Jody Gearson of Universal Studios Talks About Teams

Jody Gerson of Universal Music Publishing Group on Trusting Teams
SEPT. 29, 2017
Credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

This interview with Jody Gerson, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music Publishing Groupwas conducted and  condensed by Adam Bryant.

What were your early years like?
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. My dad and my grandfather had a nightclub in Cherry Hill, N.J. That was my childhood. I grew up seeing Frank Sinatra and Richard Pryor in our living room.

I learned a lot from seeing things done the wrong way. I was exposed at a young age to very adult themes, like people who had issues with drugs, and I saw the insecurities of artists. I think I seemed like a grown-up from a very young age.
Read the complete article on the New York Times web site.


Joy & Work:  the Secret to a Longer Life?

Joy & Work: the Secret to a Longer Life?

If you enjoy laughing while learning, check out The Happy Secret to Better Work on YouTube.  Shawn Anchor uses humor and impressive scientific data to tell us what we all probably know on an instinctual level: people perform better and live longer when happy.

Sure we all want to live a happier and longer life. Are you happy at your job, comfortable with the routine, or do you find it a chore to even think about the drudgery of your work? It does not matter if you are the boss or the ‘go-fer” — if you have to travel an hour in heavy traffic or if it takes a two minute walk in your slippers to get to your home office—you know that if you don’t want to be there, you won’t put in that extra effort and you won’t get the satisfaction of a ‘job well done.’

What Can You Do Differently?

So how can you find joy in your work? As an Executive Coach I can share insight my clients have found useful. Perhaps by considering their discoveries, along with cautions evident in these FIVE TOP REGRETS OF THE DYING by Bonnie Ware, you may find an option or two that will align with your career goals.

Regret #1: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Option: Exhibit a Healthy Selfishness

As defined by author Susan Scott in Fierce Conversation, the term healthy selfishness is the need to be authentic as a form of selfishness.  “It’s important that we acknowledge the fact that a workplace can be a cornucopia of positive emotions” states author Kerry Patterson in Creating Joy at Work. “It gives us something to aspire to. Stress shouldn’t be the norm. Anger, depression, boredom, disgust, fear, and other negative emotions shouldn’t be shrugged off with, “Hey, it’s work. Nobody said it was supposed to be fun. Work is too time-consuming and life-absorbing not to provide us with lots of positive emotions. Anything less would be a tragedy.”

We often create our own tragedies by selecting a career that seems safe. Seeking to limit risk may actually bring about greater stress, especially when we try to avoid mistakes at any cost. No one can only make ‘right’ decisions: change and unexpected events happen. An attempt to protect ourselves when mistakes occur, often results in defensive and blaming behaviors that end in loss of both self-respect and the trust of colleagues. It may take time, but when a coaching client recognizes the inevitability and value of mistakes, we are both rewarded. The moment we selfishly ponder what we gained from the event, we experience a renewed sense of enthusiasm to test ourselves and our limits, to look past the immediate emotion of failure, to see and use the learning experience that has been presented.

Regret #2: I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Option: Find the Joy

More companies are coming to recognize that the people they want to hire are selective and seek work in a stimulating, supportive, and pleasant environment. For example, Menlo Innovations proudly announced via Richard Sheridan in JOY, INC that they have “changed everything about how our company is run, and have brought that joy into the lives of our clients and their end users.” Last year, more than 2,000 people came from around the world to visit their site, “not to learn about technology, but to witness a radically different approach to workplace culture — one intentionally designed to produce joy.”

Of course, if what you want cannot be found by a conventional job, you may choose to find activities outside of work that satisfy our creative needs and future goals. It is not uncommon to find someone “working on the assembly-line as the “perfect” unfulfilling job…in exchange for a paycheck. The moment you stop thinking you need to find fulfillment from your day job, you are going to be at least somewhat happier” explains Paul Brown in a recent FORBES article, Why Work Doesn’t Have to be Fulfilling. “No, nothing about the job will have changed, but your attitude about it will. You will no longer expect that your day job to provide you with fulfillment. That’s a small step in the right direction. It’s totally within your reach and it costs you nothing;” enabling you to explore personally rewarding ambitions or prepare to enter a new field.

