Co2 Blog

Play Is Important

Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in Co2 Blog | 0 comments


Play is Important

As an Executive Coach, I work with leaders who are already very successful. They come to me because they want to further succeed and sometimes because they feel overwhelmed. They feel like they’re working too much. Even when they’re not working, they feel like they should be–which takes some of the fun and happiness out of their leisure time.

Play is important to our happiness and our ability to be creative. Leaders understand the importance of creativity in the work context. They know that creativity helps their organization keep pace with market demands, and yet, ironically, some of them have forgotten how to play.

In Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Stuart Brown MD explains the importance of play to our wellbeing. He defines play as follows:


  • Is it’s own purpose, no other.
  • Comes with no demand, it is voluntary.
  • Moves you into flow where there is no sense of time.
  • Lowers judgement of the self.
  • Is free form and chaotic without planning.
  • Is a virtuous cycle in which you would rather not stop.

How to Play at Home

Brené Brown, Ph.D., offers the following activity to increase and improve play at home: Ask every family member to list activities they enjoy to the point of losing all track of time and themselves when doing it. Next, create a Venn diagram and see where there is an overlap among family members. Seek to engage in these overlapping activities so that your entire family can play together. Try to avoid leisure activities that feel more like work than play to some family members.

How to Play at Work

Putting a slide or fire pole between floors won’t necessarily create more play in your organization. Your team members may feel more embarrassed than inspired.

Don’t decide what is play for your group or team. Let them decide. Try Dr. Brown’s activity with your work colleagues. Ask everyone to list activities they enjoy to the point of losing all track of time and themselves when doing it. Draw the Venn diagram and see if you can find something that you can all play at.

What have are you playing at lately? (Please comment! I would love to hear from you.)

The post Play Is Important appeared first on Elements of Leadership.

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Cognitive Reflection Test

Posted by on Mar 12, 2014 in Co2 Blog | 0 comments


cognitive reflection test

Cognitive Reflection Test Explained

The Cognitive Reflection Test was developed by Shane Frederick, Professor of Marketing at Yale School of Management. Dr. Fredrick makes a strong case for the predictive capacity of this three-question test as it relates to decision making. In particular he suggests that it can be a predictor for those who are good at utility theory and prospect theory. For greater insight into this test, read his Cognitive Reflection Article.

Cognitive Reflection Questions

  1. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? _____ cents
  2. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? _____ minutes
  3. In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?  _____ days

Cognitive Reflection Answers

  1. The ball costs 5 cents. If the ball costs 5 cents, the bat costs $1.05. $1.05 + $0.05 = $1.10
  2.  Five minutes. Each machine can make a widget in 5 minutes. The number of machines is irrelevant in this context.
  3.  47 days. If the patch doubles in size every day, and it covered the entire pond on the 48th day, then it would be half that size on the 47th day.

The post Cognitive Reflection Test appeared first on Elements of Leadership.

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Abuse of Authority

Posted by on Mar 6, 2014 in Co2 Blog | 0 comments


abuse of authority

“The dilemma of authority in our time, the particular fear it inspires, is that we feel attracted to strong figures we do not believe to be legitimate.”    –Richard Sennett, Authority

Power begets power. Power also begets followers, who presume the power will be used appropriately and for their mutual benefit. Unfortunately, power occasionally begets abuse of power. We’re often stunned by the revelations and headlines–How could someone with so much authority and record of service, do something like that? But it does happen, and, day by day, we’re less and less stunned.

In Minneapolis, according to MPR News, “Three archbishops–Roach, Flynn and Nienstedt–and their deputies have shielded and shuffled priests who were known to have abused children (like the Rev. Clarence Vavra) across the archdiocese, instead of forcing them out of the priesthood, for decades.”

On the East Coast, Gov. Chris Christie used his office’s power to hold citizens hostage in a four-day traffic jam in Fort Lee as political payback to the city’s Democratic mayor for not giving Christie his endorsement.

On the West Coast, Joshu Sasaki, a 106-year-old Zen Buddhist teacher, has been accused of groping female Zen students over the course of his 51 years in the United States. “Critics and victims have pointed to a Zen culture of secrecy, patriarchy and sexism, and to the quasi-religious worship of the Zen master, who can easily abuse his status,” according to The New York Times writers Mark Oppenheimer and Ian Lovett.

Abuse of power at these levels comes from our society’s view of leaders as authoritarians. They have some skill or power that we honor, and we bestow an elevated amount of authority to them. When left unchecked and unquestioned, absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. The world of business in not immune to this maxim, of course. The abuses of power are just as astounding and grotesque, once they’ve snowballed and been reported, but their beginnings are usually more subtle.

