Tag: leadership

Remember What You Ask For

Good day team,
This week’s challenge is about remembering what you asked for and staying true to what’s most important.

Here’s a story that illustrates how easy it is to drift away from core values.

In my first meeting with a prospective client, I often ask these three questions:
1. What’s your vision for what you want to achieve?
2. What lessons have you learned from past experiences that prevented you from achieving a vision?
3. How do you think a coach can help you realize your vision?

The answers to these questions set the foundation of our relationship. They are typically very positive and full of optimism:
“I want to create a profitable company that provides good jobs for others and has a positive impact on the world.”
“I see a team of people who are creating new processes that make our jobs easier to do and the team is happier because of the improvements we’ve made.”
“I want to create a company that is highly innovative – where creativity and new ways of thinking are encouraged in everything we do.”
“I want my employees to feel empowered, come to work everyday because they love what they do, and feel passionate about our products and customers.”
“I want to lead my people but not micromanage them so they continue to feel like we’re in partnership and able to take ownership at the same time.”

We build plans based upon their answers and begin a program of coaching and training to create the kind of environment that makes their visions achievable. This works well until my client starts to veer away from the original ask.

Here’s an example.

Bill is the CEO of a start-up company. He left his job as the lead software engineer and started his own company to get out from under a boss that was too demanding and controlling. He dreamed of creating a company where he could hire a team of smart people who wanted to work collaboratively and loved to be challenged. He came up with a brilliant design for a new product, created a business plan for his start-up and sold the whole idea to some investors. Bingo – Bill had a small office, two partners from his previous company, and enough money in the bank to get his product launched.

The first six months Bill was in business he decided to hire me to help him navigate the tough waters of creating a new business. We worked to articulate a core set of values that would help Bill lead the team , stay true to what was important to them, and put their values into action. We did exercises that helped the team understand one other’s behaviors and strengths, and provided tools that could aid them in their collaborative efforts. As his brand began to develop, we made sure that his vision and values were expressed in all corporate communications – both internal and external. It was a strong start – the product was getting a great response from the public, the team was happy and highly committed, and Bill was living his dream. Year one passed with flying colors – happy team members – happy investors – happy Bill.

Into the second year, given the pressures of running a new business, things began to change. People worked harder and harder and stress levels rose. Under stress, team members spent more time in their back-up behaviors, attacking others and defending themselves rather than collaborating. In a frantic effort to keep up, Bill began to take more control of the day-to-day operations afraid that if he didn’t, the whole thing would crash and burn. He unleashed the autocrat within. He placed more demands on those around him, trusted his teammates less and began to micromanage the entire operation. As his coach, I tried to point out that things were out of control. His behavior ran counter to his expressed values. “I’d like to stay true to my vision and values, said Bill. But honestly, I don’t have time to think about those things right now. I’m the CEO of a start-up and this business is blowing way past any of our original expectations – it’s all I can do to just keep up.”

So, how could I help Bill? How could I help get him back on track?

I asked Bill for a time out. This wasn’t easy for him to do, since he was moving at break-neck speed to keep up with his daily challenges. He was now so involved in other people’s jobs, that he had no time stop and reflect. He was CEO, chief product office, and the head of sales, etc. I needed Bill to step back and re-examine what he intended for his company. Was his behavior reflective of his company’s values? And, most importantly, did Bill see what was being sacrificed in his attempts to have a successful company?

Bill needed to make a choice. He couldn’t go north and south at the same time. He couldn’t take more and more control and become more dominant if he wanted his people to feel empowered. He wouldn’t be able to have a highly successful team if the customers and investors saw Bill as a success but not the team. As one of his original partners said to me, “I’m not Bill’s partner anymore – I’m an order taker.”

Fortunately, Bill was able to stop long enough to hear me and his original partners early one Saturday morning over breakfast. Underneath it all, he knew that he was spinning out of control. He had the best of intentions but he wasn’t the kind of owner, CEO and business partner he had originally intended to be. With the help of his original two partners, he was able to ease up on the reins. He stopped dictating, asked more questions and fostered more dialogue. Even more impressively, he let the investors know that he was not willing to sacrifice the core values of his business in order to meet their short term expectations. He re-committed to the original core values to create a more sustainable environment for the team in the long run. As he said to me, “I was killing the spirit in the place and until I stopped, I was not even aware of it.”

This week, ask yourself if you are becoming more controlling as the demands of your business or your department increase. Are you staying true to your core values and vision? How have your behaviors changed? Do you have a way of getting honest feedback from others? Are you sacrificing the long term health of your company or team for short term gains? Are you dictating or inspiring and empowering others?

