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Over the past 30 years, Erika has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are custom tailored to her clients’ challenges, goals, and culture.

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Archive for February, 2008


Executive Coaching: Fixes vs. Cures

OK, it’s time for a little bit of a rant. I was talking to an executive last week, someone who had wanted to work with me as a coach, and then got “mandated” a coach and a coaching process by his organization.

He talked to me about how he just had a “360” done for him. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with this phrase, that means that a number of people, some at his level in the organization, some above him, and some at the level below – most likely the people that report to him directly – shared their perceptions of his strengths and weaknesses as a leader and manager. Then their insights were compiled and given to him in some kind of summary form.) He told me that 3 issues had come up, and that the powers that be were getting him a coach to focus specifically on one of these issues, through a series of six brief sessions. The implication was that he would also just somehow magically “fix” the other two, now that he knows what they are.


This is my pet peeve about how executive coaching is often conducted: it’s very symptomatic, and rarely gets to the underlying issues. It’s like the person gets told, “you have a cough, a runny nose, and some congestion in your chest. Take these cough drops; here are some Kleenex; and be sure to wear a nice warm coat when you go out. OK, you’re fixed!”

Instead, I believe executive coaching should focus on how those “symptoms” are connected, and therefore what the underlying problem is – and how to solve that. Is it just a cold? Is it pneumonia? Is it allergies? Each of those would require a very different approach to address the real problem.

With the person I was talking to – a lovely guy, by the way – I know him well enough to have connected the dots as we were talking. I could see how the three issues that came up arose out of his “wiring” as a person: that all three were the result of his over-reliance on some of his core strengths. I felt that in order to address these issues, he was going to need to develop some new, complementary skills, and then to create a mental framework for recognizing situations best suited to his “old” approaches and those that would most benefit from his newly developed skills.

But sadly, I’m not going to have the chance to work with him in that way.

Unless, a year from now, he’s still “coughing” – in which case his boss might decide he needs to take a deeper look at why and what to do about it…

Posted in News


NYT in the 21st Century

Link: Fridays Links: How to Talk (or Not Talk) About Salary, and Other Interviewing Pointers – Shifting Careers – Small Business – New York Times Blog.

The New York Times – like all of us older folks – is doing its level best to stay caught up with the way business is changing. There’s a great monthly column in their Small Business section called Shifting Careers: they describe it as “a column and blog that highlights the newfangled ways we are custom-blending careers, and shares tips for doing it better.”

I enjoy reading the column: I find the author, Marci Alboher, smart, funny and curious…a great mix, and her book – One Person/Multiple Careers – is both up-to-the-minute-true and useful.

So imagine my surprise and pleasure when this month, she recommends the podcast I did earlier this month with Peter Clayton of Total Picture Radio!

It made my day.

BTW, Marci also has a great blog you can read while you’re waiting for her next Shifting Careers column.

Posted in News


Learning that Sticks

Link: Learning that Sticks.

Here’s a link to a brand shiny new blog, from my buddy Beverly Feldt at Workplace Productions. They do some very interesting things in training, using professional actors to involve learners in interactive learning situations (they even call them “interactors.”)

I first connected with Beverly (and will be forever indebted to her) because she wrote a wonderful review of Growing Great Employees in Perdido magazine.

Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging, Beverly!

Posted in people


As I Was Saying…

Last week I blogged about how I think Barack Obama has great leadership qualities. I mentioned the six qualities in the Proteus leadership model and I promised to explain them. So here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote about our “Chieftains” Leadership model:

“Folk and fairy tales are a wonderful place to look for a definition of the chieftain role. The stories exist in almost every culture and are remarkably similar in certain aspects, particularly in their outlining of what is required for someone to become (and remain) the ruler, the king or queen.

Let’s look at a tale that, with minor variations, can be found all over the world. Three brothers are charged with a difficult task. One, generally the youngest, succeeds. The personal qualities that enable him to achieve “happily-ever-afterness” are consistent.

First, the chieftain-to-be can see beyond his current situation (young, poor, despised, etc.) to his ultimate goal (save his father, win the princess, kill the monster), even when others lose sight of it, believe it’s impossible, or ridicule him for trying. He is Far-sighted.

