Breaking the Cycle of the Treadmill to Nowhere

As an executive coach I see three main challenges repeatedly surface for leaders seeking to better their careers, teams and relationships. 

  1. The Treadmill to Nowhere 

When things aren’t going well people get stressed and think that if they just try harder the situation will get better. They focus on one size-fits-all strategies such as – work more hours, hold more meetings, take a course, call a recruiter, network more, get another degree, put in for another promotion, change for the sake of change, read more self-help or business books. They think things will improve because of their fierce dedication when in fact doing more of the same just brings more disappointment, let down from unmet expectations, stress, lack of confidence and makes them feel exhausted on the treadmill to nowhere. They seek “more” instead of less. They can’t slow down enough to be vulnerable – to risk searching inside themselves where the answers always lie. So...

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Holding a Hand for the First Time

Last summer my father passed away. It was a difficult time for me as I know it is for any of you who have a dying parent or who have lost a loved one. I did a lot of journaling during that time and I share the passage below with you in hope that it inspires you to embrace the difficult feelings of grief. My wish is that you may process and won the feelings you turn away from - that you allow them to flow through you - not get struck inside you and fester. That is how we have freedom. Namaste.

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Last night I held a hand for the first time. Indeed throughout my life I have held many hands - extending myself to help, reaching for comfort, joining in an act of love. But last night I held the hand of a man who knows he is dying and it felt like we were the only two people in the world. 

My father is the epitome of grace, leadership, and strength. At the end of his life all of these qualities still stand in spite of a failing body. I coach and train on mindfulness, the...

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Have you ever overreacted at work and immediately regretted it?

Have you overreacted in front of key leaders at work and immediately regretted it? Have you felt anxiety because you assumed something said was personal towards you? Have you thought a round of bad luck would pervade every area of your life or go on indefinitely? 

We’ve all been stuck and not able to self-regulate. Unfortunately, stuck thinking only breeds more suffering when our only strategy is to get back on the treadmill to nowhere with the same mindset and behaviors.

Early in my career I remember over-reacting at an executive management meeting and feeling justified. I had so little self-awareness that the need to be right overshadowed my presence and effectiveness. These occurrences start to build stereotypes that rob you of respect. Don’t be labeled the “emotional leader” or “the victim.”

Become a third-party observer of your own behavior and thoughts - a fly on the wall watching your life. What would you tell a friend who had your...

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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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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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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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