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Articles tagged with: Basic Leadership

Are You an Interested or Interesting Leader? Seven Steps to Being a More Interested Leader

Several weeks ago, I was coaching with a client (let’s call him John) who was working to further develop his listening skills.  In the course of our conversation he said, “I want people to feel I am genuinely interested.” 

John went on to share a short, but impactful story with me.  John was attending the funeral of an elderly gentleman who was a long term friend of his family.  This man was known to be a very quiet man.  Because of this, John was a little surprised to see so many people at the funeral.  After the service, John was talking with some of the guests and mentioned that he was surprised so many people were in attendance…. Not because this man was not a great man, but rather, because this man was so quiet.  One of the guests responded to him with a statement that changed John’s perspective of this man forever.  The guest said, “There are so many people here to honor him because he was more interested than interesting.”

Getting Out of the Weeds & Growing Your Leadership Team

I was recently reflecting on a conversation I had with the owner of a growing florist business. Sales are good which is wonderful, however, things have become more difficult to manage because of the increased workload. The staff consists of very competent employees yet the owner still has difficulty letting go of some tasks. As a business owner, I understand how hard it is to delegate and rely on others when it comes to the seed you planted that is now blossoming. It’s easy to get “caught in the weeds.” The problem with not letting go is you not only create chaos for yourself, you send the wrong message to your team. When you are hesitant to delegate responsibilities, offer training and coaching, and empower them, you are in essence saying you don’t trust them.

The Leadership Landscape

This is the time of year most home owners are focusing on getting their yards looking good again.  Many of us are seeding, re-planting, trimming, raking, mowing… and mowing…. and mowing!  The poignant thing is, living things keep growing, the weeds continue to pop up and everything needs to be watered regularly as well as trimmed.  It takes maintenance and consistent effort to keep a yard looking good.  


Always Leave a Place Better Than You Found It

Do you remember those things you mother always said to you?  Do you also remember when you realized those things she said were meaningful to life?   One of the things my mother used to always say was, "Always leave a place better than you found it".  She was referring to cleanliness.  She taught me when I stayed at someone's house, before leaving I should put clean sheets on the bed, empty the trash and make sure the rooms I used (including the bathroom) looked better than when I arrived.  I value this lesson and still live into it.  

Leadership Through Community Engagement: The Ultimate Win-Win

As we develop and strengthen the leadership in our organizations, as well as our personal leadership development, we should be sure to include time and planning for “community focus.”  More and more organizations have broadened their vision to include community service initiatives. Your career development plan should include the same goals for considering your involvement in  your community. There are many ways to explore ‘community’, both inside and outside your organization and this can become a highlight for your experience and resume. Caretaking for your community can also contribute to your overall wellness and help you to develop as a confident professional.

Let’s start with a definition of what we mean by community focus.  Wikipedia defines community a social unit of any size that shares common values.Values” elicit our energy and emotion because they are principles that we deeply believe in.  We should therefore invest our time and our support.  In our career path, we sometimes get so busy with tasks that we forget to schedule time to “give back” and revisit our values.  Finding time to serve a greater good can be easier than you think and the rewards for you can make a big difference.

 CommunityFocus BHiggins2016



Negotiating With Emotional Intelligence

There are many opportunities in our lives and careers to negotiate for what we want:

·         The cost, scope or schedule of your next project

·         The sale price of a car or house

·         Your starting salary or vacation benefits for a new job

·         Your upcoming performance raise

Many notable authors and scholars have pointed out the advantages of using emotional intelligence in these scenarios.  My experience with these concepts is that I need to break them down in to very simple terms so that I can remember them in the “heat of the moment” and under the stress that negotiations typically put on us.

Emotional Intelligence - Is It the Foundation of Great Leadership?

Decades ago, this concept of Emotional Intelligence in leadership would not have appeared in many writings about what makes great leadership. There are plenty critics of the concept and its relationship to successful leaders. My intent is not to defend nor prove any research that has been done. Rather, I want to share my years of observation and study of leaders and the impact of EQ.  Let's start with the definition of Emotional Intelligence - skill in perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions and feelings.  There are more expanded and varying versions but this one captures the essence of the definition.

