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 […]

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. 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 […]

How To Regain Center After The Bull Strikes


He came after me like a bull charging a matador. “What’s your success rate? I need numbers. What percentage of your clients get promotions?” These were fair questions for a prospective client interview, and I’d heard them before. But this man, an up-and-coming executive, delivered them with an intensity and ferocity that was surprising. He was […]

Before You Lean In, Own Your Space


Fifteen months ago, Sheryl Sandberg‘s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead came out and took the country by storm. Grounded in research and filled with personal anecdotes, the book sparked a national conversation about power, privilege, and the distribution of responsibilities between women and men in the workplace and at home. I’ve […]

If you can’t join them, beat them


In 1979, the Ann Arbor Arsenal soccer team held tryouts. Twelve boys showed up to compete for a single open spot on the team. I was one of them. The morning started with demonstrations of individual skills. We passed, trapped, dribbled, and shot the ball. Bonus points went to anyone who could juggle more than ten […]

The secret link between leading and parenting

Leading and parenting require dramatically different skills, styles, and approaches. That’s why I cringe when, after I’ve shown a leader how to hold an effective conversation with his peers, he says, “I could really use this with my kids.” Yikes! It would be one thing if the kids were 25 or 30 years old, but typically […]