7 Ways to Master the Art of Showing Up

November 5, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“80 percent of success is showing up.” Woody Allen

The difference between people who want to do something and those who actually do, those who develop mastery and those who don’t, is the showing up.

But what makes it so hard to go from thinking to doing? You wanted to go to the gym today, but did you? Just showing up means you’re 80% of the way to a good workout. The trick is in cultivating the self-discipline to start and then to sustain the momentum. Here is a 7-step roadmap to get you there.

1.      Think big, start small…

It’s okay to have big goals and vision. But you have to accept that you will need to start small. If you want to buy a mansion in Manhattan, you may need to start with a condo in Kansas. If your goal is to run 10 miles a day, start by setting your running shoes and gear aside the night before. When people begin a project, they often default to the big prize and forget that life is like a game of football, you make progress in inches, not yards. If at every play, you expect a touchdown, you will soon be disappointed and give up.

2.      Whatever you do, do it daily…

Daily action builds habits. Small actions each day accumulate into “compounding interest” of continuous improvement. Bruce Lee famously said: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Daily action yields greater benefits than waiting for inspiration to make your big splash.

3.      Eat a live frog first thing in the morning…

Mark Twain famously said that if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, meaning do your least desirable task first, you can go through the rest of your day knowing the worst is behind you. While it seems like common sense, many people indulge and reward themselves first by doing favored tasks and then dread and avoid the less desirable tasks the rest of the day. To break the cycle, always start with essential projects first, no matter what. You’ll thank yourself for your diligence come the afternoon.

4.      Create a false sense of urgency…

Some people work and thrive under pressure. They need that extra bit of adrenaline to get them past the finish line. You can recreate that sensation by blocking out less time than you actually think you need. Often, you’ll find your focus improves when you begin working and ultimately finish on time. If you need to hack and trick your brain into being productive, then so be it.

5.      Tame your unconscious mind…

If you listen to Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi (The Psychology of Flow), the whole idea of mastery is nothing more than the self-expression of your ability to consciously dedicate your time towards something that in the long run gives you structure for the entropy of your mind. This means cultivating the daily discipline to tame the chaos of your unconscious mind, avoid distractions, and focus only on what is wildly important. Harness your focus, and you will harness your success.

6.      Be a diver, not a dabbler…

If you’ve ever watched waterfowl, you might have noticed that some ducks are divers while others are dabblers. The divers propel themselves underwater diving with intention and ferocity towards their target. The dabblers, in contrast feed in the shallows skimming food from the surface. For me this is analogous to being a jack of all trades and a master of none. The unavoidable truth is that without deep practice, there is no such thing as skill. There is obviously nothing wrong with having multiple skills or even having superficial knowledge in them. But in order to have any kind of mastery on any kind of subject, you need to be a diver.

7.      Get comfortable with failure…

The bright side of all this is that you can own your own success by taking responsibility for it. But that means you have to own the struggle and failure, integral parts of any goal worth pursuing, as well as, the success. If you aren’t comfortable with failure, it’s hard to be successful.

Final Word

The future belongs to those who master the art of showing up daily. There is a simple reason for that. It’s easier to make significant progress on a project if you simply show up to do it. If you want to be an author, show up to write your manuscript every day. If you want to be a pilot, go to your flying lessons, and if you want to be the CEO of the company one day, then show up being the CEO of your own station every day. Doesn’t it make sense that by showing up each day, you set yourself up to take advantage of opportunities?

So, if you want increase your chances of success by 80% – Show Up!

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

The 6 Most Important Ingredients of the Recipe for Lasting Change

November 2, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”

– John Dryden

Have you ever wondered why most change efforts, whether individual or organizational, don’t last? All of us want to create lasting change in our lives on some level. The question isn’t what, it is how. Is it really possible to overcome habitual behavior and identity traits that have cemented themselves over the course of your life? The answer is yes but it does take work and attention to the important ingredients that are part of the recipe of lasting change.

1.      The importance of focus…

First, there is the law of diminishing returns which says if you spread your efforts too thinly among many different goals and objectives, you end up doing nothing.

The key here is to really focus on one or two goals at a time and then to persist until achieved.

2.      The importance of commitment…

Don’t take on a goal just because it would be nice to have. Instead, make sure it has deep meaning for you and your life purpose. It is the deeper level of commitment to the goal – and not progress –  that helps you persevere in the face of adversity.

You will know that’s true if you’ve ever started a new diet or exercise regimen successfully (progress) only to sabotage yourself by eating a piece of cake as your reward for that success. You made progress but you lacked the deeper commitment to keep going.

3.      The importance of your tribe…

To make true lasting change, you need your tribe, your network, your group of supporters to fuel your motivation through their on-going encouragement and celebration of your successes.

No one is successful for long when they go it alone. Lasting change requires that we have mutual accountability partners, social support and a sense of belonging to something that is greater. We are the people we interact with.

4.      The importance of being uncomfortable…

To truly change, you need to be willing to experience discomfort and lean into it. Most change is uncomfortable, even scary. That’s why most people resist change.