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine De Sainte-Exupery

Have a good week,


© Copyright 2014 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

4/21/13 “Influencing”

Good day team,

This past week, I was working with a management team focusing on their individual strengths and teaching them how these strengths fit into the four domains of leadership – executing, influencing, building relationships and strategic thinking. These are the skills that leaders and managers need to effectively do their jobs and are the subject of this week’s challenge.

This material comes from a book entitled “Strengths-based Leadership” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. After many years of polling for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, the Gallup organization determined that the four domains of leadership are where successful leaders and managers spend their time. The book includes the StrengthsFinder assessment – a brief test used to identify an individual’s five top strengths and map them into the leadership domains. For example, if you have “achiever” as a strength, i.e. you like to get stuff done – then that strength is likely to show up in your top five and is an executing strength.

Finding your top five strengths is the first step. Taken further, discovering where your strengths line up in the four domains gives you an excellent way of determining how you like to lead others. It also gives your people a great way to understand your strengths and knowledge of how you apply them in the workplace.

Over the past 30 years, I have found that the American workforce has moved steadily away from an authoritarian style of management (command and control), to a much more influential style of management (inspire and support). Most organizations used to be run by a bossy boss – almost always a man. Bossy bosses have autocratic, very direct styles that offer their reports very little support. Nowadays, it is common to find leaders of both sexes using a coaching style of leadership, one with emphasis on directing and supporting their people. Among the best leaders, you will also find a strong dose of inspiration that energizes and engages team members.

Here’s an article about the importance of influencing others in a work environment which I think best describes this shift in management style. It’s author is Beth Armknecht Miller, Founder and President of Executive Velocity, an Atlanta based leadership advisory firm.

“Webster’s Dictionary defines a “leader, as a person who has commanding authority or influence”. I would argue that in the 21st century it’s all about influence, not authority. If a leader only has authority and is unable to influence others, then his or her leadership will be short lived. And, with the shortage of talent, leaders need to create sustainability in an organization.

“Think about those leaders and individual contributors in your organization, whether for profit or not for profit, who may not have the title of VP, Director, or Manager yet they have followers because of their influence with others. These are the people who others listen to and respect but don’t have the title providing them with the authority to lead. They are able to use specific behaviors that align with the situation that will get others to change behaviors, opinions, attitudes, goals, needs and values.

“What are critical methods to leadership influence?

“It is important to understand that influence much like leadership, is dependent on the situation that requires influence. It may be that you are trying to influence someone higher in the organization, a peer, or a direct report. All of these are different situations in themselves. Other types of situations where influence may be needed include:

Change to project plans

Support of proposals by upper management

Agree to new assignments and tasks

Provide necessary information in a timely fashion

Stop ineffective or negative behaviors

“The Power Use Model outlined by Anita Hall, Extension Educator and Leverne Barrett, Extension Leadership Specialist of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension, depicts someone’s choice of influence tactics in terms of the ‘softness’ versus ‘hardness’ of the tactic. The spectrum relates to the freedom the tactic leaves the person being influenced to decide either to yield or to resist the influence attempts.

“Hard tactics give individuals less freedom than soft tactics. They are perceived as more forceful and push the person to comply versus support. Hard tactics include “exchange”, “legitimating”, “pressure”, “assertiveness”, “upward appeal”, and “coalitions”. Soft tactics are considered thoughtful and constructive and pull the person to make the necessary change. Soft tactics include “personal appeal”, “consultation”, “inspirational appeal”, “ingratiation”, and “rational persuasion”. It is important to note that soft tactics tend to provide more lasting change because they create an emotion of support versus compliance by the person being influenced.

“And, there are certain methods when used to influence that are generally unsuccessful. These tactics are often associated with a leader who has the authority but lacks influence. Autocratic leaders will often make demands, threats or intimidation, which will generate short-term change but no support.

“When would this tactic be useful? In an emergency, demands are often necessary. A leader needs to have people move quickly when the office is on fire or the plant has been exposed to dangerous chemicals.

“Yet, for the most part, when soft tactics are used more than hard tactics, such as demands and threats, a leader can build influence capital. From my experience with leaders, those who are highly influential use these two tactics more than others:

Inspirational appeal – a request or proposal that arouses emotions and enthusiasm by appealing to others values and ideals, or by increasing their confidence in being successful.

Consultation – includes others’ in making a decision or planning how to implement a change that impacts them.

