Sun, Sep 24, 2017



Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson appeared on Harry Connick Jr.’s show to be asked about celestial matters by the host and by two 6-year olds..

What is it about Mr. Tyson that is so spellbinding that no one can get enough of him? That he can explain a complicated subject so clearly? I wish more of my CEO clients developed such a powerful delivery.

Tyson explained how black holes work, what they are and what would happen to you if you fell into one (it isn’t good): you would suffer “spaghettization (you can look it up on Wikipedia).”


Some observations:

  • He puts himself in the mind of the listener: what do they really want to know? How much is enough? What references do they have that might help them understand?
  • He translates what he knows into simple, understandable concepts
  • He uses physical images people “get”
  • He chooses memorable language
  • He uses humor and self-deprecation
  • He conveys his own excitement in the telling
  • He humbly makes clear his own journey from ignorance to understanding
  • And I suspect that he practices delivery on a range of subjects

To do what Tyson does, you must be extremely expert and in command of your subject from concept to key details. And you must adapt the list above.

I am still searching for a video copy of his appearance on Connick, but you can find Tyson on Youtube.  For example:




And you may enjoy his response to a heckler who doubted his physical abilities:

That’s just my view. What’s yours?



Tue, Jul 11, 2017



A new criterion has been added to C-Suite searches: GRIT.

Angela Duckworth’s treatise on GRIT put forth in her book has spawned numerous Youtube videos on the subject (references at end of this post). If you have been hiding out somewhere and have not experienced the blitz on this subject, the premise is that:

Effort is twice as important as talent because:

  • Talent x Effort = Skills
  • Skills x Effort = Achievements

While Ms. Duckworth has created a Grit Scale, it is a self-evaluation and therefore insufficient for our purposes. My CEO Vistage members wanted to know how to put the criterion into practice. So we had a discussion about the questions to ask in interviews and the observations to note about c.v.’s and cover letters — questions for recruiters to ask finalists, questions for the CEO and direct reports to ask in interviews and of references.


In Duckworth’s own writings, Grit is further detailed as:

  1. Passion for a particular topic or goal
  2. Daily improvement of ability to pursue the goal
  3. A motivating purpose greater than the goal or the self – often serving others
  4. A growth mindset – believing that it is never too late to advance abilities

And in a helpful video, fellow coach Brendon Burchard offers these further admonitions:

  1. Get clarity about your passion both for the long haul and for the next 90 days
  2. Prime your enthusiasm for something in your day at the start of each day
  3. Block out time to work on your goal; no time blocked? No improvement likely.
  4. Enlist a team who all work toward the goal

On the latter point, in a prior post about Why CEOs Falter, I observed that one root cause for failure is the leader not enlisting all the appropriate resources in her or his ecosystem.


Here are a few of the topics on which our VISTAGE Peer Advisory Board CEOs would focus questions, digging into facts, candidate’s perceptions and emotions:

  1. Action in the face of continuous more powerful forces against pursuit of a goal
  2. Major job or career setback and the recovery
  3. Goal/development successfully pursued over an extended period of years
  4. Adaptation and continued pursuit when goal needed to be adjusted
  5. Examples of “all in” periods in pursuit of an objective on the way to the goal
  6. Instances of enlisting a sub rosa team/network
  7. Goal abandoned for whatever reason.
  8. How was time to work on the goal created and managed?

That’s just my view. What’s yours?

We will post again at a later date when we have more feedback from real world situations.

Meanwhile, some resources to consult for further edification:

Grit, by Angela Duckworth. Simon and Schuster May 2016, ISBN 9781501111105

Youtube video: Grit by Angela Duckworth: Animated Core Message (6:18)

Youtube video: How to Develop Grit (And What is Grit?) — (Brendon Burchard)


Why CEOs Falter

Tue, Jun 20, 2017

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This post is based on a a significant number of real world cases where the client, a here-to-fore strong leader seemed to falter.



So,  … you have a history of successful leadership in prior posts. Maybe even in your current post. And, suddenly, not so much: worry; hesitation; poor decisions; delay on critical decisions; avoidance of new, but essential commitments.