But being conscious about why you are seeking the change, and the benefits it holds, helps us to accept whatever we are experiencing as it arises – whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

Bringing discomfort along for the ride, rather than trying to get rid of it, can be a very helpful skill, to allow us to get a longer-term reward.

5.      The importance of values…

Most people are not conscious of the fact that behind their desire to change are strong values. When we hold out in front of us what we most value, and identify why this behavior change matters to us, we are more willing to endure for long-term, sustainable change.

Take a moment and think about what behavior you want to change and ask yourself why?

  • How will changing this behavior align you with your values?
  • How will changing this behavior help you align with the parts of you that you most value about yourself?
  • How will it help you with the impact you want to have?

6.      The importance of mindset…

Success is not linear. If you have expectations that it is, or that all you do and think will have a clean cause and effect correlation, you will be disappointed and give up before what you want to change has had a chance to breathe.

We all experience setbacks, and the more we can build a growth mindset around the process of change, and approach our mistakes and failures as lessons to be learned from rather than opportunities to beat ourselves up, the more likely we will have the motivation needed to reach our goals.

Final Word

We all have a concert of voices in our heads. What we say to ourselves matters far more than we may realize, and often we don’t even pay attention to this harsh and self-critical voice.

To access real change, there are struggles and self-limiting beliefs that we have to battle before we can move forward.

Label and define that saboteur voice in your head that shows resistance at the thought of stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Take some time to get clear about where you are and where you want to be. Focus on changing how you think about the things you want to change, which affects the actions you take.

Above all, form new habits and stay accountable to them through strategic alliances with your tribe. Having support in your life can be the difference between success and failure.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

Why You Should Only Work with Trained Coaches

October 28, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“The only journey is the one within.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

Professional coaching is a relatively recent profession so some of the misconceptions surrounding what coaching is and is not, shouldn’t be surprising. It seems that everyone these days is a coach of one form or another.

What Coaching is and is not…

Historically, coaching has often been used remedially, as companies attempted to correct employees’ unwelcome behavior or perceived lack of competencies. Many conventional programs still use this approach. Obviously, this is a misappropriation of coaching since it yields few positive or lasting results. It is also entirely antithetical to the paradigm of coaching.

The best and most effective programs support the whole person and not isolated issues or problems. They take into account things like habitual patterns of thoughts, emotional states, and underlying mental models that may keep someone stuck.

In the 1990s, the first established accreditation groups for professional coaches were formed and coaching went from being used remedially to how we mostly recognize it today – as a developmental tool initiated by the client who is seeking self-improvement and lasting results.

In a study of the professional coaching industry by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), coaching was found to be used by 90% of organizations surveyed. Even in the global economic recession of 2008, when companies were cutting corners left and right, 70% reported increasing or maintaining their commitment to coaching.

As coaching has grown in value and evolved in design, so too has its potential for mainstream application. Today, Harvard Business Review reports that coaching is a $1 billion a year industry.

Coaching, it appears, is a growth industry.

So, what is coaching and what do coaches really do?

The International Coach Federation (ICF) — the leading global coaching organization and professional association for coaches — defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Despite this guidance, one of the challenges of defining coaching and its effectiveness remains the relative lack of adequate research with significant enough control groups and clear parameters and measurement tools applied to a coaching framework that fully supports the complete range of ways in which personal and professional development efforts can influence behavior change.

But there are enough evidence-based insights that validate the value of coaching when applied in a systematic framework by a trained professional.

While many people attach the title of coach next to their name, it does not mean they are practicing true coaching or know how to get lasting results. The key to personal and professional transformation is the coachee’s belief in the benefits of coaching and their own ability to make lasting behavioral changes, couple with an evidence based methodology applied by a trained professional.

In a 2013 study published in Research in Organizational Change and Development, researchers adapted traditional clinical psychological practices into the context of executive coaching into a highly-customizable process of program design and found the approach was highly effective in enabling executives to develop behaviors and competencies aligned with their ideal future state and in improving adaptability in both actions and thoughts.

The International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, conducted a study in 2016 and examined the emerging approach to workplace coaching, which increasingly emphasizes “enhancing both the performance and the well-being of individuals and organizations in ways that are sustainable and personally meaningful.” They found that simplicity and personalization lie at the heart of this methodology and the effectiveness of coaching as a framework.

Another large-scale study of executive coaching conducted in 2016 found that a strong working alliance from the perspective of the coach and coachee predicted coaching effectiveness.

Conclusion

All of these research studies simply validate what the professional coaching industry has known for decades. Clear, practical models make coaching methodologies accessible and more likely to create lasting individual and organizational change. Deep personalization, in which the coach seeks to understand the coachee’s personal values and goals in a holistic way, is equally critical to success.

From an evidence-based perspective, this kind of coaching has been demonstrated as being highly effective in many peer-reviewed studies with randomized control groups.

Trained coaches who excel in relationship management competencies, understand the importance of building a foundation of trust and a strong working alliance with their clients, and establish clear tasks and goals to reach desired outcomes, were rated most highly for successful coaching results.

Final Word

Coaching has exploded as an industry. Today, I hear many execs say they have not one but two or three coaches who help them with everything from leadership presence to public speaking to shifting to a growth mindset. But I also hear just as many people self proclaiming to be a leadership coach, an executive coach, a motivational coach and a life coach. Cue eye rolls.

