Why taking a risk is worth it

I was 28 years old in Astrakhan, Russia, with a KGB officer following me.

Our team of four – a scientist, a videographer, an expedition leader and I – had just arrived to the Caspian Sea basin for two weeks of research on the sturgeon crisis. We were representing a coalition of nonprofits seeking protections for the endangered, ancient beluga sturgeon species, which had seen its population drop 90% in the 10 years following the breakdown of the Soviet Union.

Even though we were on a scientific mission in Russia to help find solutions, we were not welcome.

Shortly after landing in Astrakhan, the world capital of caviar production along the Volga River, our meetings with local scientists, NGOs and fisheries experts were cancelled one by one. We arrived at our hotel and were told we couldn’t stay there. It took threatening to call the American embassy to get our rooms reinstated. Everywhere we walked around town there was a man in a cheap polyester suit and dark sunglasses a block behind us. Watching.

There was an organized campaign against us discovering any kind of truth from the people who would know what to do about the sturgeon’s demise.

We had two choices – give up and go home, or take a risk by staying and reaching out to new contacts we had no trusted relationship with.

Continue reading “Why taking a risk is worth it”

Why getting good at conflict is the top skill you need to develop NOW

You don’t want to read this. You’d rather not think about conflict, or you know you need to but you think it’ll require a lot of time and skill to do it well.

Think again. While it may not be easy, it’s simple and it’s the most important skill you’re procrastinating on. If you really want to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of these conflict struggles, the best way to do that is to learn these productive conflict basics now.

First, here’s what NOT to do…ever:

  • Don’t criticize
  • Don’t stonewall
  • Don’t condemn or judge
  • Don’t be defensive


Offering a critique of someone or giving feedback with compassionate intention is necessary and very different from these. To learn more about the differences, check out The Gottman Institute’s definitions, which are focused on marriage conflict but apply in the workplace too.

Steve Keating, leadership author and former Dale Carnegie exec, says:

“The very best leaders run to conflict. They know that needing a little time to heal is far better than dealing with a slow burning conflict that never ends.”

Continue reading “Why getting good at conflict is the top skill you need to develop NOW”

So you need a coach! Here’s how to get started

Coaching is one of the top tools workplaces are leveraging to build high performing organizations, collaborative teams and successful leaders. Coaches can also be critical to the success of any change effort.

Key benefits of bringing coaching into your workplace:

  • Every organization’s success depends on the performance of its people. There is no substitute for human performance.
  • Coaching brings the best out of people by sharpening their acquired skills as individuals and enhancing collaboration in teams.
  • Coaching assists in the growth and development of leaders and the leaders of tomorrow and enhances productivity, improves job satisfaction and job longevity.
  • Coaching that focuses on the whole person, including focusing their attention, clearing up limitations and improving communications skills, can make the difference between project stagnation or success.
  • Coaching empowers the individual to decide on the best approach to solve their problems and how to effectively interact with their colleagues and business partners.

Fastest-to-results coaching techniques:

Coaching based on the study of neurolinguistics encompasses the most advanced techniques in the human transformation movement.

NLPgraphicThe guidance and tools focus on empowering people by helping them set achievable outcomes, master communications and behavioral flexibility, and plan for the future. For leadership development, the coaching is geared at modeling excellence. Leaders learn to model the behaviors that have brought success to others so that they, too, achieve their goals and improve their results. Read on to learn about specific outcomes of 1:1 coaching and group coaching.

Continue reading “So you need a coach! Here’s how to get started”

People management is out, people development is in

Anyone can be a manager. To get a job as one, you don’t have to have a degree or experience in management and you don’t even have to have a particular interest in developing people. That’s why there are so many managers out there struggling, and so many people above and below them who are frustrated.

When I coach managers into developing as true people leaders, it is tied to this wise perspective:

“All (of us) are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”    – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Two years ago, I was a member of the executive team of a global nonprofit’s marketing division. As part of my professional development for the year, I sought certification as an executive coach in neurolinguistics. I believed it would help me guide my 15-person team during a time when demands from our growing global programs were dramatically increasing, and many team members were brand new to the organization. I was spending about 40% of my time at work on advising or “people managing” team members. Since HR resources are often stretched thin inside workplaces, I believed that I, as a manager, was in the best position to mentor my team members to career growth.

After completing the first level of the coaching certification, I realized that what team members needed was not my advice, but to each be empowered on their own to problem solve, set achievable outcomes, communicate with clarity, and to model other’s examples of excellence to speed up their own results. I now see that people already have what they need to achieve their goals; some just need a guide to help them learn what’s holding them back and encourage them to be persistent through the process of change.

Through the coaching training, I also gained skills that have moved me forward as an effective communicator faster than 10 years of experience ever could.  I’m now teaching that to others whether it’s how to have rapport with anyone, facilitate productive dialogues, give feedback in a way that motivates others, get rid of limiting beliefs that slow people down, or how to set goals that they’re guaranteed to achieve (with commitment and a confident mindset, of course!). All of these skills help people develop their own leadership, and most importantly, to be a model for the future leaders who surround them.

Every workplaces’ success depends on the performance of its people. There’s no substitute for human performance, so the key is to figure out what more should we be doing to change our focus from one of people management to people development. Everyone, and the organization, wins when we do that.