Regret #3: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Option: Laugh out Loud

Recently one executive I admire stated that he wished he had been granted the freedom to laugh and be vulnerable early in his career, convinced that he would have achieved more and enjoyed the years invested. From an early age, this talented individual had been taught that work is work and play is play: when at work you are serious, when at play you can relax.

As a result when at work he rarely joined others for lunch or a group event, avoided typical office banter, and did everything possible to keep his home life private. Following our coaching engagement and his release from formerly binding actions, the crease between his eyes became less apparent; he received compliments from others noting he seemed taller; and colleagues remarked that it was wonderful to finally hear him laugh.

Regret #4: I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Option: “Love the One You’re With”

Steven Stills’ song from the 1970’s “Love the One You’re With” may remind us to appreciate those we see daily without minimizing the importance of maintaining our history and building on shared life experiences.

So how do you work friendships and relationships into your busy day? Perhaps there is a clue in AUTHENTIC HAPPINESS by Martin Seligman, a “user-friendly book in psychology for the educated layperson.” The reader is offered only one equation with H representing your goal to achieve an enduring level of Happiness: H = S + C + V. Consider S as your Set range and C to represent the Circumstances of your life. The key to understanding the formula is to accept V as the most important Variable representing factors under your control. It is a reminder that you control how you spend your time and how you view the events in your life.

Regret #5: I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Option: Commit to Balance

Recently a senior executive was asked by the company CEO to describe the outcome of our coaching engagement. His response: “finding balance.” The executive was not only referring to work/life balance as he attempted to put into words what he gained from the time he invested. After much consideration he thoughtfully explained that he found courage once again; “the courage of youth now tempered with experience.” He wanted to be vulnerable; to put himself “out there.” He was proud of his success and ready to share what he had learned; to be a “mentor.” He wanted to explore new personal life and career goals; to “reinvent myself.”

Give Meaning to a Working Life

We all need reminders and encouragement to reinvent ourselves, to find a sense of purpose and joy at work. Here is one of my favorite quotes about The Meaning of Life from Jonathan Heidt’s THE HAPPINESS HYPOTHESIS,

“Happiness is not something that you can find, acquire, or achieve directly. You have to get the conditions right and then wait. Some of those conditions are within you, such as coherence among the parts and levels of your personality. Other conditions require relationships to things beyond you. Just as plants need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger. It is worth striving to get the right relationships between yourself and others, between yourself and your work, and between yourself and something larger than yourself. If you get these relationships right, a sense of purpose and meaning will emerge.”

Dr. Maddalena is a Master Level Executive Coach working with C-Suite leaders at global Fortune 500 firms. 

She is also one of more than 200 subject matter experts the Rutgers Center for Management Development draws upon to teach seminars open to the public, as well as customized onsite training sessions for organizations.

On By – Taking the Risk

On By – Taking the Risk

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by risk? Balancing the odds of success, the investment you‘ve made in relationships, the value of the win – how do you make your choice? Often it is the actions that others don‘t see that truly defines winners from losers.

I am always amazed when I find myself experiencing one of life‘s lessons while engaged in something completely unrelated. One such event occurred on a winter day in northern Pennsylvania.

A Cold Example

Instead of thinking about a corporate setting, visualize broad, open, snow-covered hills with trails merging in and out of wooded ravines.

Years ago I was fortunate to have been mentored in the sport of dog sledding by a family with a well-established kennel and reputation in the field. On my very first race, I did something that still causes hilarious laughter among my dog-loving colleagues.

Mitch, a highly experienced dog driver, showed trust in my abilities by loaning me a team of dogs. His second, or ―B‖ team, they were seasoned sled dogs used to racing and winning. I was nervous about the enormity of the responsibility. For one thing, dog sledding is not an easy or safe sport.

I was intimidated and worried: could I develop the stamina and endurance to go the distance? Even the strongest drivers have accidents on the trail or could be thrown from a sled in the middle of the wilderness. If I could get into condition to do the work, could I handle the risk? And, most important: would the dogs obey my commands?