As good coaching is fundamentally a quality conversation based in trust, it follows that authentic, individualized coaching is vital to cultivating genuine organizational change and personal development.

Coaching is about being in service to the growth and development of the person being coached. As a leader, if that excites you and drives your leadership engine, then coaching skills are an appropriate and successful addition to your leadership toolbox.

But to be of true service to clients, you can’t just print up some business cards and call yourself a coach.

To be accredited by the International Coach Federation, a training program must meet a number of criteria. Among them, it must offer a minimum of 125 hours of contact between students and faculty, six hours of observed coaching sessions, 10 hours of mentor coaching and a performance evaluation. There are more than 446 programs (132 in the United States) accredited by the federation.

I, myself, am about to complete a year-long program at the Coaches Training Institute, the world’s largest in-person coach training organization, a Harvard Medical School affiliate and widely considered to be a pioneer and the “Gold Standard” in the coaching industry, to become a certified coach. I can tell you from my own experience, that while the course has been rigorous and sometimes taxing, there is no substitute for professional training. It is the best decision I have made for my own career as a professional coach.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

Three Simple Steps To Transform Your Team Retreats

October 24, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”

~Patrick Lencioni

There are many good reasons to conduct a team retreat: to create trust, clarify roles and responsibilities; establish goals and vision, orient new members; reconnect and re-energize team members; and/or address critical issues or opportunities, to name a few. However, bringing the entire team together in person can be a challenge. Greater still is the challenge of engaging them effectively — and to do so, you need to create a focused, meaningful, and enjoyable experience for everyone. Here are some ideas for team retreats that really hit the mark.

Step 1: Pay Attention to Design and Planning

First, identify the purpose and specific outcomes you want from the retreat.

  •  Is it time for strategic or tactical planning?
  • Are you trying to solve an important team or organizational issue?
  • Do you need to re-energize the team?

Second, schedule a planning meeting with your team leaders – you know who they are – to determine the retreat purpose and outcomes; learn what’s most pressing for your team; better understand team dynamics; and assess team engagement, strengths, weaknesses, etc. In addition, discuss timing, duration, location, number of attendees, etc. You don’t need to finalize all the details yet, just enough to develop a draft agenda.

After meeting with your leaders, it’s a good idea to have brief “input” conversations with some or all team members to understand their views, gather topic ideas and get participants excited about the retreat. Input conversations can last anywhere from 20-40 minutes. Some sample input questions include:

  • What do you think is working well with the team?
  • What would you like to see the team do more of, do better or do differently?
  • What do you think the team should stop doing?
  • What are three things the team should focus on over the next 12 months?
  • What is your vision for this team over the next three years?
  • What would help you feel more engaged and useful as a team member?
  • What would help the team work even more effectively together?

Using the information from your team leaders and input conversations, craft an action-focused agenda that incorporates the retreat’s purpose and desired outcomes.

Some things to consider:

  • Avoid status or progress reporting. Instead, have participants review status reports ahead of time and focus sessions on generating ideas, solving problems, making decisions, etc.
  • Structure adequate time for building relationships. Schedule time to eat together, walk together and learn about one another. It’s ideal if you can hold a retreat over two days that includes a social dinner.
  • Build some flexibility into your agenda to accommodate hot topics or deeper dives into important issues.
  • Create discrete sessions with time blocks of one to three hours to help participants digest information, offer natural break points and provide variety. Have each session build upon one another in a logical order based on your goals.
  • As you create the agenda, decide what output you want from each session and plan for how to capture key issues, ideas, resources, outcomes and action steps from each session. This will make documenting the retreat much easier.
  • Schedule ample time (at least 45 minutes) at the end to discuss action items, accountability, takeaways, appreciations and other closing activities.
  • Decide on any supporting materials, resources and preparatory work. Make sure participants have the agenda, materials and instructions at least one week before the retreat. Communicate with team members throughout the planning process to answer questions, remind them about pre-work, help them with logistics, etc.

Step 2: Get Expert Facilitation

While it’s not uncommon for a team member to facilitate a retreat, having outside facilitation helps every participant fully engage in the retreat. Also, an outside facilitator also helps reduce bias or undue influence and may notice and address team issues or dynamics not obvious to participants. Some other good practices for facilitation:

  • Start with a warm-up that gets everyone talking. An easy exercise is to pose a couple of questions that participants discuss with one or two people next to them. It’s good to include one personal and one organizational question.
  • Announce the retreat objectives and outcomes, preview the agenda, cover any logistics and discuss how participants can get the most from their time together.
  • Set expectations up front for how you will facilitate the retreat, such as balancing participation, managing interruptions, encouraging constructive comments, etc.
  • Capture highlights from each session using flipcharts, a note taker, recording device, etc. Some facilitators find it useful to use separate flipcharts for ideas, resources, action steps, “parking lot” or other categories as needed.
  • Check in periodically about participants’ comfort level, questions, concerns, etc. The more transparent you are as a facilitator, the more the participants can relax and trust the process.
  • After a long or complex session, briefly summarize highlights and outcomes. If there is time, ask participants to share their own takeaways from the session.
  • If the discussion veers off the agenda, refer back to the retreat objectives and outcomes. Ask if this conversation supports their overall retreat goals, if the topic supersedes other agenda items or if it can be covered elsewhere.
  • Have plenty of food, beverages, time for breaks and table toys to help quell the “fidgets.” Periodically check people’s energy and take a short break if needed.

