘taking the next level’ advice when they themselves avoid doing the same, even though they desperately want and need to.

Courage to take a stand for what you want and bet your future on that stand – even when your current circumstances are quite different from your desired state, and people around you may judge you for being naïve and unrealistic.

Most people, despite what they may say to the contrary, are too comfortable in their personal and professional status quo. They may talk about change, but most don’t get up and do something about it, even when their circumstances are challenging, unfulfilling and dissatisfying. They are too afraid to take a stand and ‘go for it’ for risk of failing, disappointing themselves or others, or simply appearing naive or not credible in the eyes of people around them who they respect and like.

There is a big difference between “wanting to change” and actually “changing.” Most of us are much better at the first.

We are creatures of habit. We like continuity, stability, familiarity, and predictability. We need it to feel confident and safe. We fear change and the unknown.

Taking a stand for a better future brings about change, unknown and unpredictable directions, and dynamics. This is counter-intuitive to our ‘keep things the same’ orientation. It disrupts our order and fundamentally scares us.

That is why taking a stand will ALWAYS require courage.

Photo by: The U.S. Army


The danger of acting in a cautious and politically correct way

In a previous blog “Five necessary areas for improvement of your team,” I outlined 5 areas that most teams need to step up in. In this blog, I want to elaborate on the first area: Boldness and Courage.

Most leadership teams avoid the tough, uncomfortable conversations. Whether it’s giving honest, direct and critical feedback and coaching to others, or making difficult decisions about budgets, resources and other areas that affect power and status – the common tendency is to take the safe, easy way out.

Even when managers and team members attempt to say what’s really on their minds, a lack of courage often leads to things being said in such a diplomatic and sugarcoated way that the impact of the message is lost in its tepid delivery. And while diplomacy may allow team members to address some problems efficiently at times, critical issues demand an energy, passion and direction that cannot be gained from adherence to cautious, “be careful” behavior.

Although some may deny this to be the case, I strongly believe that 95% of the challenges, problems and dysfunction existing within teams are due to team members simply being afraid, hesitant, or resigned to have the hard conversations.

Even at the highest levels, I frequently see leaders being reluctant to rock the boat with their peers or boss, as they may be viewed as petty or make themselves vulnerable out of a concern or fear of negative consequences.

In other times, leaders and team members are so convinced nothing will come of any heroic efforts that they succumb to the pervasive mindset of, “Why stick my neck out?” and its political adaptive maneuver, “Pick your battles.”

To top it off, leadership teams caught in the courage conundrum don’t acknowledge that it’s the lack of willingness to speak up that leads to failures and issues. Instead, they blame various circumstances by using excuses such as:

We have conflicting priorities.

There is not enough time to get done what we need to do.

We can’t succeed because another department isn’t doing their job.

We don’t have enough resources to get done what we want to do.

Can you relate to any of this? To be sure, please answer the following questions about your team’s dynamic:


Do team members make tentative and contingent commitments by saying yes and agreeing to decisions they are not fully resolved about?

Do team members go off and do their own version of the commitment made, and then blame circumstances when they fail to produce their part of the commitment?

Do team members try to escape accountability by saying, “I was never fully on board with this in the first place”?


Do team members tolerate confusion and misunderstanding in the discussion stages and then use those as justifications when things don’t get done?

Do people see that things are going to break down, but still they don’t say anything about it?

Do team members have concerns about their colleagues’, or leader’s sincerity and/or effectiveness, but they don’t confront them?

Do team members hear others make commitments that they know are not going to happen, but they don’t speak up or hold others accountable?


Do team members know that there is an elephant in the room but still they not address it?

Does their “yes” not mean yes, and their “no” not mean no?

Are their promises empty?

Do team members sit in the meeting, choosing what they say or don’t say based on what is safe and politically correct?

Are people aware that there is no real alignment or agreement, but no one says it?


Do team members engage in undermining conversations about their fellow members or their departments, rather than confronting colleagues on the issues?

Do people talk about themselves as team players, smile in the strategic meetings, and then go behind their colleagues’ backs to badmouth them?

Do team members promote themselves and their careers at the expense of others?


When things don’t work, do team members spend more time making sure everyone knows “it’s not their fault” than actually trying to fix the problem?

Do team members copy everyone on emails just to protect themselves and “cover their behinds?”

Is there a lack of, or insufficient, results or progress?

Are team members always looking over their shoulders and suspicious of the others’ agendas?

If you answered most or all of these questions with a YES, your team has an opportunity to become stronger. If so, you aren’t alone. As I said before, most team members avoid difficult discussions. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

In a future post, I will share more about what you can do to make your team dynamic more authentic and courageous.

Photo by: Valery Kenski