The First Team Effort

Mitch spent time introducing me to the dogs, showing me how to learn their different personalities and talents. I worked with each dog separately, understanding their particular task and place on the team. Totally responsible for their maintenance, I spent every available moment with the dogs monitoring their health and comfort. My respect for these athletes grew with each pre-dawn run on the training trails as we became a team.

After weeks of successful training runs, I entered my first race for a three-dog team, requiring us to travel three miles. At our fastest pace we would be traveling at about 20 mph – the entire race would take about a half hour. Working with a new handcrafted, light-weight sled, I was excited about the event and certain I had considered all possibilities. Confident that I had developed a good rapport with my borrowed team, I loaded the dogs securely in their straw-filled dens in our truck and drove several hours to the fairgrounds.

About fifty teams had entered the event, many arriving a day or two before to look over the trail and get in a short practice-run. The class my team was registered to run in had twenty-six teams registered to compete in a late morning start. My husband‘s team completed their early run, so he was able to help me secure the lines and prepare the sled before we allowed the excited, howling dogs to move to their spots and slip into their harnesses. The dogs strained to be off as my husband held the lead dog and I moved to stand on the sled runners.

We had a smooth and fast break; the twelfth teams leaving the chute in time- staggered starts. It was a clear day. When our flag dropped I shouted Let‘s go and the dogs bounded from the gate, eagerly moving with the focused power of an athletic team. I had never felt so strong, so healthy, as I pumped with one foot and stood on one runner, easily falling into the traditional drivers’ task.

Quickly responding to my – haw‖ command, the dogs took the left trail through the woods. It seemed like only few minutes had flown by before the trees were gone and the trail opened into glaring sunlight. We now faced our first hill. I was surprised to see that we had caught up with the driver in front of us! Both he and I were off the runners, working with our teams, pushing the sleds as we began the ascent.

My team was in rhythm, working as we had done on our many practice runs. Taking long strides, we continued to gain speed. It seemed only a moment before the lead dog moved to within 30 feet of the other driver. I was running, pushing and guiding the sled. Calling out the “on by” command would alert the other driver to give way and signal my team to move to the left to pass the slower team.

To my shock, I heard myself calling out, but not to my team. I was speaking to the other driver, asking the polite question ― can we pass? Unbelievably the treasured moment I had worked for had arrived and I was asking for permission to succeed!

The Lead Dog Leads the Way

I don‘t know who was more startled — my lead dog or the other driver. Both turned to me with expressions of disbelief. Hours seemed to pass as I ran: we were only half way up that hill and I was tiring.

It was the lead dog that brought me to my senses. Tana was a sleek red female with the passion and heart to lead her pack. We locked eyes for briefest of moments before she turned back to her task. Running in single lead, I could see her lower her head and hunch her shoulders while lengthening her stride. She was reaching out to win.

Finally, I caught the cue and remembered my task. Tana was almost on the other team‘s sled runners when I finally issued the ―on by‖ command. In an instant, my team moved quickly to the left, continuing the climb with an extra burst of speed. Their energy reached me: digging into the snow, I used every muscle to push that sled up the hill.

While I strained to keep the weight of the sled off the dogs and match their speed, at the same time it seemed that I was part of a unit gliding effortlessly up the hill. We overtook the other team, cutting around and past driver and dogs to reach open trail.

We were a team. We worked together, ran in unison. We did not pause when we reached the top of our first hill. Maintaining our momentum as we followed the trails through the rest of the course, we easily passed several teams before crossing the finish line and completing the race in third place.

Passion of the Team or the Win?

The event caused me to wonder what I was after by participating in this physically strenuous, potentially dangerous activity. The travel and equipment was expensive, the dogs required constant care, and it was time consuming to say the least. What was it all about? What was important? Was it crossing the finish line first? Was it the glory of receiving a trophy and recognition for successful competition? Or was it something much more than winning a race?