 Step Three: Don’t Neglect Outcomes and Next Steps

For a retreat to be worthwhile, participants must know their ideas and decisions will actually go somewhere after the event. It’s equally important for team members to understand their own responsibilities to take actions after the retreat. Here are some ideas for documenting the retreat and creating accountable action steps:

  • After each session, capture key points and outline next steps, responsible parties and time frames. Use action verbs to clarify what needs to be done (write, call, review, schedule, plan, etc.).
  • The final session should be used to summarize all next steps. Discuss how participants will hold themselves and others accountable for taking action. In addition, invite participants to share takeaways, appreciations, personal commitments and other comments.
  • Consider pairing people to accomplish tasks. This helps boost accountability and build team member relationships between meetings.
  • Move away from a “minutes” mindset. Try to organize retreat notes logically rather than strictly chronologically. Participants won’t necessarily remember who said what when so it’s useful to group related ideas and actions together.
  • Suggest ways to incorporate progress checks from the retreat into subsequent staff meetings. For example, if you do a strategic plan, organize future team meeting agendas to parallel strategic goal areas from the plan.

Final Word

Team retreats can be powerful events that help clarify organizational vision, address complex issues and energize a team. With collaborative planning, a steady focus on the desired outcomes, skillful facilitation, and the willingness to hold people accountable, you can transform your team retreat from a necessary evil to the event of the year!

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

8 Steps to Coaching Your Boss to Success

July 3, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“The medium is the message.” ~ Marshall McLuhan

Stop pulling your hair out over your boss.

The frustrations of managing the boss-employee relationship come up again and again in my executive coaching sessions. The best way to approach this challenge is to “coach up.”

When you think about it, we’re all private coaches at least some of the time. So why not be more intentional about coaching to help co-create the experience you want to have in your relationships; including the one with your boss.

Let’s first debunk one myth. Coaching up your boss is not a sneaky way to get what you want. The coaching model doesn’t work unless you actually care about the person you’re working with. It doesn’t work unless you have created a partnership and designed your alliance together. You don’t have to love the person you are coaching, but you do have to respect them and care about their well being.

Coaching up means learning and using coaching techniques to promote an authentic, positive, and productive relationship with your most significant professional relationship: your boss. When used effectively, coaching up can enrich mutual understanding and often reduce frustration and stress. In fact, use the ‘coach approach’ in all aspects of your life, and it will quickly become second nature and help you succeed through tough conversations and difficult relationships inside and outside of work. Here is how:

1.   Start with the right mindset: Suspend negative judgments about the boss, whether these are conscious and crystal clear or faint and subtle. Suspending does not mean permanent deletion but temporary hold. If you do not do this, you risk your judgments getting in the way of being truly present and open.

2.   Be Curious: Coaching is all about unleashing your curiosity. That means beinggenuinely curious and interested in your boss’ point of view. That may be hard to do if you are at odds with your boss but it is imperative to put things on the right footing.

3.   Deploy your attention:  This means listen with your full attention and ask clarifying questions when needed. If you disagree, instead of getting defensive (default reaction) try getting even more curious. Ask questions like “What factors are influencing this decision?” or “Please help me understand this.”

4.   Ask artful questions: Ask open-ended questions rather than questions that are answered with “yes” or “no.” We begin our questions with “how” and “what” as often as we can.

5.   Work with, not against the grain: This means attending to your boss’ communication and learning style.  Some learners are visual while others are auditory. Some like big picture information, while others prefer lots of detail; some like crisp bullet points, others like longer pieces; some like to be told after actions have been taken, and some like to know our every step before and during our tasks. If you don’t know your boss’ preferences, it’s time for a curious conversation!

6.   Work towards a win/win: Negotiation is a key business skill to learn. For example, if your boss wants a daily written report, and you don’t have the time to compose that each day, ask if she would accept a weekly written report instead. She may say yes, and she may say no. If she says no, offer another solution that will meet her needs as well as your own.

7.   Seek common ground: Begin by understanding your boss’ values. It does not mean you have to agree or have the same values but understanding what they are is a good first step to learning to co-exist. This can also begin to create a sense of common ground and shared values, on which to build your future relationship.

8.   Communicate clearly and assertively: The challenge with assertive communication is that it takes some education and a little practice, particularly for those who weren’t taught assertive communication growing up. Many people mistake assertiveness for aggressiveness, but assertiveness is actually the balanced middle ground between aggressiveness and passivity. Communicate your requests and needs clearly and with confidence. The right balance is between being humble and respectful, and confident and assertive.