I have been asked many times: “What are the recurring themes that are evident in coaching CEOs through tough periods?” Never mind that some situations are overwhelming market or competitive shifts that may even challenge the business model. Or disruptive technology that questions the viability of the firm. There are no guarantees. But when hindsight reveals poor choices were made, what are the lessons learned? What was inside the mind of the CEO?


At or near the top of the list driving you off your game is a FAILURE TO BRING ALL YOUR CAPACITIES TO THE PLAYING FIELD.

At root is either

  • a strongly held belief that is untrue or no longer true or
  • a fear that is hogging your windshield, holding you back, driving unsuccessful behavior.

Whether emotion is dwarfing intuition or wisdom or your own ego is blinding you, or your confidence has been shaken or you may not be listening, you may be playing defense when you should be playing offense or vice versa, failing to adapt your style to one or more of your key people…you get the idea. Look in the mirror and ask yourself: is what I believe or fear at the heart of this?


Second on the list of what is driving you off your game is a FAILURE TO BRING ALL THE RESOURCES IN YOUR ECOSYSTEM TO BEAR.

At root could be more than a few things:

  • Less than robust and effective delegation with permission to push back
  • No “go-to” on the senior management team or next level
  • Avoidance of engaging capable outside resources (experts, non-competing fellow CEOs, consultants) for extreme frugality, worry over confidentiality
  • Minimal outside affiliations and networking
  • No safe “personal board of directors”

Again, could the flip-side of any of these increase your effectiveness? Are you the focal point when maybe someone else should be?


Also at or near the top of the list is a FAILURE TO STAY FOCUSED ON THE ENDGAME. Getting stuck in the weeds, overwhelmed, distracted by the shiny new object.

At root could again be more than one fact:

  • Overwhelming tactical challenges
  • Getting lost in the weeks
  • An undisciplined sense of what is the job of the CEO and what is not (limiting time and energy for strategic thinking)

And as the role model for others, if you falter for any of these root causes, if the way you lead does not develop your people, others may follow suit or the strong may defect,


“Nobody succeeds alone.”

“O was some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us! It wad frae monie a blunder and free us from foolish option.” (Robert Burns)

Whether it is a coach, a mentor, a trusted HR chief (really: I have seen this), the only way humans become aware of these possibly temporary failures or missed opportunities is through someone else’s lens.

Beyond: in my next post I will enumerate some of the tools that address root causes and also suggest some video viewing and reading worth the investment of time and concentration.

As a start, view “Locating yourself — a key to Conscious Leadership” on Youtube. It is based on IP trademarked by Partners in Leadership IP, LLC.

Does this resonate? It’s just my view. What’s yours?



Mon, May 8, 2017




One of my CEO coaching clients years ago told me: if I work 10% less hard or delegate  10% more often, profits will go down by more than 20%. He now knows the folly of that remark. He has learned to delegate, how to tailor so doing to his comfort with each individual and how to use his team to keep the process on track

He is now on this third business, having grown the first one and sold it, having grown the second one and sold it to a new private equity owner. His objective is now to reduce his engagement in the business to fewer days per week so he can spend more time on boards of other companies and contribute more to his community. No, he is not a senior.


What developed the way he leads?

  • Focus on what is or is not his job (what can only he do?)
  • Training his people to take more responsibility
  • Taking risks of delegation tailored to each person’s stage of development and playing the role of chief (key) people developer as well as CEO
  • Developing a process for everyone to know and review each week the annual goals, this month’s objectives, who is responsible for what and where progress is acceptable or not (starts with a “traffic light” chart).
  • Having his direct reports cascade the approach to the rest of the company

How did he overcome doubts and fears of delegation? He:

  • Wrote down his beliefs and fears about his company and his people
  • Observed that the outcomes were not near as good as he wanted
  • Wrote down the outcomes he desired (results, work ethic, culture,….)
  • He identified his own behaviors that contribute to poor outcomes
  • Reflected on what he had written and asked: what change in my beliefs and fears is needed to change my behaviors and the outcomes?
  • Began experimenting with different approaches to different people
  • Asked his direct reports to do as he did

Delegating frees the leader to lead.

That’s just my view. What’s yours?