I would like to think it is being part of a team—that‘s where the passion lies. The moments I cherish, that I think back and mull over, are not the times I was lauded but the small actions that I found nurturing and enabled me to grow. I remember the joy of learning how to handle the sled on a tight turn, watching the way the dog in point moved from a lope to a gallop, observing how the wheel dogs kept a steadying pace.

I don‘t regret the fact that I didn‘t win any races during my time with the sled dog community. The wealth of knowledge I gained overshadowed any dusty trophy I would have forgotten on a shelf.

Simply put, the value of the effort was very personal. It was the experience itself that I relished. The wisdom shared by the drivers who had weathered many difficult conditions working in an environment natural to their dogs provided a lasting value to the endeavor. And, most importantly, the joy of being, of reaching out, of focusing my life energy with my team, was the unexpected treasure that I learned from the dogs.

Maybe we need an ―on by‖ command to use when we have the passion, the drive, and the commitment to succeed.

Every relationship you build connects you to everyone else.
Every bit of information helps you make your decisions.

You have a network to keep you connected:
as they succeed, you succeed.

When the road you’re on becomes lonely, crowded or unsatisfying -try a new path and let yourself get lost.
Take the risk.
Along the way you’ll see some things you never saw before -and discover the passion from doing what you know is right for you.

Best wishes for continued success, LM

Apologize Later – A case study

Apologize Later – A case study

At a recent corporate management awards program, the honored recipient took the podium to the applause of his colleagues. When it came his turn to speak, Ralph admitted that he had taken some major risks: “I followed the example of my mentor: when it was his turn, he chose to do the job now, and if necessary, apologize later.”Take the Risk vs. Ask for Permission
Ralph leads a global research team for a major manufacturing company. At his company, no one ever said that taking a risk without permission of senior management was an accepted practice. Ralph is quick to add: “Nor did anyone need to explicitly state that if you fail in your risky business, you will suffer the consequences. Of course, if you succeed, you’ve made an important in-road.”

Here is Ralph’s story: what action would you have taken in this case?

Ralph took the risk: without asking permission from the primary contact at the client site, or his own boss, Ralph responded to a request made by Chad, Viveton’s newest project team member. Together they drafted a prototype that would solve a longstanding problem bogged down in Viveton’s hierarchical decision making process. Ralph admits “I knowingly circumvented my chain-of-command because I knew if I asked permission I would place my superiors in a position where they would be forced to advise me against taking action. I did not want them to put them in that position and I couldn’t ask them to take a risk.” Both he and Chad ignored the client’s internal procedures: “there was no avenue for Chad to even present the option: we both very clearly saw the valuable outcome and were frustrated that no one was listening to our message.” Ralph chose to team with someone who had a vision that matched his own.

Once the deception was revealed, there was a strong backlash from the client, initially upheld by Ralph’s boss. Both Ralph and Chad feared for their jobs. But as you already know, Viveton recognized the value of the prototype and this case has a happy ending: Ralph won the acclaim of his company. It was a hard lesson for Viveton’s senior management. The end result was a major reorganization of Viveton now described as “necessary to ensure continuing growth.”

Ralph’s Dilemma

Ralph’s dilemma involved the level of risk he would have to take to overcome the internal barriers to progress. Ralph understiood that that the very systems organized at Viveton to support the company became barriers that inadvertently sustained a long-standing problem. He also had to make this a team task by coordinating his efforts with Chad’s.

The skills Ralph employed were both team building and organization development. Interestingly they are the skills that Ralph used in this own firm to move into a position of leadership. Obviously a talented manager, Ralph was applying the culture of growth and change he enjoyed at his firm to set goals and objectives for another company. This required that he move beyond his role as a project leader to that of business developer.

By taking on a different role when he responded to a need for change to a firm that did not request his services, he was jeopardizing the trust relationships that currently existed between the firms. His decision was based on a personal relationship: a partnership developed by mutual dissatisfaction with the status quo and a desire to seek change.

Most senior managers I know would eventually accept Ralph’s actions – particularly if the outcome is positive. No matter what the end result, how would you respond if you were Chad’s senior management?