Moreover, our hero doesn’t just go through the motions. He is deeply committed to his quest. He tells everyone he meets about his quest and tries to enlist their aid; his every action is directed toward achieving it. Nothing dissuades him, even the inevitable setbacks and disappointments attendant on any quest. He is Passionate.

Throughout the story, he is confronted with frightening and difficult situations. He may be afraid and lonely; he may feel like running away, longing for the comfort and safety of home. But he doesn’t turn aside; he doesn’t (unlike his brothers) make the safe and easy choices. He doesn’t wimp out. He is Courageous.

He’s not a cardboard action hero, though. His brain is tested, and he must be able to learn from mistakes. In many versions of the story, he doesn’t initially follow the advice given him by his shaman (don’t look back, don’t let go, don’t touch this or that on your way out), and his mistake creates more complexity and danger. The second time a similar situation arises, he behaves differently and succeeds at his task. He doesn’t deny or whine or blame; he improves. He also often comes up with clever solutions to seemingly insoluble problems, solutions that no one else has envisioned and that harm only the villain. Finally, he uses his powers of discrimination to think through difficult choices and arrive at the best solution (e.g., long-term happiness vs. current riches; the greater good vs. self-interest). He is thoughtful, appropriately humble, clear-headed and moral. He is Wise.

Along the way, the future chieftain meets people or creatures in need, and he helps or shares with them. He does so even though his own supplies are low; even though helping them takes him out of his way or slows him down. In some versions of the story, he actually has to sacrifice his life for those he loves or to whom he owes his loyalty (this always turns out all right in the end). And later on, when he is king, his people are prosperous and happy because he rules with an open hand — the chieftain is not stingy, miserly or selfish. He is Generous.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, his word is his bond. When he tells his dying father that he will find the magic potion to cure him, you know that he will. When he tells the princess that he will come back to marry her, you know she send out the invitations. When some creature says to him, “If I help you, boy, you must free me,” you know the creature is as good as free. The hero does not equivocate or exaggerate. He is Trustworthy.

This tale survives and thrives in almost infinite permutations because it is satisfying; it feels right to us. We are hardwired to expect our chieftains to be far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous and trustworthy. If we don’t see these qualities clearly demonstrated, we won’t follow whole-heartedly; it feels dangerous to do so.

Of course, we’re not entirely doctrinaire about this; we know that no real, living leader is perfect. If we are asked to follow someone who has four or five of these qualities, we will do it, all the while watching to see if he or she is working to add the missing qualities.”

If you find this interesting, let me know, and I’ll send you the whole article…

Posted in Leading People


800CEOREAD: In The Books

Link: 800-CEO-READ Blog: In The Books: Most Notable Business Books 2007.

Well, my friends at 800CEOREAD have done yet another cool thing. I’ve said here before that they’ve become the arbiter of all that is best in business books, and now they’ve strengthened their primacy even more by putting out their first annual compilation of what they “consider to be the year’s most notable titles and trends in business book publishing.”


I’m thrilled to have been invited to play a part in this great new offering, along with my buddy Dan Roam, who created a truly fun and accurate visualization of the process of getting a business book published, and designer Joy Panos Stauber, who’s responsible for the beautiful, elegant design.

Not only is it lucid and well-written and excellent in design and execution — it’s excited and exciting. These folks are truly passionate about their craft.

So, if you love (or even like, or are simply interested in) the world of business books, I strongly encourage you to order a copy. Actually, order a bunch of copies, and share them with all your friends and colleagues.


Posted in News


Political and inspiring: Perhaps Not an Oxymoron

Link: Dipdive.com.

Yes, I am a Barack Obama fan. I think he has the potential to be a great leader of this country. At Proteus, we have a leadership model we use in coaching C-level executives that has six elements, and it seems to me Barack may score high on each one. The elements are: Far-sighted, Passionate, Courageous, Wise, Generous and Trustworthy.

I’ll explain them in depth tomorrow..till then, check out this video: I found it tremendously inspiring.

Posted in Leading People