A final word:

While effective leaders know their options and their plans, they are also open to shifting gears if they receive persuasive new information. They know that they may not always have the full picture of what’s involved in the complex challenges of the organization. This is particularly true when working with bosses who have a much broader organizational perspective than we do. As you continue to coach up, you may improve your opinion and feelings about your boss. Even if negative judgments do creep back in from time to time, we have tools to work toward mutual understanding, if we choose to use them. Coaching up isn’t a magic bullet, but it is a very good way to enrich our partnership with the boss—that most significant of all organizational relationships. In the end, coaching up is about forging a partnership with your boss so you can produce your best work. And there is nothing wrong with that equation.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

10 Time Tested Tips to Make You Unstoppable at Work

May 11, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Where you will sit when you are old, shows where you stood in youth.” —African Proverb

Are you good at work? Notice I didn’t ask, are you good at your work? There is a difference between being a good financial advisor or whatever you do and being good at work. Work is sport. There are rules to follow and scores that are kept. Competition is sometimes fierce and teamwork can make all the difference. Some players stand out. Others fade into retirement or obscurity. Those whose names become synonymous with their sport work hard and reach the upper limits of their talent band. Yes, they have talent, but they also always have self-discipline, grit and resilience. The best players have a playbook for success and they follow it religiously.  The practices highlighted below are based on 30 years of leadership and management experience and a playbook for success at work.

Game on.

  1. Have a vision – you have to know where you are going in order to know how you’ll get there. Without a vision or a destination, you are just sitting in the traffic jam that is your career. The only way traffic is tolerable is when you know you’ve got a nice place to go. So, be sure you check the map each day and keep your ultimate destination in sight.
  2. Be relentless with your self-discipline – without self-discipline, success is impossible. Period. Done. End of story. Self-discipline is the variable that forces us to go the extra mile, to put in the extra hour, and the extra work that leads to success. Self-discipline breeds consistency, focus, and skill building. It is the engine behind the volume of work you need to produce to be ahead of the game. Without it, the game is lost.
  3. Build out your network – people need people. Your next job is likely coming through who you know rather than your education or work experience or polished resume. You need to connect with other and be vocal about your interests and build relationships with key people in your industry. You never know which relationship leads to the next opportunity so treat each one well and burn no bridges.
  4. Take on more work – taking on more work pushes you out of your comfort zone which is how you grow. Instead of looking busy and stressed out, look for busy and stressed out co-workers and lend them a hand. By doing this, you provide value and build relationship equity.
  5. Learn continuously – acquire new knowledge and continuously stay on top of trends or research relevant to your field. Become an expert so that you can be the first person people think of when there is a new project on the horizon. Read, research and talk to others who are experts themselves. Wear your curiosity on your sleeve.
  6. Make yourself visible – experience is important but so is exposure. If you are stuck in a cubicle in the back of an office and afraid to show yourself, you’ll be invisible to the world. No one will know about your talents and the value you can create for them. Seek opportunities to be in more meeting and gain access to more decision makers.
  7. Take initiative – don’t wait for the next assignment, create it. Be proactive in looking for tasks that are falling through the cracks and complete them. Your colleagues and your boss will appreciate the effort and you’ll be seen as a strong member of the team.
  8. Be self-directed – You know what managers appreciate most? Not having to be one. When you are self-directed, you relieve your manager of the burden of delegation and decision making. They can now concentrate on other more high leverage activities than figuring out how to keep you busy. Self-directedness conveys confidence and professionalism. It also maximized team productivity.
  9. Manage emotions effectively – there is nothing worse in the work place than being toxic. Negativity, gossip, back-stabbing, anger outbursts and the like simply don’t have a place in the world of work. Of course, we all have frustrations with our bosses and colleagues. We all feel from time to time that we treated unfairly, that we are not seen for our worth or our work. There is nothing wrong with emotions but being emotional about every single slight will take its toll. Learn to manage your emotions effectively so that people know exactly what they expect from you on a day-to-day basis.
  10. Persevere in the face of failure – in life and in work, there are inevitable failures and setbacks. Learn to use failure as a learning opportunity rather than a reason to self-flagellate and reinforce limiting beliefs. Perseverance is the mindset of champions. History is littered with examples of those that failed yet persevered their way to success. Struggle, setbacks and short-term failures don’t have to drain your motivation. It can be the opposite as long as you adopt the right mindset.

So, there you have it – your success playbook for whatever work you do, whatever environment you may be in, and wherever you may be on your career trajectory. To put these tips in motion, you will need passion, purpose, commitment and intentionality. Where ever you may be, start today. It’s not too late. You can still win the game.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

 

How to Solve the 3 Most Common Performance Problems

 

April 24, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.”  ~ Mae West

In all my time as a management consultant and executive coach, I have had one challenge surface more than any other: fixing performance problems.

Poor performance typically falls under one of these category types:

·        Underperformance related to personal problems

·        Breaches of workplace policies and procedures

·        Unsatisfactory quality or quantity of work

Of these, unsatisfactory quality or quality of work is the most common.  It is the problems related to attitudes, motivation, skills, and knowledge that challenge managers the most. Here is how that breaks down into the most common performance related issues:

1.      What am I supposed to do?

Often, employees don’t know what they are supposed to do. This may be because of an unclear job description or may be because you have not communicated expectations and standards clearly. The fix is simple: communicate expectations and standards clearly, check for understanding and monitor performance. Provide reinforcing feedback when you observe improvements.