Chad’s Senior Managers Dilemma

Personally, if I were a leader in Chad’s organization I would be extremely apprehensive for my job. It does not mean I did anything wrong that would justify my being fired – but it also does not mean that I did anything right to help spur organization growth and development.

Perhaps some members of the senior staff at Viveton did want change and either did not know how to go about initiating change or felt they would be at risk for questioning the status quo. Without someone taking a risk, serving as a change agent, the there is no forward movement – no drive for renewal and success – and no way to maintain a competitive role in any business environment.

It may appear ironic, but a company that seeks security and maintenance rather than growth and new challenges has little chance of sustaining its existence in the marketplace.

Your Organization’s Risk-Taking Culture

It is valuable for senior management to step back and evaluate the risk-taking culture of their organization. Does your company tolerate risk? Do your employees need permission to reach beyond the norm? The least effective course is to give someone permission to take a risk: your intervention removes the risk and passes it on to you. The passion, the edge, the drive has been diluted by the need for acquiescence.

The choice is simple: take the risk or avoid the situation. Only you are ultimately responsible for the decisions you make.

Best wishes for continued success, LM

You Are Judged by How You Listen

You Are Judged by How You Listen

We all know that interpersonal relationships are the key to any leader’s success. Open, genuine discussion has to occur up, down and sideways. Did you realize that how you listen has a significant influence on how others perceive you? Allow me to share a situation with someone who needed a wake-up call to see the image he was presenting to others, simply by how he listened to them.

I recently met a young engineer, Neil, who felt his career was stalled. His performance reviews had dropped steadily over the last two years. His manager explained that it seemed Neil was not able to engage his whole team: some members complained that they felt disconnected and were not heard. Further study revealed that he did not seem effective at building relationships with others in the company whose support was necessary to get the job done. Neil’s manager believed Neil needed to improve the way he listens to others and accepts constructive guidance.

During that first meeting with Neil, we talked about feedback and communication. Well, I raised the topic of communication and feedback. Neil offered examples of how he engaged others and explained people gave him positive compliments on how well he did when he had to present information. For every concern I raised from statements made by his manager and others, Neil attempted to prove how their perception was wrong by giving an example of how successful he was in a similar situation. Now I understood why his manager said he couldn’t give Neil any feedback because Neil was too defensive about his job performance.

During the entire meeting Neil responded to my speaking in one of three ways:

  • Stared at the ceiling or scratched a line in the desk top with his pen;
  • Tried to guess the conclusion to a story after I had shared only part of the situation; showed no facial expression, with partially closed eyes, as if half-asleep.

His body language clearly sent the message that what I had to say was of no importance. The impression he sent was of polite impatience, waiting for me to finish speaking. He did not need to hear what I had to say: he was smart enough to anticipate the conclusion I was going to reach, so why bother spending the time trying to convey a message he already understood?

The next day I sent him an email inviting him to join me in a telephone conversation to review our first meeting. He wrote back that if I could send him an overview of what I wanted to talk about first, then he would call me later. How like an engineer to plan to the finest detail!

I responded that it would be counter-productive to send him my description of how I recalled the interaction: my interest was in learning how he recalled the event. By my preparing a script, he would have time to review the words submitted, evaluate the contents and provide a contemplative response. I was seeking reaction: honest, genuine thoughts inspired by the message I tried to convey. Listening requires an immediate response such as a verbal statement or a non-verbal head nod. To build trust we must feel the other person is speaking honestly, and respectfully, receiving our message without bias or pre-conceived notions. I needed to hear and observe to learn if I was successfully delivering my message and if he was able to accept the meaning of the message as I intended.

