Leadership Insights

What I Am Reading: From Poker To Executive Presence

My clients often ask me what I am reading and what podcasts I am listening to.
Here are a few gems I can’t stop thinking about—and discussing with clients and

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win. Maria
Konnikova is a psychologist who decided she wanted to become a world class
poker player. She hired a poker “coach” and entered professional poker circuit
games around the country—losing often in the beginning and then gradually
earning money as she studied her new craft. This is a fascinating book about her
journey and her learnings way beyond poker—decision making, understanding
biases, recognizing “tells,” when to go “all in” and when to sit tight. And how to
recover from making mistakes. Maria is a terrific writer and you will want to
continue reading her fascinating story just to find out if she wins big.

The Long Game: How To Be A Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World. Author
Dorie Clark occupies a unique space in the marketing/coaching world as a
marketing guru for entrepreneurs who wish to become, in Dorie’s words,
“recognized experts.” Her advice to entrepreneurs expands to those in the
corporate and non-profit world as well. In The Long Game, Dorie’s fifth book, she
writes about how to achieve big goals through small steps, intermediate wins, and
what she terms “strategic patience.” Dorie illustrates the long game with inspiring
stories about friends, colleagues, and herself.

How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.                          Much of my coaching work involves helping clients make significant
changes in their lives. Some approach change with enthusiasm and make shifts
easily. Others hold onto their current state as tightly as they can despite feeling
miserable. From her award-winning research, Katy Milkman, professor at The
Wharton School, writes about why timing can mean everything when it comes to
making change. She also shares that giving advice, even if it is in an area you are
having trouble with, can help you achieve your goals.

For those of you who would prefer shorter reads, I suggest the articles of
Herminia Ibarra, currently the Charles Handy Professor of
Business at the London School of Economics. Many of her articles can be found in
the Harvard Business Review, including her award-winning article, “The Leader As
Coach.” I have sent her recent HBR article, “Reinventing Your Career in the Midst
of Coronavirus,” to many clients. Even if you don’t want to make a job switch, her
thoughts about making change in the middle of this pandemic are invaluable.

Finally, my favorite business podcast is WorkLife with Adam Grant. Adam, who
coined the pandemic term “languishing,” covers a wide range of workplace issues
that concern all of us. His recent guests have included Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman.
An impressive guest this year was Mellody Hobson, the co-CEO of Ariel
Management and the Chairwoman of Starbucks. While the topic is feedback,
Mellody offers lessons in executive presence, sharing your message, and
answering interview questions in just the right amount of words and thoughts.

How To Get Your Mojo Back

Are you feeling tired, uninspired, and overwhelmed at work? You might be overworked,
burned out, or fed up with this seemingly never-ending pandemic. Or, in the case of three new
clients who reached out to me this month, you may have lost your mojo, your unique power
that ensures your success.

How do you lose your mojo? There can be many reasons, both professional and personal. The
mojo dwindling for my clients was precipitated by a change in job responsibilities. Each had
earned a significant promotion to a job of immense responsibility and visibility. Unfortunately,
all three leaders now had to do more of the work they didn’t enjoy and much less of the work
that gave them energy. One new Sales Vice-President loved her sales role and enjoyed being
the voice of the company at outside events. Her promotion brought a huge increase in
operational tasks and a dramatic reduction in interpersonal exchanges. She found this change
so intolerable she was considering a move to another company.

What can make these work shifts particularly onerous is when there is no end in sight. Most
leaders are willing to take on new responsibilities outside their scope if that means a short-term
assignment. But if they now have two jobs, or if their once enjoyable work has transformed
into misery, their enthusiasm for their work declines and this affects their productivity, their
relationships, their success, and even their home life. They feel stuck and can’t see the way

How to Get Your Mojo Back and Thrive

If you want to recover your mojo, here are steps you can take.

The first step is to be kind to yourself and practice self-care. Those who have lost their mojo
often feel physically and mentally depleted.

The second step is to take a close look at how you are spending your time and energy. Make a
chart with several columns and answer the following questions.

  • What are your major job responsibility categories? E.g., operations, sales, people
    development, revenue strategy, business development, etc.
  • What percentage of your time do you typically spend on each category each week?
  • Note how you feel about each responsibility. One of my clients chose the following
    adjectives: Enjoy, Like, Tolerate, Dislike, or Hate.
  • Put an asterisk next to the job responsibility you could do all day.