3 Keys to Building Trust in Your Leadership

Trust in leadership is on a decline1. There are several reasons for this, and the purpose of this white paper is to identify areas where leaders can focus to bring higher levels of trust.
The first question we should ask is, "Why is trust so important in an organization?" I believe that answer is in this quote from Sissela Bok, author of Lying:

Trust is a social good to be protected just as much as the air we breathe
or the water we drink. When it is damaged, the community as a whole
suffers; and, when it is destroyed, societies falter and collapse…Trust
and integrity are precious resources, easily squandered, hard to regain.

According to Patrick Lencioni’s model "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” trust is the foundation for all relationships. The workplace is all about people and relationships and that is why trust is crucial to the success of any organization.

So why is trust declining? There are three key reasons for declining trust:
1. Lack of vision
2. Fitting into the strategy
3. Uncertainty of values

Let’s break these key reasons down one at a time. The first is lack of vision or lack of understanding of the vision. An ancient Hebrew proverb says,

Where there is no vision, the people parish.

People need to know the vision of where the organization is headed and see a clear line of how to get there. Carly Fiorina said,

A leader's greatest obligation is to make possible an environment
where people's minds and hearts can be inventive, brave, human and strong...
where people can aspire to change the world.
Bok, Sissela. Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life. Vintage Books, 1999.


Leading for Results

"Man cannot live on bread alone, he must have peanut butter (James A. Garfield)!" Similarly (though less funny) leadership does not stand alone, it must get results, and that means achieving well formulated goals. By definition, a destination is inherent and you MUST know where your are going or, as oft quoted Yogi says, "If you don't know where you're going, any path will get you there."

Hundreds of books have been written about leadership with much good advice. However, with 7 Laws, 9 Essentials, or 5 Rules it's time for a time out!

Practicing behavioral leadership without a goal is like drilling for a football game only to find out you're playing basketball. It makes a difference.


To Lead or to Manage? OR TO LEAD AND MANAGE!


There is an ongoing debate about the differences and definitions of leader and manager and many are striving to identify which is better. The bottom line is, organizations need both leaders and managers in order to be successful. In fact, the more "lean" organizations become, the more we will see leaders who need to be able to manage and managers who need to be able to lead.

One of the mistakes that have been made is trying to make management and leadership independent of one another. The truth is they are both dependent upon one another for a company's profits as well as their people's success.


What Happens When You Lose A Great Team Member?

Have you ever found the perfect new team member? A person who fits exactly what your organization needs from their skills, experience, talents, connections and even personality? Hopefully you have had this experience at least once in your leadership career. It is one of the most exhilarating feelings! Maybe this person was hired to be a successor for a senior leader or to take over a new division. Whatever the reason, it is rewarding to everyone when you bring in the right person at the right time.

Have you found yourself in this position only to later find out this person was not the perfect fit you were looking for; worse, maybe they were perfect but after awhile they decided it was time to move on to another opportunity? Either way there are some important lessons to learn and use moving forward when this happens.

Lesson one: What did you (the leader) learn from this experience? Here are a few questions to ask yourself (be sure to include what did you do well and what would you do differently):

  1. Did you indeed hire the right person at the right time…. If so, move on to the next questions, if not, what have you learned specifically that tells you this person was not the right hire and what will you do to avoid this pitfall next time?
  2. Was this person challenged enough in the role they were given?
  3. Were these person’s needs met both professionally and personally?
  4. How did this person connect with others in the organization?
  5. How did this person navigate the “political” climate of direct reports, peers, boss, clients and stakeholders?
  6. What did you do to ensure this person was set up for success?
  7. What support did you provide for this person?
  8. What on-going development did you provide for this person?
  9. Were there opportunities for growth in the areas of this person’s expertise?
  10. Were you surprised when this person decided to leave – if so, what warning signs did you miss?

Lesson two: What feedback can you get from person leaving and/or lessons they learned? Here are a few questions to ask the person leaving (ask for specifics, what did we do well and what could we have done better):

  1. What was your greatest take a-way from your time with us?
  2. Did you feel supported?
  3. Did you feel there were opportunities for growth – both professionally and personally?
  4. Was your role a right fit?
  5. What was your greatest challenge while with us?
  6. Did you understand the “political landscape”?
  7. What affected your decision to leave?
  8. Could anything have changed your mind?
  9. What are three things you would recommend to us in the future to ensure we continue to attract and retain talent such as yourself?
  10. Would you recommend a friend or colleague to work with us?