Here are three guidelines you can use to let others know that you are truly listening and respect what they have to offer:

  1. Conversations must be genuine. Am open exchange of ideas/perspectives is just that: a presentation directed to your audience at that moment and in that environment, with spontaneous reactions. Prepared statements and realizations from private contemplation are useful tools, easily misused as barriers during conversation when input and discussion of both parties’ ideas creates the value of the experience. Nonverbal messages clearly convey interest or disinterest, empathy or rejection, to the listener. Once the event is over, the discussion ended, and you have parted, the time has passed. Those impressions remain, influencing your relationship with the individual.
  2. Honor someone’s perspective. While you do not have to agree with another person’s perspective, it is their perspective based on their life experience, and as such, it has merit. You cannot tell someone to think or act differently, or that they have perceived you/your actions incorrectly. They are correct in their limited view given their understanding of the subject matter and how you presented it. Your goal is to try to see it from their perspective. This is best accomplished by first acknowledging the perspective with respect and empathy, then engaging with them to explore other possible perspectives. Future interactions will contribute to altering that impression or confirming the initial impression.
  3. Seek to move forward. When negative events occur, it is often our nature to want to defend our role or explain the basis for our reaction. Stories are sometimes used to counter a negative situation by providing an example of an event that went right. When stories are used to defend a position, the effort is self-defeating. Everyone can cite instances in which their position was the correct one: it is futile to engage in such a conversation as it goes nowhere. Most people recognize defensive behavior immediately, having learned early in their lives that it is useless to spend hours exchanging examples. A worthwhile goal for a meeting of the minds is to find a way to move forward and avoid explaining previous events/actions.

I am proud to acknowledge that I have worked with 6,000 executives during my career and am thrilled to receive notes and updates from many, sharing their success. It wasn’t hard to anticipate who I might hear from because the people who understand the value of feedback, respect and empathy are the people who succeeded beyond their expectations. Without a doubt, those that are passionate about their work, find satisfaction and bring joy to every day events, are the individuals who are most successful in many ways. Here’s hoping you find the joy and success you deserve in your career.

Best wishes for continued success, LM

Empathy is Not a Soft Skill

Empathy is Not a Soft Skill

What can we do when we are seeking agreement, attempting to guide our team through change, or tasked with moving a project forward—and it seems that everyone has their own direction, away from consensus? Odds are we all know at least one top executive who would overlook the ‘soft skills’ of better communication and instead issue a ‘slap to the back of the head’ by saying “come on, let’s get this together” then proceed to implement his/her idea without considering options.

We’ll come back to address the expectations of our top executives after considering what it takes to get to know our team. Once we share a perspective on what we call a team, you can explore ways to put what you know about your team members to work, to reach a decision that satisfies at least the majority of the group and supports (or at least does not in any way negatively impact) the company’s directive. You will also discover that the skills in need are not “soft”, instead require confidence and personal strength.


You will know if it is a team at the moment when everyone has their paddles in the water and is aiming for the same shoreline.

  • What can you do when one or even a few members of the group seem to be forcing the entire team off-track?
  • How can you get others to focus on what you think is important when they seem to be stuck in the weeds?

For sports analogies, I find it best to work from my experience to help make a point. In this case, dog sled racing holds the best example to share my ‘ah-Ha’ moment. That takes me to the point when the dogs are hooked to the sled and waiting for the start, they are jumping and howling, excited and anxious to begin. Each dog brings an abundance of energy and its specific role to play on the team. Once the starting shot has been fired we had to move in unison to set pace and direction.

With animals whose time and attention I control, we are able to spend hours practicing on the trails to expose then break bad habits and learn how to work together. I probably learned more working with those dogs on the trail than I did during the years in academia: the issues were real, immediate and in your-face, lacking the subterfuge humans employ to camouflage weaknesses and fears.


It was the time together that made the difference: it’s why many high powered groups sequester themselves away for a week or just a weekend to build teams and develop strategy. Think about the number of hours your team has worked together: do members have a history or are they all new to one another? At what point do the individual contributors from a united team? What can you do to bring them together if you do not have the time/reserves for a team building workshop or seminar on feedback?

My suggestion is to go back to basics and start with one person. Whether you know them and have worked with them in the past is not relevant: we all carry baggage and a legacy and everyone is aware of the 30 seconds it takes to judge someone for the first time. Begin again with a new relationship and show them the person you want to be in this project by introducing yourself outside of the meeting. You can get to know them by being open and sharing.


When I offer this suggestion to many top-level executives I am often rebuffed with claims that

  • I am open and have an open door policy”;
  • I have friends at home, this is work”;
  • I don’t want everyone at work to know everything about me.