Now assess what you said about yourself in the chart. People who have lost their mojo often
see a tremendous imbalance between the work that they love and the work they have to do.
After you review your chart, consider how you can readjust your work load and work
responsibilities to increase your happiness and satisfaction with your job. Your first reaction
might be “There’s no way I can make any changes. That’s impossible.” If that was your
response, I would encourage you to just answer these questions as a theoretical exercise and
see where the answers take you.

  • What work would you love to do more of? How can you do that? What small first step
    can you take? How would you and your company benefit?
  • What work do you absolutely have to keep on your plate? Can you delegate part of that
    work to others? Those who have lost their mojo are often overloaded with work and
    need more help. Others need colleagues with a specific expertise.
  • What work can you easily give to someone else? Who might even like that assignment?
  • For the job responsibilities you dislike but need to keep, how can you manage those
    differently? E.g., can you do that work for a specific amount of time at a certain time of
    day so it is manageable? Would it help to have a colleague to work with on those
    projects with you?

Finally, plan how you can increase the parts of your job that you love. Even small changes will
make a difference. A published author, one of my clients had given up all her public speaking
engagements due to her new role. To get her mojo back, she let it be known that she was open
to speaking opportunities, even to small audiences. Another client began looking for a COO
who could take over the daily operations of the company while he focused on all external

Losing one’s mojo can occur gradually but when the tank is empty, it is empty.
Taking the time to examine what has changed in your job and what you need to shift will have a
big payoff in happiness, job satisfaction, and career success.

Team leadership in times of a crisis

What Do Your People Need From You This Week?

How can you show up for your people during this deeply unsettling time? What do they need most from you this week?

While you need to focus on your business, caring for your people should be at the top of your list. They are counting on you for information, stability, and compassion.

Based on my many years advising companies during crises as the CEO of my Employee Assistance Program and on input from current clients who are exceptional leaders, here are my suggestions for helping your people during this time of uncertainty.

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Communicate to your employees in these unprecedented times

How You Can Manage Anxiety in this Time of Crisis

The world-wide spread of COVID-19 has upended our lives.

We are now living in a state of global anxiety, both more disconnected and connected than ever before. People are worried in a way they never anticipated and their anxiety levels rise and fall with the frequent news alerts and community closings. We have not experienced an event like this in our lifetime.

The consequences of the transmission of the virus and the resulting uncertainty has resulted in continuous anxiety across the globe. The alarming and sometimes conflicting news reports are difficult to ignore. Worrying may be a barely audible buzz in the back of our minds or it may be front and center panic.

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Being a Newbie Executive Coaching Client

I tried paddle boarding for the first time last year. And I loved it! I admit it wasn’t easy at first. I fell off within the first few minutes. My legs felt wobbly for quite a while—it really takes core strength to stay upright. And it was a windy day so I didn’t move very far.

Whatever the challenge, I decided paddle boarding was something I wanted to master and I would just go with the flow. I would be a newbie, a learner, and enjoy the process. It turned out to be so much fun I’m planning on buying my own board this year.

How does this relate to executive coaching? Developing into an exceptional leadership also requires newbie status. This isn’t always simple for my clients who are experts in their fields. Being a learner means not being the best. It means being on the way.Continue reading


Favorite Books, Podcasts, and TED Talks

I am addicted to learning—and therefore to books, podcasts, and Ted Talks. Here are a few of my current favorites...


“Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Intuition.”
Michael Maboussin
Harvard Business Press, 2013

This book is a great resource for leaders who want to enhance their decision-making skills. Maboussin is chief investment strategist at Legg Mason Capital Management. He is also an adjunct professor of finance at Columbia Business School. In this succinct book, he shares eight common decision-making mistakes and reveals strategies to help you avoid your particular tendencies in repeating these mistakes. It’s an important book to read whenever you are in the midst of making a complex decision.

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Anxiety and fear

What Challenging Conversation Has Your Name On It?

What difficult conversation is sitting on a shelf patiently waiting for you? How long has it been there?

Many people avoid challenging conversations as long as they can. They try their best to minimize the issue or hope the person will move away—but those strategies rarely work.

Challenging conversations are often delayed because they pose unique problems. In Crucial Conversations, Kerry Paterson and his co-authors highlight three main obstacles:

• The stakes are high.
• Opinions differ.
• Emotions are strong.

Given these factors, it’s easy to understand why these conversations are seen as difficult.

Often it is the lead-up to the talk that is so tough. The obsessing. The endless run-throughs of dialogue in your head. The constantly worrying about what could go wrong.

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