Lesson Three: It is important to make sure the message of this person’s departure is communicated properly and you capture the opportunity for feedback moving forward. Below are a few questions to help you navigate this process:

  1. How will I communicate the message to others that this person is leaving?
  2. How will I make sure other team members feel supported in the transition?
  3. Is there a successor or will we need to look outside the organization…. Or is this role still relevant?
  4. What will be done to create an opportunity to receive feedback from others?
  5. How will I reassure others we are fine and moving forward?

The answers to the questions in all three “lessons” will help you personally reflect, learn, grow and make even better hiring and retaining decisions in the future. As your organizations grows and changes it is inevitable that some of the “perfect” hires at one point may not be the best fit for the future. It is also important to realize there are times when a person needs to move on, even when everything has been done correctly. Rather than looking at this time as a loss, look at it from the standpoint of how fortunate you were to work with this person and them with the organization.

Moving on is often like a graduation… it is simply time to move on. I use to be a school teacher and I think the best metaphor here is recognizing we may love a student and be very proud of them; however, we would never keep them from passing to greater things just because we like them and they did a great job! One of my favorite sayings is, “your ceiling should be their floor”…. Learn what you can and then, let people “graduate” when they need to. Stay in contact with them. Be proud that you were a part of their leadership journey and career development.


What lessons have you learned from losing a great employee? I would love to hear your stories and/or questions you would add to the list/s above. If you are interested in working with a coach on how to attract and retain (or even let go in the right way) great talent please contact me today at

Off Target with your 2014 Goals?

It’s hard believe we are past the half-year mark for 2014.  Have you pulled out your goals and reviewed your progress?  How are you doing?   If you are in the majority, you probably are not doing so well.  Why? There may be a few reasons:

  • Setting goals has become just an empty ritual. We take last year’s goal and “tweak” it.  Often there is not much thought put into creating the goal and not much thought given to it afterwards.
  • No one is really checking in, holding you or others accountable.
  • There are too many barriers – not enough resources.
  • Priorities are constantly changing.

As leaders, if we do not make reaching goals a priority, no one will. Setting and achieving goals needs to be part of regular conversations and expectations. Want some help to get things moving again? Let’s start by analyzing the goals that were set many months ago. 1.  Are these real goals?  Apply the SMART formula to them:

  • Are they specific? Significant? Stretching? Focused?
  • Does each of them have a specific metric that you have applied?  How far off the mark are you?  This shouldn’t be a guessing game.
  • Are the goals attainable?  Goals must stretch us and they need to be attainable. Were you over-reaching? If not, who is responsible for the lack of achievement? Have you been holding yourself and others accountable?
  • Are the goals realistic? Relevant?  Do they align with the mission and vision? Does everyone consider them real goals?
  • What are the time constraints?  Have deadlines been set?  Were there milestones established and published?  Have you and others met all the deadlines?  Why not?  What got in your way?

2.  Once you have completed the SMART formula, consider these questions:

  • Do you have the right goals for the mission and vision of your organization?  Are there more important specific goals that need to be introduced?
  • Which of the goals are truly attainable and relevant?   Which goals must be reached?
  •  Are your metrics appropriate?  Are you tracking the right things?  Are others tracking progress?
  • What barriers need to be removed?

3.  Pick the top 3-4 “must reach” goals. Schedule time with your team and stress the importance of this “2014 Goals Check-In” meeting. Send out an agenda days in advance. The agenda should include:

  • Vision and Mission discussion.  (Note: the vision and mission answers “Why we do we what we do.”)
  • 2014 Goals – Where are we? What do we need celebrate? What do we need to talk about?
  • Focus for the remainder of 2014. New goals, more focused goals.
  • Setting the plan
    • The SMART formula is applied to every goal
    • Barriers are identified and a strategy is created to deal with the barriers
    • Bi-weekly check-ins are scheduled to discuss each goal and progress (no exceptions)
    • Celebrate each milestone achieved
    • Reward appropriately

You still have time to achieve the “must-have” goals. Stick to your plan. Hold yourself and others accountable.  Be sure to celebrate along the way.  The reward of hitting your target will be long lasting and gratifying! Also, as you look to 2015 in your Fall Planning activities, MSBCoach would be happy to help facilitate meaningful and productive planning and team building sessions.  Contact us at to discuss a customized approach for your organization.

