Episode 2: Michael Dolan on Relaxed Productivity and Removing “Stuff” from Your Psyche [The Amiel Show]

In episode 2 of The Amiel Show, Michael Dolan of Truly Productive Leadership and I speak about:

  • How Michael learned the Getting Things Done (GTD) approach
  • The biggest barriers he sees to relaxed productivity
  • The importance of managing agreements with yourself
  • Why it is important to collect all of the stuff swimming around in your psyche and place it in a trusted system, a process that he compares to popping popcorn
  • The tremendous relief people experience after doing this
  • The value of understanding yourself better as a person so that, in addition to being productive, you also feel a deep sense of meaning


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Being truly productive is about getting the right things done and not losing presence along the way.—Michael Dolan   Tweet this quote

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You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here.

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Michael Dolan and Truly Productive Leadership

Getting Things Done by David Allen

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Episode 1: Janet Crawford on Leaders’ Brains, Emotional Literacy, and Power [The Amiel Show]

It all starts with those 3.3 pounds of living tissue called the brain. “It” means people’s behaviors, leadership in organizations…and The Amiel Show.

In episode 1 of this podcast, Janet Crawford and I speak about

  • Why neuroscience is the modern day equivalent of the decoder ring
  • How much of people’s behaviors comes from unconscious patterns
  • What it takes to become emotionally literate
  • How to produce more strategic thinking by keeping our prefrontal cortex online
  • The role of GABA Goo in calming down the amygdala
  • Unconscious bias in organizations and what this tells us about why some people become more powerful than others.


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Politics Is Not Optional: The Case of the Weakened Boss

The three biggest mistakes I’ve made as an executive coach in the past decade have one thing in common: organizational politics. In each case, I failed to sufficiently prepare the leaders I was coaching for power moves at senior levels that could—and did—affect them.

Here’s the thing. Few people would call me naive. I’m biologically wired to see what could go wrong and warn people about it. I’m also fascinated by the darkest guides to power and influence (e.g. Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power). However, with these three leaders, I missed key dynamics to which they were also blind, and it ended up costing them.

In this post, I share one of those stories. My intent is two-fold: first, to demonstrate that in organizations politics is not optional; and, second, to illustrate the level of acumen required to navigate politics skillfully.

Deer wounded in road

Case 1: The Weakened Boss

Linda was a highly successful senior manager with an amazing network at her company. When I met her, she had recently been brought onto a senior team in order to introduce a new business model, one more suited to the radically new market dynamics. Many of her colleagues were not enthusiastic about this business model. Some, in fact, were bitterly opposed to it. They had earned their stripes and had success in the prior business model. What did this new person think she was doing trying to change things?

Getting Unstuck: The Vending Machine Incident

I once got my arm stuck inside of a vending machine. The scene of the crime was Camp Geneva in Wisconsin. I was six. The goal was to steal a Milky Way bar by reaching up the chute and opening the latch.

These were the 1970s. Vending machines were not yet designed to prevent such theft. That made this period the golden years for kids with a big sweet tooth, little money, and few scruples.

Truck Stuck

Lunch had just ended, and six of us – all boys my age – were in the cafeteria. Except for us, the room was empty: the perfect time for stealing candy. I was the last to perform the heist, mainly because I was afraid of getting caught. After a dose of goading from the others, I reached my arm up the chute, extended my fingers toward the Milky Way, and…found myself unable to reach my target. I pushed and wiggled, but no luck.

Act In An Instant

At certain times in life, it’s important to act in an instant—even if the results will be less than ideal.

Consider the story of how I shaved my head for good.

Horse in starting gate

It was 2007. Julie and I were in the dining room of a condo in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, famous for its 18-foot-tall concrete sculpture of a troll smashing a VW bug in its left hand.

Dinner had just finished. At the table with me were Julie, our host (also named Julie), and her two friends. Four women plus Amiel.

The Real Reason Your “Shoes Don’t Fit”

Ray’s feet hurt like hell, and he didn’t know why.

“My right foot has gotten scraped so much, it’s starting to bleed,” he told me with a painful grimace on his face. I looked down at his running shoes. I didn’t see any blood stains.  Before I could ask Ray a question, his girlfriend stepped forward and said, “I feel so bad to see how much pain Ray is in. Can you help him?”

The managers I coach don’t often talk about their feet. If the topic comes up, I’m the one to initiate, and it’s not to make their feet feel better, but to point out that they’re not flat on the ground. “If you want better executive presence,” I say. “You have to be grounded and centered. How can you do that if you’re feet aren’t on the ground?”

Ray, however, wasn’t a coaching client. He was a customer at Nordstrom. And, instead of his coach, I was a temporary summer employee in the men’s shoe department. What happened next in this incident from many years ago is a good illustration of how important it is to understand why you are having a problem before you try to fix it.

Running shoes

The first thing you do at Nordstrom after greeting the customer and finding out what they’re looking for is measure their feet. Ray had very small feet—at least lengthwise. He measured out at size 8.

I looked down at his shoes. They looked much bigger than size 8. “Ray, what size shoes are you wearing?”