The #1 Thing That Holds You Back from Career Advancement

Uncategorized May 03, 2018

What I’ve learned in observing myself and my executive clients for years is that the biggest factor holding us back from taking risks and having executive presence as a leader boils down to one thing - lack of self-acceptance. 

We can’t show up and lead boldly if our standard is perfection. We can’t forgive others until we forgive ourselves. We can’t connect and richly serve humanity if we aren’t comfortable with our own vulnerability.

It takes humility to ask ourselves this - “Am I willing to continue to live and lead at the level I am now or not?” If the answer is an emphatic “No!” then people are willing to search inside themselves for what serious changes they’re committed to make, seek guidance along the way and establish practices to sustain growth. If not, they get right back on the treadmill to nowhere, exhausted and disappointed.

Self-acceptance means we prioritize nurturing ourselves. We take time to make...

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When You Aren't Sure What To Do

New SMART Leaders ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. You know that risk you’re avoiding because it makes you uncomfortable and you’re really unsure about what will happen if you take it? Maybe you should pay attention to that. 

Get curious about it. Is now the right time? What would change if you waited another month? Is it really an either or choice? What other options might there be? Who might be good counsel on this? How can you be gentle with yourself as you vet the decision? 

Trust your gut and ask questions. Your pinhole perspective will start to open. You’re head is too analytical and you heart is too emotional. Trust instinct and challenge assumptions. It’s how we’ve stayed alive as a species for centuries. It will serve you in doubt. 

Check out my latest column for The Ladders - $100,000+ job site here.

Your coach,

Mary Lee

P.S. Feel free to send this link to someone who could benefit from it. We are all walking down the same road in...

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Who is The Company?

Late Monday afternoon on April 23rd my husband flew American Airlines 8+ hours through the night from Philadelphia to Munich. An hour and a half before the flight landed while the cabin was dark and most passengers were sleeping the airline blared an announcement asking people to donate to a charity - something that could have occurred earlier.

My husband questioned the flight attendant who told him to go to AA.com & file a complaint with the company. 

(Not that it should matter but my husband flew business class and is Concierge Key, all which the flight attendant knew.)

Subsequently, the pilot came out & told him the same thing.

Let’s replay this:

Pilot: #1) You and every employee are the face of the company - you own its behavior. Apologize and fact find. “I understand you had a bad experience and I apologize. We value your business. Please tell me what happened.”

#2) Affirm the toll. “I understand that you probably have to work as...

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Thinking of You

Recently I was not feeling well and missed an event where I had hoped to extend my deepest appreciation to several hundred volunteers at St. Margaret Hospital. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t be there to thank these outstanding stewards of our patients who struggle with the biggest challenges of their lives. The next day I received this note from the two directors of the event - simply run off on their printer that said:

 Thinking of You -

Hope you’re feeling much better

and hope you’re remembering, too

The many warm thoughts and good wishes

that always are right there with you.

If you think personal notes (talking hard copy here and not email) are a thing of the past you are wrong. This totally captured my attention, warmed my heart, made me smile and immediately inspired me to reach out and thank them.

I keep a drawer full of informal note cards for this very thing - from personalized Crane to Kate Spade to convenience store birthday cards. And I...

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How to Give Feedback that Matters

Feedback is crucial to performance improvement because it enables us to look at situations and ourselves from a third-party perspective. It unlocks self-reflection and growth, and opens the door to opportunity. “You are doing a great job” or “You have to do better,” does not give the employee the needed tools to improve or the intrinsic fulfillment to make him want to stay with the company and grow.

Effective feedback has three mindful components. It is 1) Strategic, 2) Developmental and 3) Aligned with the values of the organization. These require us to be aware of our restrictive biases.

Strategic Feedback: The employee can most benefit from feedback that answers this question: “What should this employee do more or less of to be maximally effective?” If you aren’t sure of the answer, ask the employee. Once you have the answer, you can work with her to clear distractions from her workload and position her to do the most meaningful and...