The Success Equation

I had the privilege of hearing author, Jim Collins, speak recently.  He said a lot of things that made me think, a sign of a good SME (subject-matter-expert), and one thing in particular stood out: “ First, great leaders must have strong values and a strong will and then skills”. How many people have you encountered that had tremendous skills and competencies, with great potential, yet they never reach that potential?  Skills matter and with a strong under-pinning of good values and a strong will, success is inevitable. We are constantly bouncing around the whole “values” concept.  Values are the guiding force of how we live and work. We understand that very few people have identical values. Yet, we know that our values must be in sync for us to work cohesively and productively. When was the last time you thought about how your values and your organization’s values work in tandem? If I ask you to list your personal values and that of your organization, would they align? Would there be any out of sync?  What does your organization offer in support of your core values?  How do your values support the goals/objectives of the organization?  It may be worth your time to examine this.  It could answer a few questions that you may have about your next steps and future goals. Jim Collins told a wonderful story of how having a strong will can make the difference in growing and surviving during tough times.  We all have those tough times – individually and organizationally. What determines a strong will? More importantly how do you develop one?  Ever heard of the phrase: “strong-willed child”?  I happen to have given birth to one….some of you are relating to me right now!  Once this child decided that she was going to do something or not do something, it became a real battle of wills.  I would usually resort to using a well-known technique of: “You will do it because I am bigger than you!”  I realized that technique was not going to last too long so fortunately I was given wise counsel that I should guide that strong will instead of trying to break it.  This wise person told me that my strong-willed child who was pushing all my buttons would have a greater chance of being a successful adult if I would nurture that will. So how do we nurture a strong will?   Here are some thoughts from Jim Collins’ insight and a few from someone who was raising one:

  • Be clear on your objectives.  Know what you want and don’t want. My strong-willed child was always very clear about her objectives, wants, needs, etc.
  • Be ok with others pushing against you.  Many times we get “talked out” of doing something that we know is the right thing to do.  The key here is to make sure that we are aligned with our values and clear objectives. Strong-willed people should always listen to wise counsel and adjust if needed but never cave to someone else’s thinking.
  • Set a plan and follow your plan.  We lose our way so often because we didn’t create a plan or follow the plan that we created.  We allow others to change it or we don’t take the necessary time to think it through.
  • Be “fanatically disciplined”.  This is one of the discoveries that Jim Collins made in his research of leaders for his book, Great by Choice. His research revealed that strong-willed leaders did the “hard” things, sacrificed for the future instead of enjoying the moment, and relied on their skills in times of chaos.
  • Mistakes are going to happen. And there will be consequences. Strong-willed leaders will choose to accept those circumstances and to learn from them. This is a lesson that I learned from my wise counselor.  Every time my strong-willed child made a “mistake”, I was encouraged to ask, “What did you learn?” instead of saying, “I told you so…”

In our ever-changing, competitive, super-charged information world, it’s more important than ever to be clear on our values and to be strong-willed.  What are you doing to stay centered on your values and strengthen your will?  

What Does Father’s Day have to do With Effective Leadership?

As I think through what to do in order to honor and celebrate my dad for Father’s Day, I find myself reflecting on how fortunate I am to have such a wonderful dad.  He has always been a quiet pillar of strength for our family.  To me he represents:  stability, security, respect to others and self, consistency, non-judgment, encouragement, inspiration, careful listening and loyalty.

In addition to all of these positive strengths, he still holds the ability to call for correction when it is needed and his family, as well as those who work for him, respond positively.  How does this happen?  It happens through the first attributes listed but also because he has built relationships and has earned respect with those around him.  We are open and receptive to correction when we know the person bringing correction in our corner has our back and wants the best for us.

When I think about my dad, I can’t help but draw parallels between what it takes to be an effective father and what it tasks to be an impactful leader.  Whether you are male or female, young or old, to lead effectively you need to embrace the same characteristics it takes to be a great father.  When you reflect upon your leadership, do you demonstrate the attributes describe above:  stability, security, respecting others and self, consistency, non-judgment, encouragement, inspiration, listening and loyalty?  As you reflect on these characteristics, here are three questions to ask yourself:

  1. If I were to walk around my office and ask my direct reports, peers, boss or vendors to describe me, what would they say?
  2. Would I be pleased with the description they give?
  3. Do I work diligently to build relationships that are strong and withstand storms, change, challenges and a call for correction when needed?