Governor Christie did not start his abuse of power simply by creating the Traffic-Gate. That was the most notable abuse of his power to date, but before that he used a police helicopter as his personal limo. There were signs and abuses that should have been questioned and checked. They weren’t, and his abuse of power grew.

What are you doing that might be considered a subtle abuse of power?

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Executive Coaching Leads to High Performance

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 in Co2 Blog | 0 comments


Executive Coaching Performance

High performance executive coaching clients, those that want to go from great to greater, often believe when they begin working with an executive coach that they are going to be fixed or that there will be heavy lifting involved. This myth sometimes keeps them, and may be keeping you, from finding an executive coach.

Most executive coaches do not want you to do heavy lifting. They want to lighten your load. They seek to cultivate and maximize your strengths, and reduce the work you can and probably should be delegating to others. The tasks you struggle with the most can eat up a disproportionate amount of your time. There is usually a better way (or better person) to do it, and executive coaches can help you find it (or that person).

Recently,  a former client of mine said that she no longer judges people as she used to about their deficits. She learned to accept her own shortcomings, and that’s helped her be more accepting of others. Her focus now is on strengths. She has enhanced her organization’s performance by better utilizing her strengths and her coworkers’.

It’s not always possible to put the right people on the bus, as Jim Collins advocates. Sometimes the owners, board, boss, economics, or other restraints prevent you from handpicking your team. In my former client’s case, the owners would not let her make a few sacred cows redundant. Rather than focus on improving their deficits, she now focuses on developing their strengths. She’s found that this has taken them and the organization further and faster.

The post Executive Coaching Leads to High Performance appeared first on Elements of Leadership.

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Effective Meeting Models

Posted by on Feb 19, 2014 in Co2 Blog | 0 comments


Effective Meeting Models

In Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni provides an effective meeting model, but it doesn’t work for all organizations or every type of meeting. A restaurant might benefit from a quick standing meeting with employees, for instance, to go over that day’s roles and responsibilities (as well as new menu items). At a commercial real estate company, however, a daily check-in might feel more onerous than necessary.

Today’s post is on regularly scheduled meetings—when to have them, what to include, and why. Some of these meetings may be right for your organization, and others may not. Consider adding new ones or canceling others based upon your organization’s particular needs. You want to find the golden mean of not too many meetings, but not too few either. You want the meetings you hold to be effective.

Don’t feel beholden to the types of scheduled meetings you’ve had in the past. Be intentional about scheduled meetings. Meetings shouldn’t feel like death. They should feel timely and purposeful.

Annual Strategic Review and Planning Meeting

“Begin with the end in mind,” the late Stephen Covey reminded us. The annual strategic review and planning meeting is a time to give thought to the end—the end of the year that’s just passed and the end of the year to come. The goal is to set up a clear and coherent plan with monthly and weekly milestones, so that these ends are realized.

The annual strategic review and planning meeting takes time. Often companies rush this process because of the cost of retaining outside support and/or the cost of being away from the office. These companies wind up with plans that are willfully ignored because the destination no longer applies. Or the destination is too fuzzy to be remembered by employees as the year goes along.

The annual strategic review and planning meeting is not a place to skimp. This is where great insight and dramatic breakthroughs can arise. These breakthroughs and insights usually come from a deliberate and thorough process: reviewing progress against the previous year’s plan; stress-testing the organization’s values, vision, mission, organizational strategies, objectives, operational strategies, and actions; examining internal and external market research; and using a SWOT process to identify the appropriate organizational strategies and actions.

This annual strategic review and planning meeting may take as long as a week (because you will be pre-deciding how to act should certain key assumptions come to pass), but when done well it leads to a more purposeful and energized commitment to the future. People won’t lose sight of the destination midway through the year. They know where they’re headed and why.

Quarterly Strategic Review Meeting

Our ability to predict the future is getting more and more difficult as the population grows, markets shift, competitors switch strategies, and systems interact. This lack of certainty and inability to accurately predict our environment has led many organizations to meet more frequently to reaffirm direction and, if necessary, to re-align (based upon new threats or opportunities). Adding three quarterly review meetings (the fourth will simply be combined with the annual planning meeting) allows you to review how your strategic plan is holding up. In some organizations, it’s also an opportunity to rein in an entrepreneur who may be subverting the annual plan because of a burning desire to implement a new, new idea!

Monthly Staff Meetings

Monthly staff meetings are usually reserved for reviewing financial performance, balance scorecard objectives, and major actions that have been forecasted in the annual strategic planning meetings. It’s an opportunity to assess what is working and what isn’t.

Your financial statements should be closed no later than five business days into the next month (If it is taking longer, your financial person needs to speed the process up. I was once told it could only be done in 14 days; we made it an organizational objective, and, sure enough, it got done in two business days.) The financial report should be sent prior to the meeting and read by all participants. There is no bigger waste of time than reviewing data together as a group.

