Executive Presence Inventory

Have you ever assessed your executive presence? Conducting an inventory of how you come across to others is eye-opening.

It's helpful to have a few colleagues that you have such a strong relationship with that you can always ask them uncomfortable “Alisa Cohn” questions. If your boss is among that group, so much the better. Here are 5 powerful questions to ask:

  1. How am I perceived as a leader by the board, key leaders and other stakeholders?

  2. Who around here has strong executive presence? Who has weak executive presence? If you put those two on a continuum, where do I fall between them?

  3. Picture me in a high-stakes meeting. What are some of the specific things I do that give me executive presence or detract from it?

  4. When I walk into a room, does anyone notice?

  5. What suggestions do you have for amping up my executive presence?

As always when you seek feedback, manage your reactions (defensiveness and disagreement are the enemies of feedback.)

I would love to hear from you about what you find out from your Executive Presence Inventory!

Determining Quick Wins

OK, you're sold on quick wins. How can you determine the quick wins in your domain? Questions you can ask yourself to get you started:

Business quick wins:

  1. Is it achievable right now with available resources?

  2. Would success lay the foundation for others to achieve a longer-term goal?

  3. Does it move towards quick, tangible performance in the business, especially visible operational and financial gains?

Process quick wins:

  1. Does it address a long-held complaint/issue/irritant?

  2. Does it contribute towards a new culture you are trying to change?

  3. Is it symbolic in a positive way?

Relationship quick wins:

  1. Does it build much-needed bridges to cross-functional teams and colleagues?

  2. Does it resolve strained relations?

  3. Does it get someone on your side?

Positive answers to these questions are a quick indication that you are headed towards a quick win.

The Most Common Energizers and Drainers

As a coach, I've talked to thousands of people about what energizes them and what drains them about their leaders. Most people are curious about this. Here are some direct quotes, which reflect the most common energizers and drainers:

What energizes you about your leader?

She's there when I need her and not there when I don't need her, you can't ask for more than that.

He tells me what's really going on, and that's energizing.

She's clear. She has a vision, you can totally see it, and I feel like I see how I fit in.

I totally trust him.

He's so smart, so credible. Then you see the way he deals with people and I'm just envious of his skills.

He never sits down to have a big, formal career conversation with me. He just asks me now and then if this is working for me, if I think I'm getting where I want to go. He also tells me when others share good feedback about me, and he tells me what he says about me in talent review. He finds new opportunities for me. So it's nothing formal, but I see that he's got my career in mind.

She gives me clear feedback pretty often, and I'm never in doubt. But I always feel like she's trying to help me solve a problem, not just criticizing.

He's open to what I have to say and makes me feel respected. I never feel like some little minion in his kingdom.

He makes decisions and then tells me why. Even if I don't agree, I can live with it.

I'm proud of the way he is viewed by his peers and by our customers, and I'm proud that he's able to fight for resources for us. He's smart and he's effective and he's someone others respect.

Isn't it energizing just to read these? Do you recognize yourself in these comments? Are there ideas here for you to add? You might think about the ways the leaders you look up to energize you and others and get some ideas from that as well. Being an energizer is always a good strategy.

What drains you about your leader?

She is always out of pocket, it's impossible to get on her calendar.

He goes behind my back, he tells me one thing and one of my peers something else. Or he doesn't tell me something I need to know. I just don't trust him.

It's incredible the way he explodes at people or rants at us in meetings. You're just sitting there squirming - It's awful and it takes people days - maybe weeks - to recover. The lost productivity - it's amazing they let him walk around like this!

I don't ever get any feedback.

She doesn't give me any sense of where I'm going, and she is not open to having a career conversation.

He won't hold people accountable. We all use that to slide through, but even when we use it ourselves it's draining.

She should pull the team together so we can all get on the same page. But she doesn't, then she wonders why we all operate in silos.

She's not clear. I'm always working to guess at what she wants and asking others if they get it. We all kind of joke about it.

There is no vision. He's not sat down and told us where he sees us going, where he wants to take this division.

He just doesn't communicate. You never know what he's thinking.

He cares about 3 things: him, him, him.

One thing I know to be true: leaders don't wake up in the morning intending to be an energy drain on their people. And yet, some leaders get these comments. You might want to do a gut check to see if any of the above might be a blind spot for you. Being an energy drainer - even unintentionally - is never a good strategy.

3 Word Resolution for 2019

New year, new me, no joke. I like the idea of swapping out new year’s resolutions for “3 words” which I see has become a thing (thanks to Chris Brogan who initiated this.)

My three words for 2019:

Wholeheartedness: There are times that I hold back because of fear, doubt, overwhelm, distraction, or any number of reasons. This year I’m in the middle of a reawakening and I am bringing to that the intention to play full out.

Structure: Every time I focus more I get more done. Guardrails and constraints set me free. Structure also brings effortlessness. When I put the train on the track it goes in the right direction and I can conserve my energy for being creative. I want to be a scholar of structure.