If you are not pleased with any of the answers to the above three questions, what will you do differently?

This is a meaningful blog to me for two reasons.  First, it honors a very important man in my life, my father.  Secondly, it also stirs me to action… to strive for a higher level and to be a better leader.  It creates a desire in me to follow in the footsteps of my father’s example.  I hope my very nature (Def:  The basic or inherent features of something, especially when seen as characteristic of it) can be a reflection of my dad’s example of leadership.  Although I have not chosen the same career path as my father, I can choose the same leadership path.

How about you?  How do you define leadership?  Do you have someone in your life that inspires you to be better as a leader?  If so, I hope you will share your story with us.  Also, if you are interested in working with a coach to become a more effective leader, I hope you will contact us today at and Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads our there!  Continue to lead well and inspire!!

Leadership Storms

The intensity, destruction and aftermath of a powerful storm can be overwhelming.  The things we once took for granted become the most important in the aftermath.  We learn to value safety, warmth, clean water, a shower, and a hug from a caring person. In this case, as with others, there are lessons to be learned.

If you have been in a leadership role for any length of time, you have experienced a few storms both personal and professional.  So, how do we weather these storms as leaders and how do we support others through their aftermath?  Below are eight things that I are as true in leadership as they are with tornadoes and floods:

  1. Stay Calm – In an audio clip I viewed of a storm there were people huddled in a store refrigerator to escape the tornado.  I could hear the leader speaking calmly as he gave directions and moved people toward action.  His calm demeanor kept them focused on what they needed to do in that moment. If a leader panics or becomes overly emotional, only chaos will emerge.  People want to believe that their leader has things under control.
  2. Have a plan – work that plan – In another case, when waters were approaching a family farm there were initial discussions of “throwing in the towel”.  It appeared that there was no way to beat the rising water.  Then a plan was initiated by the leader.  There were plenty of naysayers, but the leader continued to encourage, “Let’s work the plan”.  They worked the plan and much of their hard work paid off. During storms, we may need to re-work our plans or even devise new ones.  Engage others in working that plan.  People will rise to the challenge - they just need a leader who will take a stand.
  3. Speak in succinct terms – In times of stress, we are unable to hear long, laborious statements.  Be succinct in your directions and communications.  People want to know what is really important and what has to happen next.
  4. Give people something to do – Remember you are not alone in the storm.  People will help you.  They want to be part of the solution. Ask them. Or maybe it’s more of a matter of just allowing them to help you.
  5. Communicate like crazy – let others communicate – As the tornado approached, this leader kept talking to the huddled people, questions were asked and others made suggestions.  As the leader listened, he/she continued to make necessary adjustments.  The leader never stopped communicating as the tornado ripped through the building. Many times leaders make the mistake of being silent or not listening during times of turbulence.  People want to know that their leader is aware of what is happening, willing to listen and adjust if needed.  They want to be certain that their leader will be there through “thick and thin”!
  6. Reassure/be visible – Throughout the horrific sounds of breaking glass, howling wind, and boards ripping, you could hear this leader continue to reassure people. At one point the leader used a cell phone to light up their face so others could see that he/she was still there.   His words were strong and definitive…”We are going to make it.  Hang on, it will end soon….” Nothing speaks louder than the leader “being there” during the storm.  Your visibility and reassuring words give comfort and confidence to do or survive the impossible.  People want a strong leader who believes in herself and the power of others.
  7. Be kind - As the leader/owner and employees scurried out of the badly damaged building, this leader checked with each of the employees to make sure they were ok.  Then she told them to take any items that they thought they may need and go to their families.  She told them to let her know if they needed additional things.  One employee said he had never experienced such kindness and concern. He was willing to stay and help her start the clean-up but she insisted that he check-in with his family. Often we are so focused on the storm; we forget to be kind and considerate of others. Kindness can make the hard work just a little easier.  Find little ways to show kindness.
  8. Remember what really counts – Reoccurring responses from those who have lost so much are statements like these: “I am just thankful to be alive”; “I only want to find my family pictures”; “I have my family that is all that matters”; “I am ready to start the rebuilding process”.....Storms have a way clearing away the “clutter” of our life and showing us what is really important and of value. Leaders, I recommend that you remind yourself often of the question, “What is really important and what really counts?” 

The bottom line is important; however, to achieve that desired bottom line, we need people.  People need to know that you care…really care.