Each staff member should be prepared to give a short report that contains explanations for positive and negative deviations from the plan as well as their expectations going forward. Naturally, it’s best for everyone to receive the monthly numbers a few days prior to preparing these short reports. It’s even better if the staff members send out their reports prior to the meeting. As I mentioned above, reviewing data as a group is usually a waste of time. Meetings should be reserved for meaningful discussion.

Among the items up for discussion may be the larger topics that surface in the shorter weekly and daily meetings—ones that are put in the proverbial parking lot. While monthly meetings are a good time to have these larger-topic discussions, be careful not to schedule too many items for any one meeting.

Monthly meetings may be as short as 90 minutes or as long as 4 hours. I have known companies to have the meeting last a full day. Ugh. There are only so many all-day meetings that people can and ought to handle.

Weekly Operational Meetings

Weekly operational meetings should be kept under 90 minutes. Many senior executives become very impatient in these weekly meetings, and they tend to speed up topics that need more time. As a result, the organization never truly deals with these issues and begins to develop work-arounds and work-avoidance behaviors. Rather than try to rush through big, intense issues, put them in a parking lot for your monthly or quarterly meetings and allocate enough time to vet them fully.

The focus of weekly meetings should be on reaching the milestones established in the annual and quarterly reviews. If gaps emerge, action plans must be developed.

If you’re looking for a new approach to weekly meetings, try using the 5/15 report developed by CEO Yvon Chouinard.

Daily Check-in Meeting:

Daily meetings can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as 30. The purpose is to provide headlines or sound bites of critical information needed for those on the team to effectively do their jobs. If there are decisions that need to be authorized, try signing off on all approvals during this meeting, rather than having your day disrupted multiple times. Research tells us that it takes the average person 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task after an interruption, and complete shifts in focus (like most approval requests) are the most disruptive.  

Daily meetings are usually scheduled early in the day, so that everybody is in alignment and aware of critical information from the start. I prefer to sit for these types of meetings, but some like to do them standing. Some even “meet” over the phone on their drive in to the office.

If you’re having trouble keeping these meetings short or want to improve summarizing skills, here are some activities you might try: 

  1. Have each employee take a magazine article or a book on a complicated topic and have them summarize that topic in 60 seconds or less.
  2. Use the CAR Method of interviewing for sharing information: Challenge, Action, Result.
  3. Use an egg timer to ensure people get to the point quickly.
  4. Instead of complaining, turn your complaint into a request.

Remember this is not a prescriptive list; each business must find its business rhythm and discover what types of meetings work best. You want to find the golden mean of meeting enough, but not too much. And you want those meetings to feel timely and purposeful. Do they?

The post Effective Meeting Models appeared first on Elements of Leadership.

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Cultural DNA Offers Big Return$

Posted by on Feb 19, 2014 in Co2 Blog | 0 comments


Cultural DNA

As an entrepreneur, you can involve yourself in just about any decision when the company is in its early stage. As the company grows, however, it it becomes harder stay on top of every issue. You do your best to prioritize and manage your involvement, but at a certain point you feel overwhelmed–like you’re drinking from a fire hose. There are just too many high-priority issues, and you feel like you’re reacting and responding, not planning and innovating. Your days get longer, and you’re exhausted, and, worse, it feels like the magic is gone. You’re not as effective and discerning as you once were, it seems, and your people are pushing back.

You’re not alone, though it may feel like you are.

When their organizations start to take off, entrepreneurs often struggle to lead. They still have their passion and vision, but they don’t always know when to make decisions and when to delegate. They want to delegate more, but they’re not sure they can trust others as much as they trust themselves. Not surprisingly, their coworkers find the mix of delegation and CEO interference highly unpredictable and irritating. They feel like throwing up their hands, too! That’s when they start to push back.

As CEO, you can change the cultural DNA of your organization–from a culture of dependence and unpredictability to one of independence and accountability. You have the ability to go into the double-helix and adjust the coding. Here’s how: Instead of intervening with each challenge and issue that you observe, ask “Whose decision is it?

Let your people do the jobs they were hired to do. (If their job description and responsibilities have changed since then, be sure that they are updated and accurate!) Honor your team members by honoring their job descriptions and responsibilities. Let them build their trust in you, and you in them, by holding them accountable for their results. You must, however, allow them the room and independence to do their jobs their own way.

Creating a culture of independence and accountability will reduce your stress, build a more resilient organization, and improve morale.

If you start making others’ decisions for them, however, the cultural DNA will revert to its previous form, and you’ll lose accountability. You’ll find yourself feeling lonely again at the top with too many decisions to make and not enough time to make them well.

The post Cultural DNA Offers Big Return$ appeared first on Elements of Leadership.

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