If you wish to profit from other articles like this, go to:







Sat, May 6, 2017




A wonderful Vistage Chair, Ken Mandelbaum and I often exchange tools which our CEO coaching clients tell us are valuable. You can find it in the public domain on Youtube if you look for Above the Line: Key to Conscious Leadership. I am told that Above the Line and Below the Line are the trademarks of an outfit called Partners in Leadership, LLC which does leadership work. Otherwise this post is based on original materials prepared for Vistage CEO Peer Advisory Boards in New York City. And the video is public on Youtube. 


Above the line, as defined in several videos by various people, is a way of being, a way of showing up: when you are open, deeply listening, learning what the other believes or knows. Momentarily postponing your point of view or instructions. In this condition, good things happen because you have all your powers.

Below the line is a way of being, a way of showing up but: in this state of mind you are closed, impatient, listening poorly, already at the conclusion and action item. This is not a good state for you or others. You have lost some of your power to find better solutions, to enlist others, to train others to solve problems, even to be “boss ready” for you.

Surprise?:   most people are not often aware of where they are in a given moment or situation (above the line or below the line), nor what game their mind is playing in conversations with themselves that put them there. Nor do very many have a learned way of observing, framing, changing where they are and restoring their power to deal. They may not be aware of how they are experiencing life.

Leaders live in a world of massive inputs and numerous daily circumstances which compete for time. How we interpret these and make meaning out of them[2] can put us above or below the line.

Worse, Today’s we are biologically biased for our own survival to worry and to interpret many inputs as threats[3].


    1. Impatient
    2. Aggressive
    3. Angry
    4. Overwhelmed
    5. Anxious
    6. withdrawn
    7. Not really listening
    8. Stewing about something
    9. Fearful
    10. Dominating
    11. Intolerant
  2. The Challenge to Managing our Minds and Teaching Others to Manage Theirs

lies in training ourselves (or others) to notice/hear the signals

  1. Negative thoughts
  2. Negative feelings
  3. Pain
  4. Cravings
  1. Developing techniques that interrupt the cycle, e.g., “Scuba Rules” (stop, breathe, think, act) and
    1. Learning what or who triggers us
    2. Learning skills to self-correct and get above the line
    3. Making this as second nature as spotting a problem on the balance sheet
    4. Engaging others in exploring mutual interpretations and alternatives; feedback
    5. Doing this without becoming self-conscious or inauthentic
    6. Avoiding voluntary sources of anxiety








Wouldn’t you want to be above the line>? Want your people to be above the line?

Jim Blasingame, the amazing host of Small Business Advocate, and I explored this topic on

his internet radio broadcast? If you value new ideas and ways to succeed, go to:    for live streaming from his “brain trust.”


And if you would like to know more about the amazing world of CEO Peer Advisory Boards and the coaches who lead them, visit Vistage International:

That’s just my view. What’s yours?

[2] A uniquely human obsession

[3] Threats to our safety, security, self-worth bias us to have more than 70% negative thoughts


Who Will Tell The Boss the Truth?

Fri, Mar 17, 2017

1 Comment


Being at the top is a lonely position. Even the most open leader cannot share all his thoughts and concerns with anyone. And subordinates of even the most beloved boss will not provide radical candor in feedback s(he) needs to be as better leader.

So, it is no surprise that one of my clients who founded a professional service firm, who has inspired his people toward pride and excellence, had little idea of how his best and worst traits were perceived. Until he commissioned an on – line 360.


For a 360 for most clients, I am given a list of direct reports, others in the organization and occasionally outsiders as respondents. A note is sent advising them what to expect, committing to a no—attribution guarantee, and encouraging their candor. I may or may not create a short, anonymous on-line survey of them (on surveygizmo or surveymonkey) before conducting in-person conversations with an interview guide. The in-person challenge is to gain the respondents’ trust, then ask enough open-ended and specific questions to get the views that might not otherwise be expressed.

Without exception, the CEO finds great value (and some pain) from this process and it becomes as focus of on-going coaching.


As I have previously blogged, Kim Scott’s new book, Radical Candor, provides a framework and almost field manual for learning about candor. Her definition of Radical Candor is caring but direct feedback. As she said at her recent book party, she came to this view when she had engaged as boss in Ruinous Empathy, shying away from Radical Candor for so long with a key employee that she had to fire him for underperformance and was asked by him: “why didn’t anyone tell me?”