As an Executive Coach for over twenty years, I continue to be amazed at how confident executives who can risk millions on a business deal show signs of personal insecurity and avoid the risk of sharing with others. If you’re not yet in the top ranks and see yourself exhibiting these tendencies, now is the time to develop your skills at forming relationships.

The folks I am typically called in to work with are experienced and successful: they have reached a plateau in their career as a senior leader. By way of their position they are assumed to be role models for those below them. Unfortunately the isolation they created for themselves on their way up the corporate ladder does not work when compared to today’s description of a leaders as “genuine, humble and honest”. Today’s leaders have a whole boatload of expectations and behaviors to meet—many are approaches to relationships they were able to ignore in the past as they drove their way to success.

Those decisive traits formed momentum in teams and got the job done ‘their way’ then: it just doesn’t work with today’s high potential employees. In the past, a boss may have issued a theoretical ‘slap to the side of the head’ to get people on-track. In today’s high level strategy sessions leaders are expected to put aside the formerly successful rough-edged ‘get the job done’ decision-maker approach.

Scrutinized by standards that did not exist a mere ten years ago, leaders are required to function as role models capable of smoothly employing interpersonal skills, tact and experience to guide groups to form consensus.


Few leaders can completely satisfy the image we have created for today’s leaders. The good leaders who are most stressed by these requirements are those who missed developing an appreciation for the value of forming trust-based relationships as well as the ability to give and respect. Just as in a playground, there are some who find it easier to revert to the child-like role of being a bully to cover insecurity.

If bully-inclined leaders were capable of thinking beyond their own fears they would know that fear doesn’t win races. You don’t run a dog team out of fear – just like people who feel they’ve been treated unfairly; they’ll find a time to turn on you. Sled dogs are similar to human long-distance runners: team runners respect their team mates for their drive and skill just as a dog driver respects the team for their commitment and talent. No need to coax a runner to participate: a sled dog will race you to their spot on the line impatiently waiting to get harnessed to the rig.

Some top executives learned the hard way that fear is not a motivator and lack of respect drives people away. Many have their own examples proving that negative pressure and disregard for personal goals may get results in the short term: in time the pendulum always swings back to hit you when you’re least expecting it. Without commitment based on mutual respect, problems are not reported, planning failures not anticipated, and results for achievement are not shared by all.


Our greatest leaders, from Mother Theresa to Martin Luther King showed us how we can impact others; change our world, by engaging others in support of our mission and vision. A leader’s ability to influence others can only exist when there is mutual respect. As a leader gains respect, a greater number of people will seek to support their goals sharing their power and dedication to succeed. In the same way, losing the respect of others results in losing the respect of others and the power to further goals.

The brave individual may not consider routine events such as revealing a weakness or mistake as important just as the hero in adversity may not consider risk before acting to help someone in danger. Perhaps it starts with trusting ourselves to be spontaneous: to be in the moment. There is a freedom and confidence connected with allowing ourselves to explore our shortcomings as well as our strengths. Extending that freedom to allow ourselves to empathize with others permits us to observe the strengths and weakness of someone without judgment and thus learn from their experiences to add to our understanding.


The next time you are rushed to make a decision, on the fast-track to complete a task, anxious to win the support of your colleagues—stop to observe the reaction of others to you. You will read in their faces your chances of success:

  • You will probably lose if you choose to be blunt, not show empathy or regard for the opinion and value of others. If you try to plow ahead with your goals as the rallying flag, you are probably in for a long battle.
  • You stand a better chance of winning if you have invested the time to prepare the other person to trust your judgment by first learning from them and empathizing with their goals. If you have trust and rapport, you stand a good chance of achieving your ‘quick win’.

You cannot win in a silo—there is no one in there with you to recognize your success. Stay involved, build connections and create trusted relationships up, down and with peers in your organization. Organizations, like people, constantly evolve. You are better prepared to make the next transition by having trusted colleagues, mentors and role models available to test your hypothesis and give you the gift of feedback.

Best wishes for continued success, LM