• A Lion
    Executive Presence,  Leadership

    Be Like a Lion: Enhance Leadership Through Pauses and White Spaces

    Carol, a Vice President at a communication company, wanted to up her leadership presence. But she didn’t know how to create that learning space as she felt overwhelmed by her busy schedule. I suggested she try something on a small scale as an experiment. She decided she would try a meeting-free travel day that week.  To her surprise, Carol found that it was perfectly acceptable to reschedule some meetings that fell during her travel days. She thought she had to be constantly available, like her mentors and bosses modeled for her. After the first experiment, she found other opportunities to create meeting-free white space in her schedule. This change made…

  • Tearing elephant By ArtTower on Pixabay
    Executive Presence,  Leadership

    Strong Leaders Also Need Psychological Safety

    Psychological safety has become a prevalent concept, encompassing the feeling of safety individuals experience when sharing their thoughts and feelings without risking their status. While this is often attributed to individuals with less power, such as social minorities or those lower in the hierarchy of power or privilege, it also applies to those at the other end of the spectrum. Those in power, who are expected to be strong always, are afraid to show vulnerability, as it can feel unsafe. For example, during recent layoffs at a Fortune 100 company, Teresa, a senior VP, felt exhausted and disheartened by the situation. Despite this, she believed she needed to display her…

  • Conflict at work
    Communication,  Executive Presence,  Leadership,  Personal Brand

    Intimidating to Inspiring: How A Tech Leader Solved The Approachability Problem

    Vlad (not his real name), a seasoned tech leader, received feedback that some team members found him intimidating – hindering them from seeking his guidance. His management urged him to work on his approachability. Vlad cared deeply about product and design quality and was passionate about solving complex problems. However, he didn’t particularly enjoy attending meetings and providing feedback, which was expected of him as a senior technical person on the team. So during those meetings, he appeared reluctantly and often conveyed his feedback quite abruptly, leaving others perplexed and frustrated. Anyone with average empathy would understand that how you communicate is as important, if not more, than the actual…

  • Clock, brain, bulbs
    Coaching,  EQ,  Executive Presence,  Leadership,  productivity,  Success Strategy

    5 Misconceptions That Get In The Way Of Sustainable Success

    Over the years, through my coaching work with the tech leaders and executives, I helped them uncover some of their misconceptions and limiting behaviors. Even though they were already successful in their careers, they accelerated their success more sustainably when they recognized and overcame such patterns. I have summarised the five main ones here. Misconception 1: Starting with Others’ Expectations We often start with what is expected of us and then comply with those – giving our time and talent in exchange for money, status, and validation. This mindset works for jobs mainly requiring manual labor and physical presence at the worksite. However, as knowledge workers and leaders, we must…

  • Coaching,  Communication,  EQ,  Executive Presence,  Leadership,  Stress Management

    Direct Communication Doesn’t Have To Be Hurtful

    Stuart, a mid-level leader at a corporate, came to me as he wanted to be more approachable. “I am very direct, but people take it negatively.” I want to influence without causing animosity. Megan, a director at a non-profit, had difficulty giving corrective feedback; she worried the recipient might get hurt, so she used a long-winded way that often got lost in translation. Stuart and Megan had limiting beliefs that direct and kind can’t happen simultaneously; you have to choose one or the other. But Brene Brown taught us, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind”. Brene Brown The purpose of direct communication is to convey the message as clearly as…

  • Will Smith hits Chris Rock on Oscar Stage
    EQ,  Executive Presence,  Leadership,  Self-leadership

    What Can We Learn From Will Smith’s Oscar Debacle

    [I originally wrote this after the Oscars last year (March 2022).] Since the Oscars, my newsfeed has been flooded with the news and commentary about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on stage when he made a rather insensitive joke about Will’s wife, Jada. Smith later apologized to Rock. “I was out of line, and I was wrong. I am embarrassed, and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness… I am a work in progress.” While this is celebrity news, we can relate to such incidents. Maybe not every one of us gets…

  • Smiley face on a sidewalk
    Communication,  Executive Presence,  Leadership,  Neuroscience,  Self-leadership

    A Smile is a Leadership Tool

    I recently had a coaching session with a tech leader who expressed a strong desire to enhance his approachability. While he was committed to delivering high-quality products, he was aware that his intense focus on quality sometimes came across as inflexible and intimidating. As a coach, I work with various personalities, and my approach is to identify the strengths of each individual. So I was not surprised that he appeared stiff in our call, and I had to avoid being influenced by it. But as the call progressed, I noticed a positive shift in his demeanor. He seemed more relaxed and even had a smile on his face. I shared…

  • Super hero employee
    Coaching,  Communication,  Executive Presence,  Leadership

    From High Achiever to a Leader: It’s a Mindset Shift

    Stephan was a VP of a Fortune 200 company. He was one of the top performers and indispensable for high stake projects. As a result, he was stretched thin; and had no downtime. He tried to delegate to his team, but unfortunately, he had to jump in when things got tough. It was unsustainable and unscalable for him and the organization. That is when he looked for a coach. I summarized his learning journey in the sections below. Start with Selfcare On our first meeting, I noticed that Stephan looked sleep deprived. However, he also candidly admitted that he had so much to do and so few resources that working…

  • Two men are talking in a business setting
    Career satisfaction,  Coaching,  Communication,  Executive Presence

    A Tale Of A Coaching Session

    In corporate, coaching means helping someone do their job by giving them advice. Some examples are “have you considered XYZ?” and “If I were you, I would do it this way.” But professional coaching is about helping someone maximize their potential by creating awareness and developing an implementation plan according to their choice. I will describe one coaching session here to shed light on it. I got this new coaching project; I met the client for our first session last week. A woman in her mid-30s, a manager at a Biotech company, showed up on my Zoom screen. Let me call her Kate. We spent 10-ish minutes getting to know…

  • Children fighting
    Communication,  Executive Presence,  Leadership,  Personal Brand,  Self-leadership

    From Jerk to Genuine: How These High Performers Built Trust With Their Teams

    Result and efficiency-driven high-performing individuals often have a blindspot when relating to others. It can create unintended harm to team morale and trust. Others tolerate such “jerk” behavior as subject matter expertise, and “get things done” competencies are valued more. It is not that they don’t get any feedback to correct their behavior, but rather the opposite. They don’t get timely and precise feedback. People want to understand the feedback before they can act on it. And when they do, they commit to it and eventually become more impactful.  “I have been receiving this feedback for so many years. However, this is the first time I can understand it.” This…