I cannot urge you enough to buy this seminal leadership/supervision book (which applies to personal life as well). Kim’s website is radicalcandor. com; the book is available on Amazon and other on-line booksellers. 

My belief? Modeling Radical Candor, then encouraging and teaching it will pay big dividends. 


In- person 360s will always have a place in the toolkit. But there is now a tool available that is unique because:

  • It is based on a terrific framework
  • There is a lot of normative data on profiles of leaders
  • There is ample normative data on the tendessncies of respondents in their feedback

The tool is the Leadership Circle Profile. You can read about the framework in the book by Anderson and Adams: Mastering Leadership, also available on line. 


I asked a fellow coach to administer the 360 for my client to ensure complete objectivity.

With the client’s permission, I now have the anonymous output and the benefit of my colleague’s interpretation. Results?

The boss was deeply surprised by two of the patterns in the feedback and committed to work on both to go from blissful ignorance to admired improvement. And one category appears to be a communication challenge, the other requires a change in beliefs and behaviors in leading the firm.

That’s just my view. What’s yours?








Becoming an Entrepreneur in Your Own Life

Thu, Feb 23, 2017

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Carving out time to invest in yourself, devoting that time to learn and put to practice the wisdom of coaches will improve your life as well as your performance as a leader. It is more than situational problem-solving.


The best books on leadership stress that the job of the CEO is self-development as well as development of the organization. And my decades of experience are replete with instances in which CEO client self-development often has an unintended consequence: improving family dynamics.


Each year, multiple sources help me develop myself as a coach and I share what I learn with my clients and peers. In a future post, I will relay the most important discoveries from our Vistage worldwide chair conference. Here, I share the thoughts of renowned master coach Tony Smith, speaking to a group of HBS alumni entrepreneurs.

Distinguishing between those who will “eat what has been served,” living in a familiar environment from those who will create their own environment, their own future, here are my notes on the gist of the discussion: (I was surprised how useful his discussion guide was despite its being rudimentary for me and probably for you).

1.    The #1 enemy of creating your own life and your own company is busyness. The urgent displaces the most important.

2.    No future is possible unless and until you imagine it and write it down

It must be clear, written, output of a conscious and unconscious effort and future-focused

3.    Most people live in deploying their knowledge to manage risk; entrepreneurs create something and live at risk; the first live close to the past, the latter live in the future

4.    Any business or job worth doing starts with three forces for engagement: the value to the user/the message, the user profile and the methods of outreach to the user; most highly educated people are not good at the third

5.    What does it take to create your own future?

Time, practice, constructive feedback and commitment to a specific future

6.    Everyone needs a place and time to clear the mind, re-invent and confront demons

7.    There is always constructive tension between reality and a vision; the tension is what creates energy. Most people’s future is missing from their daily thinking.

8.    Networking is crucial to all of the above; and having a personal board of directors. And keeping in touch

9.    To all entrepreneurs: don’t let circumstances call the shots

10. The world belongs to those who follow up (amazing how few do it and do it with intention and regularity)


Vistage: the world’s largest CEO membership organization

Tony Smith, coach:

If you want a few terrific books to read, contact me.

 That’s just my view. What’s yours?




Managing Partner of Professionals: Unlike Any Other Business Community   Wed, Feb 22, 2017
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CEO Blues: “It’s my fault”   Mon, Feb 20, 2017
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CEO’S RISKY HIRES   Fri, Jan 20, 2017
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Boss Ready: CEO as Trainer   Fri, Jan 13, 2017
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Key to Leadership Failure   Tue, Dec 6, 2016
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What Made jack welch JACK WELCH

How Ordinary People Become
Extraordinary Leaders

by Stephen H. Baum (Random House)

Most leaders of American companies started out as ordinary people. What prepared them for the top job?

Countless more ordinary people of equal talent never developed the leadership core required to run the show. Why not?

"Lessons for life about the core leadership traits of character, risk taking decisiveness and the ability to engage and inspire followers."
--Jim Clifton, CEO, The Gallup Organization


Buy Now
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