Posted: February 26th, 2016

People don’t buy what you do, they buy what you believe

Simon Sinek’s 2009 TED talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action has made lists of top leadership talks for years.  The essence of his talk is that people are inspired by the purpose of an organization rather than its value proposition.  He says, for example, that we buy Apple products not because they’re beautifully designed, but because Apple believes in challenging…

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Posted: December 13th, 2015

The dangers of corporatese

I was reading a Fast Company Magazine interview with Sam Altman the other day, in which he was describing the founding of Y Combinator.  He said, “With VCs, there were all these terms that were deliberately obscuring what was going on, and I think they liked it that way.  Liquidation preferences and ratchets and anti-dilutions and drag-alongs and no-shops.  It…

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Posted: December 5th, 2015

What about a magnet? Lessons in leadership

The other night, I was re-watching my favorite show, Breaking Bad, and one of Jesse Pinkman’s lines struck me.  In case you’re not familiar with the show, Jesse is the young punk protege of Walter White, a 50-year old chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-cook who is slowing corrupting Jesse, his former student and now his assistant.  At one point Walter White is discussing ideas…

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Posted: November 28th, 2015

Let’s ditch the term “soft skills” once and for all

This is certainly not a new rant, not even for me, and certainly not for leadership consultants in general.  I’ve been writing about the misconceptions and unintended consequences of the term “soft skills” for years, especially when it comes to the dismissive notion that soft skills means being nice.  The problem is that no one ever comes up with a…

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Posted: October 3rd, 2015

Battling the “hysterical woman” bias

Back in the days when I volunteered for a Colorado mountain rescue team as both a rescuer and the team’s public information officer, my teammates often commented that I was “too intense.”  I was trying to transform the role I held, taking it from traditional order-taker and reporter-of-news to a more progressive, proactive maker-of-news, and that involved dragging us into…

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Posted: September 15th, 2015

Using the SPLIT framework to manage virtual teams

Managing virtual teams is an increasingly hot topic for supervisors, as telecommuting and flex time programs become more widespread and globalization increases.  Tsedal Neeley recently published a great article on overcoming the challenges of virtual teams called Global Teams that Work.  Although his focus is on international teams, most of his key points can be applied to any team that…

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Posted: August 2nd, 2015

Getting out of your comfort zone is easier said than done

In July I flew to Europe with my friend Pam to hike the famous Haute Route, which starts in Chamonix, France and finishes in Zermatt, Switzerland.  The route is beloved by trekkers not only for its fantastic scenery but also for its relative luxuries; you can carry just a day pack with no camping gear because there are mountain huts…

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Posted: June 5th, 2015

Why do we wait so long to teach interpersonal skills?

This week my two colleagues and I began delivering a “soft skills” class to employees of the federal agency supervisors we’ve been working with for the past two years.  The class is a shorter version of what we deliver to the supervisors, and it focuses on communication skills, conflict management approaches, teamwork and diversity. Predictably, and within the first half…

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Posted: May 1st, 2015

The cult of busy

Reading Tim Kreider’s NY Times article The Busy Trap, I could not decide whether to log a protest, applaud him for his insights about our national cult of busyness, or be offended by his smugness.  His opening paragraph:   If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you…

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Posted: March 3rd, 2015

Cultural faux pas can be serious business

One of the most important things you can teach workers who travel internationally is the importance of understanding the cultural norms of another country.  I don’t just mean customs like whether to bow or shake hands, or how to dress in the workplace, although those things are very important too.   But I also mean the less tangible elements of culture…

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