“So what if you’re a leader with authority, you’ve got the title, how do you know whether or not you have influence with the people you are leading? My suggestion to leaders is to start taking an audit of the methods they use to influence. How much time are they using the consultation and inspirational appeal methods to influence others? And if the percent is low, how are you going to increase your soft tactic influence?”

This week, consider the effectiveness of your management style. Are you using more hard tactics rather than soft. i.e. directing or supporting? Perhaps, you become impatient easily when others aren’t working fast enough and you become pushy, bossy or autocratic. Maybe your soft tactics have become too supportive and not direct enough and your people are confused about what you really want from them.

Try achieving balance when it comes to being direct and supportive. People need instruction but they also need emotional support to help them stay committed. You may be getting stuff done but your autocratic management style might be breeding resentment and disrespect within your organization. Try using some influencing techniques instead. You may find it works more effectively by attracting and inspiring your team members to the task at hand.

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

2/5/12 “Importance of Culture”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge comes from a Fast Company article sent to me by a client. The complete article, “Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch” by Shawn Parr, can be found here.

The heart of the piece is about the importance of creating a vibrant company culture that everyone from your CEO down can contribute to and relate to in their daily work lives. Parr writes, “It’s not good enough just to have an amazing product and a healthy bank balance. Long-term success is dependent on a culture that is nurtured and alive. Culture is the environment in which your strategy and your brand thrives or dies a slow death.”

Last week, I had the privilege of working in a two-day summit meeting with a client’s technology team. We spent some time discussing the team’s shared values by first identifying each team member’s individual values (What are the five most important things in your life?), sharing those individual values, translating how they show up in the workplace and, finally, defining the behaviors that best illustrate those values. It sounds like a long, painstaking process, but this exercise of relating core personal values to workplace behaviors is far better than having the corporation post values in the lobby that no one pays any attention to.

Doing this exercise allowed the team to discover that their values are much more similar than different, which means that even when they strongly disagree, they have a way to remind each other of where they do agree. It allows a shared, foundational understanding to become part of difficult discussions, which can then neutralize an argument.

Embracing core values is only one aspect of creating a vibrant corporate culture. The following excerpt from Parr’s article shows us four more important pieces to the puzzle:

Uncommon sense for a courageous and vibrant culture

It’s easy to look at companies like Stonyfield Farms, Zappos, Google, Virgin, Whole Foods or Southwest Airlines and admire them for their passionate, engaged and active cultures that are on display for the world to see. Building a strong culture takes hard work and true commitment, and while not something you can tick off in boxes, here are some very basic building blocks to consider:

1. Dynamic and engaged leadership
A vibrant culture is organic and evolving. It is fueled and inspired by leadership that is actively involved and informed about the realities of the business. They genuinely care about the company’s role in the world and are passionately engaged. They are great communicators and motivators who set out a clearly communicated vision, mission, values and goals, and create an environment for them to come alive.

2. Living values
It’s one thing to have beliefs and values spelled out in a frame in the conference room. It’s another thing to have genuine and memorable beliefs that are directional, alive and modeled throughout the organization daily. It’s important that departments and individuals are motivated and measured against the way they model the values. And, if you want a values-driven culture, hire people using the values as a filter. If you want your company to embody the culture, empower people and ensure that every department understands what’s expected. Don’t just list your company’s values in PowerPoint; bring them to life in people, products and spaces, at events, and in communication.

3. Responsibility and accountability
Strong cultures empower their people. They recognize their talents and give them a very clear role with responsibilities they’re accountable for. It’s amazing how basic this is but how absent the principle is in many businesses.

4. Celebrate success and failure
Most companies that run at high speed often forget to celebrate their victories both big and small, and they rarely have time or the humility to acknowledge and learn from their failures. Celebrate both your victories and failures in your own unique way, but share them and share them often.


This week, take a look at your organization’s culture. Would you call it vibrant? Do your customers know what you stand for? Are your employees actively involved, engaged and empowered? If not, what can you do to influence your team and your company to create a culture that everyone is proud to belong to and where he or she wants to succeed?

As Parr reminds us, “A strong culture flourishes with a clear set of values and norms that actively guide the way a company operates. Employees are actively and passionately engaged in the business, operating from a sense of confidence and empowerment rather than navigating their days through miserably extensive procedures and mind-numbing bureaucracy. Performance-oriented cultures possess statistically better financial growth, with high employee involvement, strong internal communication and an acceptance of a healthy level of risk-taking in order to achieve new levels of innovation.”

Sounds like the kind of culture I’d like to be a part of, how about you?