2.      Why am I supposed to do it?

Next, employees may not understand the why of a task or a change in office policies. When people don’t understand why, they put up resistance. Here again, the fix comes in the form of clear communication explaining the reasoning behind policies, procedures, performance standards or changes. When possible, involve your employees in the solutions. People tend to own the solutions they are part of creating and therefore more motivated to support their implementation.

3.      How am I supposed to do it?

Some employees don’t know howthey are supposed to do their job. They simply don’t have the knowledge and skill level you thought they did. In this case, you have to tell or show people how to perform their job and observe them while they attempt to do it. Reinforce what they do well and redirect what they do poorly or incorrectly.

A final word…

Most people do a good job most of the time. A few of them occasionally underperform. All of them probably mess up every once in a while. Performance problems vary from individual to individual and situation to situation. There is no silver bullet, no one best way of fixing them. Most people will perform well as long as they know what to do, why they are doing it and how to do it. Today’s employees are more independent and empowered than generations past. They need more than a simplistic reward system to maintain motivation and performance. Provide everyone who works for you with honest feedback on how well they’re doing on a regular basis. Be timely. Be specific. Be sincere. Explain how the good performance fits into the big picture. Listen to their concerns and use their ideas if possible. Identify and change policies, procedures and practices that are, in reality, obstacles to good performance. Make it easy for your people to do their jobs. Then sit back, and watch performance improve.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

What is Leadership Presence and How Can You Develop It?

March 14, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Presence is more than just being there.” ~ Malclom S. Forbes

Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of requests in my executive coaching practice for the development of what is called leadership or executive presence (EP).

It’s a hot topic. But what exactly is it and why does it matter?

Many of the articles that cover it define leadership presence as the ability to communicate and resonate effectively with your audience. These articles talk about the importance of having gravitas and charisma and espouse the virtues of being an extrovert. They talk about using body language, projecting your voice and using appearance to convey power.

To be sure, the ability to connect and engage with others in a way that is positive, impressive and inspiring is important. The ability to make a strong first and last impression has great value. But that’s only half the story. It’s only as they say, the tip of the iceberg. Actors also search for a strong “stage presence.” But rather than just a practice of technique, the best actors tap into their inner core to communicate their message to the outer world.

What preoccupies me is what’s below the water line, that is to say, the depth of character that gives rise to leadership presence. That is because for me, leadership presence has more to do with substance than with form. Leadership presence is about being comfortable in your own skin. It is a deeper archeology of who you are and how you show up in the world every day. It is from these depths that leadership presence emanates.

To demonstrate, let’s excavate.

Leaders are made, not born. First, is there such a thing as a natural born leader? That’s a complicated question and we can debate it for days. While there are certain personality traits and temperaments that are more suitable to leadership, the truth is that leadership can be developed, taught and learned. At the same time, leadership cannot be reduced to a set of strategies and tactics that automatically make you a leader when you practice them. For example, giving inspiring speeches is one of the qualities many great leaders exhibit. But if they don’t live the convictions they espouse, their rousing locutions are little more than empty rhetoric no matter how well delivered or how well constructed their sentence structures may be.

Leadership presence is about character. Character is such a central, important element of leadership that it should not and cannot be ignored in any discussion of leadership because character fundamentally shapes how we engage the world around us. If as a leader, people perceive your character as having serious defects, no amount of gravitas will save you. A key function in leadership is to engender trust in people. To do so, you must possess the character, competencies, and commitment to be a leader. Leadership presence is about exhibiting the values and virtues that embody leadership and the judgment to know when those virtues become vices in their excess or deficiency.

Leadership presence is about emotional intelligence. Self awareness, self regulation, social awareness, and relationship management are the hallmarks of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the engine that drives leadership presence. Like many things in life, the building block for leadership and leadership presence starts with self-awareness. Self awareness is the foundation of personal as well as professional growth. It starts with an acute awareness of your strengths and your vulnerabilities, but it is also a deeper awareness of your saboteurs, fears, and motivations. It is an awareness of how you see yourself and how others see you and an awareness of what drives you and what inhibits you. This awareness is crucial in the cultivation of leadership presence.

Leadership presence stems from your core. The source of leadership presence is rooted in your values, your purpose, your principles and your convictions. It is not a strategy. It is not a tactic. It is not swagger. It is not a front. It is an indelible impression made on you by your life experiences that you turn outward to the world. If you have lived an examined life, your ability to tap into this aspect of who you are and why you exist will be much easier. There is a correlation between how much you have excavated your own inner psyche and how confident you may be in your own skin as a leader.  Leadership presence is the ability to deploy who you are at your core against your leadership objectives.

Leadership presence is about congruence. Finally, leadership presence is what you believe and how you live what you believe every day. It is the authentic integration of what you believe with what you say and do. What comes out of your mouth should not be different than the actions you take or the behaviors you manifest. It is the alignment of your actions and words and the congruence between what you believe and how you act in the world that demonstrates who you are and your leadership character. Therein is the integrity that all great leaders demonstrate. If you are a lone wolf who demands collaboration, you are incongruent as a leader. If you are incongruent as a leader, those you hope will follow your message will see through this incongruence and will be unsettled by it. Ultimately, they will not follow.

