How to manage when there’s a struggle or stumble

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This morning I was curious what results if you Google “should I mentor, coach, direct.” I pictured a manager faced with a team member who is struggling or has recently stumbled, and she’s trying to decide what to say or do. In most such scenarios, there is a right answer, and that is to coach. I was hoping that would come through in the results. Alas, it doesn’t, at least not with crystal clarity.

Mentorship is at its best when it’s forged over time by the mentee, who asks questions of someone who typically is wise and experienced but not…

Know your options when facing a leadership challenge

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Yesterday I walked a former boss and old friend through the fundamental difference between executive coaching and management consulting. He’s a longtime CEO and general global-business superstar, yet he held a misconception I find common among CEOs, which is that executive coaching is a type of consulting engagement. When I explained how coaching fundamentally differs from consulting, and that the difference is defining, I saw the light bulb flip on.

It’s a conversation I’ve had more than once lately, granting me some practice in illuminating a topic about which I feel passion. Here’s what I say.

A consultant is typically…

Four questions to help the small or medium business leader know

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If you don’t know exactly what executive coaching is, you may be in a majority. Outside of large corporations, misconceptions about executive coaching abound. It’s an observation that in my line of work, I find particularly true among leaders of small- to medium-sized businesses.

It’s unfortunate because, in many ways, the leaders of more nimble enterprises stand to benefit the most from executive coaching. Compared to their big-corporate counterparts, they face fewer and less rigid constraints on creativity and ingenuity. There are more opportunities to put more on the line.

A few months ago, I tackled some the most common…

Choose with confidence in 6 short steps

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Is your job one that routinely requires you to make big, hairy choices? The kind that could reap big rewards for your organization or end up really costly? The kind that could affect the livelihoods of your people?

CEOs and other business leaders are forced to make major decisions almost daily. It’s a weight to carry. How an executive’s decisions tend to turn out on average is the stuff of career trajectories.

How do you give yourself the best chance of successful decisions when the stakes are high? …

Three techniques to get through your workday when it seems the world has gone mad

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This morning, the continued cries of shock and despair in my Facebook feed over the siege of the U.S. Capitol are punctuated by memes about the folly of now attempting to concentrate on a desk job.

I get it. I allowed myself to go to bed last night in a stinky foul mood. I tossed and turned. When the dog barked in the middle of the night, I lost my cool. This morning’s work to-do list feels menial. Like most of us, yesterday’s unfoldings are deeply under my skin.

Yet I know I have some choices. Releasing the internal pressure…

A little lesson about proselytizing

My former boss attempted meditation after I urged him, a micro-campaign that started innocently enough. One day he told me he appreciated that I tend to stay calm under pressure. I gave credit to my morning meditation practice.

Had I stopped there, I would have followed my rule against carrying on about this particular topic. Appreciation for mindfulness is increasingly widespread in Western culture. But it’s definitely not for everyone. And what could be more off-putting than someone who knows little of your problems trying to force their favorite thing onto you?

Yet rather than stop, I hit the gas…

This more nuanced variety is the domain of great leaders

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Decisiveness is a trait of great leaders. It conveys confidence, boldness, and courage. If a CEO wants her team to consistently perform at high levels, one of the most important things she can do is be reliably decisive.

Yet what I’ve learned from decades of observation as a consultant to executive leaders and boards of directors, and a stint as both a chief strategy officer and COO, is that what inspires others the most when decisiveness is employed with a measure of reserve. The great leader keeps decisiveness firmly in the strengths column and reduces risk that it inadvertently becomes…

Choose wisely

Twenty-five or so years ago, sitting on a remote North Carolina beach, I got the idea that I wanted to live my life in a manner that was principled and decent. The idea had occurred to me before, in an adolescent way. What was different this time is that I realized that if living principled is what I wanted, it’s the sort of thing I could practice.

I read the self-improvement books that were popular at the time (like Principle-Centered Leadership, and How to Win Friends and Influence People). I didn’t sign up for any of the books’ specific philosophies…

And other strategies I’m using to compartmentalize my election stress

The day after a tense, unfinished presidential election seems like a good time to exercise my trusty compartmentalization skills. Throughout my life, I’ve been able to box up and set aside life stressors — on a temporary basis, of course — in order to crank out something that resembles a productive workday. Here are five ways I’m doing that this week.

A couple notes: One, no one should be expected to work to their normal productivity today. And two, psychologists say compartmentalization is useful for people who are mentally healthy, but left unchecked, it can lead to emotional disconnection. It’s…

Dan figured it out.

After a successfully integrating an $80 million dollar business, including a noble experiment in putting people first through lived corporate values, Dan Maguire sold his company earlier this year. Now he spends more time fishing.

The thing with “corporate values” is that they make so much sense in principle but in practice often make nice wall art. Strategy setting, operational planning, and annual budgeting all happen with little more than a nod to them. They’re a box that was checked somewhere along the way, and now they sit.

Because I know this to be a fact more often than not, I was captivated by a story recently shared with me by Dan Maguire. Dan was CEO of an $80 million, 250-person IT-consulting firm in Northern Virginia. A few years ago, at an interesting inflection point…

Shane Kinkennon

Plan | Lead. I help senior execs make plans and lead accordingly.

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