Have a good week!


P.S. The coach will be on vacation from Feb. 10–15. The next challenge will be published on Feb. 19.

© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

11/20/11 “Leadership”

Good day, team.

I’m often asked by clients what the difference is between managing and leading others. There’s an assumption that people who manage others are automatically leaders. However, if we look at the definition of the words, we see that they are actually quite different. A simple definition of “lead” is “to go before or with to show the way.” The definition of “manage” is “to bring about or succeed in accomplishing something.”

In doing research about the differences between managers and leaders, I’ve found lots of information about how to become a good manager. But when it comes to defining great leaders, the information is less about what they do and more about who they are and how they impact others. As one of my clients said, “Good managers get it done. Great leaders inspire others to get it done.” Indeed, all the great leaders I’ve known inspire and motivate people. But there’s still much more to being a great leader.

Here’s my description of what leaders do:

Great leaders move people and events forward. They inspire others to commit and engage. They reflect their personal passion for achieving the best for themselves and everyone around them. They are not afraid to be vulnerable and courageous at the same time. Their presence is powerful because it is authentic. Wisdom, compassion and making a positive difference in the lives of others becomes their legacy. Here are the four essential practices of leaders:

Shape Strategic Thinking
Inspire a sense of purpose and direction
Focus strategically — on the big picture
Harness information and opportunities
Show judgment, intelligence and common sense

Cultivate Productive Relationships
Nurture internal and external relationships
Facilitate cooperation and partnerships
Value individual differences and diversity
Guide, mentor and develop people
Listen, understand and adapt to your audience

Engage and Align
Build organizational capability and responsiveness
Steer and implement change, and deal with uncertainty
Build on and champion individual and collective expertise
Ensure closure and deliver on intended results

Lead by Example
Do what you say; say what you do
Engage with risk and show personal courage
Commit to action and display resilience
Tell the truth and communicate with clarity
Demonstrate self awareness and a commitment to personal development

If you are in a leadership position, your challenge this week is to ask yourself which parts of this description align with how you lead and which parts do you ignore. Perhaps you already do what you say and say what you do, but you have trouble engaging in risk and showing personal courage. Maybe you enjoy mentoring others but have trouble cultivating external relationships. Be honest with yourself when you do your assessment.

If you aren’t currently in a leadership role but aspire to becoming more of a leader, take a look at the description to see what you might need to cultivate in yourself. Consider the differences between managing and leading, and think about these roles in terms of your own strengths and capabilities.

Perhaps your working as an individual contributor. Think about what kind of person you would wish to follow as your leader. Do they exhibit the kinds of characteristics mentioned above? Who would you want to lead your team, your project, your country?

In closing, here are two of my favorite quotes about managing and leading:

“Management is getting work done through others. Leadership is taking people where they haven’t been but need to go.” — Don Roberts, Human Capital Advisory Services, Deloitte and Touche

“Management is the delusion that you can change people. Leadership is deluding other people instead of deluding yourself.” — Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle

Have a good week,


PLEASE NOTE: The coach will be on vacation from 11/24 to 12/3. The next challenge will be published on Dec. 4, 2011. Happy Thanksgiving!


Good day, team,

This morning I read a quote from Charles Darwin on which I’d like to base this week’s challenge:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

I think it’s safe to say that I have seen more radical change happen to my business clients in the past two years than ever before. In some cases, they’ve had to completely change how they operate to stay in business. In others, they’ve had to downsize their workforce considerably or completely reorganize to meet the demands of their customers. And in some cases, they’ve gone out of business altogether.

This kind of radical change causes a natural response of fear and negativity. Most of us know that change can bring about many new opportunities. But, as creatures of habit, we loathe the actual experience when we’re going through it. The uncertainty as we cross into unknown territory can be paralyzing.

Because I’m often brought into organizations to help support them while they’re going through transitions, I admire what GE did four years ago to teach its senior managers how to lead change via the Leadership, Innovation and Growth program it introduced in 2006.

GE’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, had decided to grow the company by focusing on expanding existing businesses rather than by making acquisitions. Thus his senior managers had to take a good look at their business segment to see what needed to change in order to grow. Here’s what they did:

* The LIG training was delivered to all the senior members of the business management team to give them an opportunity to reach consensus on the barriers to change and how best to attack them.

* Participants were encouraged to consider both the hard barriers to change (organizational structure, capabilities, resources) and the soft (how the leadership team members individually and collectively behave and spend their time).

* The challenge of balancing short-term and long-term goals, that is, simultaneously managing the present and creating the future, was explicitly addressed.