A final word

While some might argue that presence is an innate quality, you can demystify the building blocks of presence and train yourself to strengthen our own engagement with audiences. Think for a moment about a person whom you consider to have remarkable leadership presence – someone you admire and respect. What qualities do they possess? What behaviors do they engage in? Were they born that way or did they learn along the way? We know when someone has it – and, on the flipside, we know when it’s missing. Leadership presence is not about power posing. Leadership presence is about self awareness first and foremost. This is followed by situational awareness and the emotional intelligence needed to cater your response to the person or circumstance at hand. If you start from the inside and work your way out, not only will you tap into your inner leader, but you will do so in a way that is authentic and lasting. Anything else, is an exercise in superficiality.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe.

By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change.

I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

You Can’t Have Success At Work (or in Life) Without This One Thing

February 21, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Coming together is a beginning; staying together is progress, working together is success.” ~ Henry Ford

Everyone wants success. And success comes from results.

No matter what the pursuit, be it for profit or non-, a new product or collaboration, whether you are selling a house or developing your leadership team, or whether you are a new startup or long standing stalwart of business, results are the name of the game.

But what people often overlook is that results and relationships are two sides of the same coin. In fact the quality of the results you get is a direct output of the quality of the relationships you’ve built.

Here is how the process works.

Results come from actions

If you want results, you have to take action. But how many times do you take action without getting the results that you want?

The reason why people don’t get the results they want is often because they have not spent the time developing the required relationships or the shared understanding that is required to achieve those results.

Instead, they charge straight into action without the necessary relationship equity, the trust, and the shared agenda needed to help facilitate their action. This is particularly evident when people take on a new role or project. They charge in to objectives and targets and get busy at work without realizing that the time spent ensuring everyone is on the same page will triple or quadruple their productivity.

Relationships generate opportunities

When you’ve got good relationships in play then things become possible. Out of these possibilities, real opportunities emerge.

I was recently speaking to a police officer about community policing. His approach and how he builds trust with young people is a perfect example of how relationships lead to possibilities which lead to opportunities for action and results.

He told me that he often starts with visiting schools in plain clothes and when there has not been an incident. The police uniform is such a strong symbol of power that it becomes a barrier to authentic relationship building. This approach makes it ‘possible’ for him to have presence on the campus without ringing alarm bells creating ‘opportunities’ to listen and hear. Over time, the kids get used to his visits and begin to think: “maybe he really cares about us,” which in turn helps to build trust, a cornerstone of strong relationships. It is these relationships, the officer explained, that have helped him keep his community safe because they become a valuable source of information and because he is able to design an alliance with the community through the relationships.

It is the depth of his relationships that determine the quality of his results.

So what do strong relationships look like?

When people at work disagree, two outcomes are in doubt:

1. What decision will be reached?

2. How will we feel about working together in the future?

The first question involves the substantive issue, how the content of the dispute will be resolved. The second involves the relationship issue, how the individuals will deal with each other as people. You can win at one level and lose at the other—get what you want substantively, yet make an enemy. Or vice-versa—you may not obtain what you want substantively, yet strengthen a working relationship. To disentangle the two issues, explicitly separate your working relationship with the other person from whether you agree with or approve of that person’s viewpoint. That means thinking, “I will treat this person well whether or not I like what that person thinks or does.”

The relationship is more important than the issue or problem at hand.

Strong relationships are based on mutual trust and respect. They create shared understandings. They declare when there is a breakdown and repair accordingly. They complete the past before moving to the future. They put people first. That means thinking about other people and acting on those thoughts.

How do you develop strong working relationships?

Harvard professors Roger Fisher and Scott Brown provide several suggestions in their book Getting Together: Building a Relationship That Gets to Yes. Here are some of the major points they make:

  1. Separate relationship issues from substantive issues.
  2. Be unconditionally constructive.
  3. Beware of partisan perceptions.
  4. Balance reason with emotion.
  5. Inquire, listen, and understand.
  6. Consult before deciding.
  7. Be trustworthy.
  8. Use persuasion, not coercion.
  9. Accept and deal seriously with people.

A Final Word

Remember the old adage that being nice to people on the way up is important because you’ll likely meet the same people on the way down. That means maintaining a decent working relationship with your colleagues even though you may not like what someone does. The relationship doesn’t imply that you agree or approve of that person’s behavior. Despite your disagreements, you can keep open lines of communication with people you regard as difficult or even as enemies. That’s the only way improvement can ever occur. It’s possible and sensible to disentangle substantive and relationship issues because at the end of the day, the possibilities you generate in your work (and in life) are as ‘big’ as the relationships you build.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The Devil is In the Implementation: 5 Reasons Why You Fail to Execute on Your Ideas

February 15, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” —Sun Tsu, Ancient Chinese Military strategist

I know. You don’t have to tell me. You’re inspired. You just got a great idea for a new business or product. Or maybe you just had a great meeting or strategic planning session and you can’t wait to implement the new ideas and strategies that emerged. Or maybe you just made your resolution for the New Year.