What would it look like if it were easy? I know it’s not a word, but a helpful orienting question to remind me not to over-complicate. This thought is the enemy of procrastination and over-thinking and is a close friend of fearlessness.

What are your three words for 2019? Send me an email to let me know!

Let the year begin 🥂

Be a Better Delegator.

People at start-ups have to scale, but so do managers at large companies! The same mindset applies here, especially around finding the right people and delegating to them.

Here are 3 must-dos for effective delegation:

  1. Explain context. Don't tell people what to do, tell them what the outcome needs to look like and why. That way they can make good decisions in the right direction.

  2. Mid-point check-in. When you've delegated a large project, have them let you know when they will set up time with you to check-in, so you can review their progress.

  3. Debrief. At the end of a project you've delegated reserve time to review how it went and, most importantly, lessons learned. The key to increasing people's capacity - and being able to delegate more - is for them to learn as rapidly as possible. Debriefing accelerates this process.

I would love to hear what tools you use to become a better delegator!

You're bought in to scaling yourself, and you know you need to be a better delegator. Check out these common delegation mistake for you to avoid.

Creating your Leadership Manifesto

CEOs and other leaders have certain expectations for the way they want their lieutenants to act - and they should! Each member of the leadership team has two jobs: 1) the function and 2) being a leader in the company. That leadership aspect is often unstated.

Creating a "Leadership Manifesto" helps you clarify your own thinking as well as communicate to the team your expectations.

What should be in your Leadership Manifesto? Qualities and behaviors you want your entire leadership team to embody. Here are a few examples:

  • You are quick to learn new things, open to feedback, and overall have a growth mindset. You transfer that thinking to your team so that everyone is learning on the job rapidly and learning from mistakes

  • Part of your job is to inspire and buoy up everyone around you, including the CEO herself from time to time. We absolutely need brutal realism, but bubbling just below the surface is a can-do spirit and determination that we can overcome every obstacle to win. Emotions are catching; make sure you manage yours.

  • I can count on you. I know that you will take on what I ask you to or help me think through why it's not a good idea. I know that you will do new things with wise judgment and in a way that works with our culture.

How about you? What's in your Leadership Manifesto? I'd love to hear what you come up with!

Three small habits that will yield big results

Small habits are easy to implement and yield big rewards. Pick one of these habits to start this winter. I would love to hear your results!

  1. Prepare for tough moments. Think through controversial meetings in advance: who might challenge you? What might they say? What will you say in response? You actually can predict what tough things will come up if you sit down and think about it. Systematically planning for difficult interactions or tricky situations will make you brilliant when they do come up, rather than thinking of the perfect remark six hours later.

  2. Make quicker decisions. Many people get paralyzed thinking they need more data. Practice making a quick decision. Quick decision-making is a key executive skill, and research shows that it is more effective to make quick decisions and course correct as you go than to collect more and more data and put off decision-making.

  3. Work on strategic projects first. Obviously this will get you to do more strategic things more often. Accomplishing high value things also boosts dopamine, a neurotransmitter in your brain - the same one you are flooded with when you are in the early stage of love. Talk about putting you in a good mood!

Delegation Bloopers

You're bought in to scaling yourself, and you know you need to be a better delegator. To get the most out of delegating, remember that you are delegating not simply to move tasks but also to build the capability of your team members.

Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:

Telling more than asking: asking questions lets others think through situations themselves rather than falling into the trap of carrying out your direction.

Failure to clarify the deliverable: you may know exactly what you want. Perhaps you'll "know it when you see it." Either way, make sure you set people up for success by agreeing on the end state.

Fear of being a micro-manager: leaders are often squeamish about telling someone what to do. If you want a good outcome you need to agree on check-points so you can ask good questions, offer suggestions and provide support along the way.

Failure to debrief: debriefing after a project is completed is the single best way to ensure learning. Missing this step guarantees that you and your team member won't get the most out of delegating.

Do not fall into delegation traps! I would love to hear from you about delegation tips you have, or bloopers that you have seen!

Please Stop Using The Feedback Sandwich

Please Stop Using The Feedback Sandwich

Among my pet peeves from the conventional wisdom playbook about management, the “feedback sandwich” is at the top of the list.

You know what the feedback sandwich is. It is a way of giving feedback that goes like this: say something nice; then say the critical feedback – what you actually want to say; then say something nice again.

Getting Out of Your Head

Getting Out of Your Head

Getting out of your head is one of the toughest challenges you face as a founder/CEO. You have to wade through your own unproductive voices and make sure you communicate clearly and regularly with your team. It's a good time of year to remind yourself of this. I hope you enjoy this encore newsletter, which was also just featured on OpenView

It's not about being nice!

It's not about being nice!

One of the biggest misconceptions about how leaders talk to people is that they are supposed to be "nice." It's not about being nice! It's about using the right tools to come across clearly and not shut people down - for some that can be harder than it sounds! Use these tools: 1) Manage your tone 2) Frame it so they can hear you 3) Be specific.