* They created a new and common language of change, words that became part of their daily vocabulary.

* The training was not an academic exercise: It was structured so that a team would emerge with the first draft of an action plan for instituting change in its business.

All participants accomplished three things before attending the training. They updated their three-year business strategy, or what they call their growth playbook. They underwent 360-degree reviews to get feedback about their behaviors and leadership abilities. And they were assessed as to how well they had created an innovative climate for their employees to be creative and evolve.

GE identified the following attributes of an innovative organization:

1) Team members feel connected to and challenged by their work; they are free and encouraged to try new approaches.

2) Team members feel safe sharing ideas and working with one another (trust).

3) Time is made to share new ideas.

4) Team members see their workplace as easy-going, fun and relaxed.

5) Conflict is seen as part of the reality of work, and team members are encouraged to deal with it openly and constructively.

6) Team members are encouraged to share ideas with each other.

7) There is healthy debate between team members.

8) Team members can made decisions and take action in the face of uncertainty (take risks).

In the training, GE’s senior management team spent a week doing in-depth reviews of each of their businesses, examining what they would need to change to become more profitable and how to become better leaders. They asked themselves questions that would help them reset the bar and start to coalesce around the changes that needed to be made: How do we stack up? Are we really as good as we think we are? Are we walking the talk? Are we leading this business the way we think it should be led in order to optimize growth?

As they worked together, GE’s leaders started changing their ideas, their attitudes, the way they saw their business units, and how they could lead further changes throughout their organizations. They started becoming who they needed to be to lead effective change throughout their teams.

This week, take a look at your team, your work group, your company. Are you being forced to make big changes throughout your business and, if so, how will you overcome the natural resistance to change by your team members? Take some of GE’s suggestions and see how you can apply them to your team.

After going through the training with his leaders and watching how it was implemented over the next two years, Immelt observed, “To pursue growth, you have to give some clear no’s and yes’es, and I would say that what we always struggle with—even at high levels in the company—is too many maybes. Decisiveness is one of the core traits of a growth culture.

“I still have to push, and I think that will always be true. But there are now more people pushing with me. When somebody asks me, ‘At your level of the company, what does a leader do?’ I always say, ‘Drive change and develop other leaders.’ Our training gave me a way to do both at the same time.”

This week, think about what you’re doing to get the most out of your business and your people. Chances are some changes need to be made, and your challenge is to find the best way to lead your team through them.

Have a good week!

Kathleen Doyle-White

Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2010 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.

Note: If you want to learn more about this topic, read the article “How GE Teaches Teams to Lead Change” by Steven Prokesch in the Harvard Business Review, January 2009 edition.


Good day, team,

This week’s challenge comes from an excellent article–“The Responsible Manager”–which appeared in the January-February 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review. The author, C. K. Prahalad, is a distinguished professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and he ends all of his MBA courses with the following 11 suggestions about ways managers can be more responsible.

1) Leadership is about change, hope and the future. Understand the importance of non-conformity. Don’t be afraid to venture into uncharted territory, and be able to handle solitude and ambiguity.

2) Display a commitment to learning and developing yourself.

3) Cultivate the ability to put your career in perspective. Over your career you will experience success and failure. Humility in success and courage in failure are the hallmarks of a good leader.

4) Invest in the development of other people.

5) Learn to relate to those less fortunate than you. Good leaders are inclusive.

6) Be concerned about due process. People seek fairness, not favors.

7) Be loyal to organization, profession, community, society, and, above all, family.

8) Assume responsibility for outcomes as well as for the processes and people you work with.

9) Remember that you are a part of a privileged few. Balance achievement with compassion and learning with understanding.

10) Expect to be judged by what you do and how well you do it. Balance your actions with empathy and caring for others.

11) Be conscious of the part you play. Leadership is about self-awareness, recognizing your failings, and developing mastery with modesty, humility and humanity.

We often find ourselves having to compromise or to weigh one possibility against another without really knowing which will yield the results we wish. These 11 suggestions can act as a good compass to help us chart our way through the process of managing people and projects.

This week, try committing to some of these suggestions in your managerial position. If you’re not a manager, take a look at these suggestions and see if one of them serves as a good guide for you to improve your performance.

I’m going to try this one out: “Assume responsibility for outcomes as well as for the processes and people you work with.” Although we can’t control how other people work, we do have an opportunity to positively influence others every day. I’ll try being a more positive and creative influence this week.

See which works best for you, and don’t be afraid to experiment with it.

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2010 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.