Whatever the case, there is a spike in your enthusiasm and excitement in the beginning. You are excited to get to the action, to see the results, to impact change, and to make improvements. But before long, you start to lose momentum to execute on your Big Audacious Hairy Goals. You fail to follow through. Your great ideas begin to melt and run down your arm like a scoop of ice cream in the middle of July.

In all the examples above the problem is not the idea, the plan, the goal or the strategy. The problem is the people and their behaviors that either drive or impede progress on the idea. The problem is how you execute.

Steve Wozniack likes to tell the story of how Steve Jobs only learned to execute after he was fired from Apple and started NeXT. Jobs was just 30 years old, wildly successful, fabulously wealthy and a global celebrity when he was suddenly fired. But that firing turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was when he came back to Apple that most of the iconic products we know and use today were launched because in his time away, he had learned how to execute.

If you perceive yourself or are perceived as having an “execution problem,” by others, you will benefit from knowing the fundamental reasons why.

Reason #1: You Don’t Have the Right Mindset

In strategy sessions, people often ask questions like: “What would success look like?” and “What action will you take to implement the strategy?” These questions and their answers do not lead to change. That is because, as we have established above, we have a people problem and people are about behavior. And obviously, if you are asking the wrong questions, you will get the wrong answers. Because we are a culture obsessed with positivism, we look to assets and strengths. Fair enough. But what about weaknesses? The right question to ask instead is: “What current behavior do I see in myself, my team, my manager, or my organization that will make success less likely?”

This question is about facing reality, which is a pre-requisite for strategy execution. By articulating the answer to this question, you are identifying the potential barriers to progress, which you must first remove before you can see change. You are also recognizing that behaviors drive results and that mindset drives behavior. To impact change, you have to shift the mindset that leads to behaviors that are not getting results. This is fundamental.

Reason #2: You Don’t Have the Right Goals (or you have too many of them)

Sometimes, people are focused on the wrong things and sometimes they are focused on too many things. If you try to attend to all of your competing priorities, you will lose focus. It is far better to apply more energy against fewer goals because, when it comes to setting goals, the law of diminishing returns kicks in which says in a nutshell that you will achieve 2-3 goals with excellence and 5-6 goals with mediocrity . That is because human beings are genetically hardwired to do one thing at a time with excellence. Multi-tasking is a myth. It causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity.

Once you have the right goals and the right number of goals, you can identify the right people with the right strengths to apply towards specific goals. Here, you will have to make choices. Execution is about being laser focused and maintaining momentum. The pitfall is trying to get forward momentum on all your work instead of the most important work. You have ask yourself: “What will make the biggest impact?” and “What will get me the biggest bang for my buck?” Then, you have to make that thing happen.

Reason #3: You Don’t Have the Right People

In any team, organization, or coalition, there are strong performers and weaker ones. There are those that are fit for the task because the task speaks to their strengths and those that aren’t because, well, it doesn’t. Strong performers can be identified by their skills, knowledge and commitment. In any environment, you should know the strengths of the people are at the table. If you take a purely democratic and all-inclusive approach, you will miss the opportunity to identify the people who are most essential to achieving your goal. In the case of yourself this becomes about self-awareness.

Reason #4: You Don’t Have the Right Mechanism

Execution is a discipline and, well, it takes discipline to execute. What I mean by that is having the discipline to organize people, assemble resources, and then generate a plan that others can follow in a methodical and systematic process is what it takes to make progress. Organizations (formal or informal) and their related processes are largely conservative bodies that don’t like surprises or chaos. Therefore, you have to be as methodical in your approach as possible. This means disciplined project management, feedback loops, data driven decision making, clear roles and responsibilities, accountability measures, success metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs), kaizen (continuous improvement), scrum, agile, Six Sigma, Lean and so on.

Reason #5: You Don’t Have the Right Support

Finally, if you’ve made it this far and you really feel like you’re already doing all of these things, and yet somehow you’re still perceived as having an “execution problem,” then consider getting an Implementation Coach. Coaching is often used in organizations to fix leadership flaws, but that is only one focus of coaching. If the problem is truly endemic, I recommend hiring an Implementation Coach. The role of an Implementation Coach is to ensure that implementation success is a priority, working at the deepest level to build the skills, knowledge, capacities, systems, and processes needed to deliver results and then to ensure those results will be sustained. The main imperative of an Implementation Coach should be to delivering lasting outcomes.

In addition to being outstanding problem-solvers, these individuals are practical, experienced, and excellent coaches. Their distinctive strength is in knowing how to work with and coach people to get things done. These caching session are about focusing on larger behavioral patterns to the extent that they are getting in the way of the task at hand.

 A Final Word…

Ideas are a dime a dozen. I can give you 20 good ones in one conversation. Ideas without implementation are illusion. The art and science of success lies in their execution. Put another way, “the devil is in the implementation.” Many people get energetic about their ideas but fail when it comes time to establishing a systematic approach to execute on those ideas and fail in maintaining motivation. I’ll deal with motivation in some upcoming posts. For now, remember this: execution is a discipline in and of itself. It is the flip side of the coin to planning and setting the right strategy. You need both to succeed.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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