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Two Things that Convert Your Dreams to Reality

At the end of every week I try to reflect on one thing learned and one thing advanced. This builds self-awareness and focus.

This week I learned that just because you try something that doesn’t work out doesn’t mean your idea was wrong. Maybe the provider wasn’t right. Or the goal needs to be modified. Or the approach isn’t sound. I almost abandoned a strategy because of one let down. Another provider opened my eyes.

This week also I advanced a weekly planner I had been working on with my designer and wrote another article for The Ladders. This feels great! If you are interested in the free PDF week at a glance sheet - my Flow-on-the-Go Guide - that I use to track my daily routines and goals click here. This is what will be in my book. All my clients ue this. We need structure around building routines and creating goals to fulfill us. Without it goals are simply notions and routines become unfulfilled dreams.

Your coach,

Mary Lee

P.S. Feel free to send this...

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Here's a Practice to Have the Certainty Essential for You 

I see a lot of my corporate executive coaching clients struggle with the balance of certainty and humility as a leader. They want to have the presence of a strong leader yet they don’t want to appear arrogant or they have some self-doubt. Too often they dial back their executive presence as well as their voice. Here is a good strategy.

1. Listen intently to everything being said - from the 30,000 feet perspective not the 3 feet view.

2. Before you speak take a deep breath.

3. Ask a question before you voice an opinion. “Can please you clarify...?” “Help me understand....”

4. Make a declarative statement that is unarguable and hasn’t been expressed - no uptalk at the end. “What I’ve heard you say is (X)..... I’m thinking we could......”

In the end the pause, the deep breath and the asking of questions gives you a moment to observe yourself in real time so that you may be deliberate not sporadic or guarded.

Your coach,

Mary...

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I had to layoff four people in the first 30 days

I had to layoff four people in the first 30 days of one of my roles as a CEO. It was very difficult.

As a leader you most certainly will have to make a difficult decision that will affect someone’s life if you haven’t already. When we can lean in to the difficult feeling this brings us and deal with them first, we can better bring compassion to the situation and others. These decisions can leave us feeling hurtful, frustrated, too practical, disliked and more. Name the feelings. Being comfortable with our own discomfort is a good place to start.

Open communication with others is the first step to building bridges not road blocks. I met with each person in the office and asked very specific questions about what they thought the direction of the office should be, what our strengths and weaknesses were and what they would do if they were me.

They saw the layoffs coming. I placed as many people elsewhere as I could and promised those left behind that we would eliminate...

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Impossible is Nothing

If I believed anyone who told me it was impossible to go from being a single mother of four children under seven-years-old on welfare to getting hired as a CEO it might have dragged me down. So I didn’t ask anybody if they thought I'd succeed. I just went about my work and goals as if I could not fail.

Over the last 20 years I have led organization with up to $26 million in assets. I increased trade show attendance 150% my first year as executive director of a trade association. I led a campaign to add a patient pavilion and healing garden when people said, “That will never happen.” And I led a $10.4 million capital campaign for a heart center, new ER and Women’s and Infants' Center on the heels of the largest hospital bankruptcy in U.S. history.

“Impossible” is just a lofty word thrown around by people who play it safe. It is a notion to believe that just because something isn’t mainstream or the norm it cannot be done. More significantly -...

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Warm is the New Cool

MINDFUL OF SELF AND OTHERS - OUCH!!!! Have you ever gotten off the phone with someone who called to ask you for help and felt like you'd just been worked over? Have you ever found yourself thinking, "There is something about that person I do not like or trust?" Trust your gut. Your head is too analytical and your heart is too emotional.

This happened to me yesterday when a person called me to help them regarding a positon I happen to know a lot about. This person was referred to me by a friend. It was for free advice. I agreed because of my work relationship with the other party. I was annoyed and put an end to what felt like an interview quickly after first turning the 'interview' on this person - to help this person realize the rudeness of the behavior. It didn't work. No self-awareness.

Don't doubt yourself. Believe in your instinct. Instinct has kept us alive as a species for centuries. If a perspective is that visceral it is trying to tell you something. Listen.

Note to Self -...

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