Archives For development

“How can I get my leaders to do a better job coaching their teams?”

That’s a question I frequently field from the executives and HR partners I support. I hope you’ve asked that question for yourself as well, because it means developing your team is high on your radar. I’ve shared the key skills of coaching as well as my favorite coaching conversational model GROW. That said, a new question arises, which is when should you coach and when shouldn’t you?

If you get this question wrong, you’re likely to either confuse your team or neglect to use your coaching skills to their maximum effectiveness. But if you get it right, you’ll grow as a coach and so will your employees.

Here are three situations when you should not coach and five situations when you should.

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Expertise Matters!

November 21, 2016

Years ago I served as a consultant to two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that worked closely together. At one, the head accountant was a friendly woman who very much enjoyed her job. But on several occasions, there were questions regarding the way the numbers added up and we had to work together to find and fix the errors. One day the president of the other NGO expressed a need for a new accountant and I casually suggested he consider the accountant from the first NGO. He rolled his eyes and commented that her lack of expertise would be a liability on his team.

I’ve thought about that scenario quite a few times since then. There have been occasions where I was clearly out of my league at work. As a young consultant, I struggled so much with the ambiguity of my role that I was frequently unable to sleep at night. I didn’t know what I didn’t know – and worse, I didn’t know who I could ask for help since I was expected to perform anyway. I didn’t want to be like the woman in the first NGO: a friendly and enthusiastic person who couldn’t be taken seriously as a professional.

Expertise isn’t the only critical factor in getting a job done, but it certainly is one of them. In its absence, ideas can’t “tip,” planning gets skewed and results suffer.

Not all of us are required to be the ultimate expert on any given day, but some of us are. Regardless, any expertise you can acquire will go a long way. Here are six ways to build your expertise – regardless of your field.


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“I don’t know that I’ve ever had someone come to me with that level of initiative. If they did, I think I’d be blown away.”

I heard these words from an executive at a leadership event a couple weeks ago. His frustrations weren’t anything new. Why can’t employees take more initiative to solve organizational problems?

It’s a common question with a wide variety of possible answers. Unfortunately, we usually get the level of initiative we reinforce. Let’s take a closer look at what initiative really means – and how to inspire the initiative you need to be effective.

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Thank God for Bosses!

March 2, 2015

You don’t have to look far to look far to see the verbal abuse bosses take. Whether it’s water cooler gossip, happy hour banter or social media posts, people aren’t happy with their leader and don’t hold back when telling why. Some are more politically savvy and only think what others say out loud.

Forbes reported recently that as many as two million employees quit their jobs each month. One of the most significant reasons: they dislike their bosses.

It’s only fair to acknowledge that some managers earn their scorn. I should know, one of my jobs as an organizational development consultant is to help make bosses better bosses. I suppose if everyone was already excellent, I’d have less to do. But it’s only fair to give credit where it’s due. So let’s take a closer look at the great things bosses do.

Business Woman

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Who gets to be a leader? From time to time, I hear an someone admonish a group of individuals by saying “you are all leaders.” Other times, I see organizational messaging indicating “leadership” is reserved for a small group of individuals who occupy certain positions. Which is it? Are we all leaders, or only some of us?

And how do we get more leaders in our organizations?

In order to figure that out, we’ve got to start by defining what leadership is begin with.

Chess Leader

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What if I told you you don’t need to have a great solution for every single problem that comes your way in order to be a competent and mature leader? Well that’s exactly what I’m about to propose. Hopefully it’s as refreshing to you as it is to me. And the best part about it is that it can dramatically improve your leadership influence as well.

Question Marks

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Great Leaders SERVE

July 21, 2014

I had the chance to travel to Greece and Bulgaria recently and give a series of leadership presentations to several university groups with a small team of business professionals. The sights, food and people were reward enough, but getting to share our leadership presentations with the future leaders of two countries added a special sense of purpose to the trip. Even better, our message had been carefully constructed to include leadership principles that have proved timeless across all disciplines. Let me tell you more about it.

Mark Miller developed the SERVE model and curriculum and collaborated with Ken Blanchard to publish it in their book The Secret. Each member of our small team presented a portion of the model. I’ll summarize it for you here below.

Waiter Serving Dish

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5 Ways Employees Learn

March 3, 2014

Where do you send your employees to learn something new? Where do you go yourself?

There a lots of options out there. The best strategy is to take a integrated approach to learning across five broad categories. Here they are.Employee Class Excited

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When you were growing up, you probably spent hours sitting in a classroom listening to teachers deliver lecture after lecture in school. Now, as an adult employee, the thought of sitting through company training seems boring, unproductive, pointless and wasteful compared to actual work you could be doing. And if that’s what you think, your colleagues are likely thinking the same thing. The great news is that learning organizations are shifting their methods. But tactics aren’t the best place to start. They never are. First, your organization needs a new learning mindset. Here’s how you can get one.

Adult Learning ClassFollowing are six specific ways many organizations have traditionally thought about training – with a culture “shift” for each one.

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“So Nathan, tell me what you do for a living?”

“Well, I’m a consultant.”

“A consultant? But what do you actually do?”

This is a typical conversation whenever I meet anyone new – and not just me, but for most folks in my profession. I don’t know why, but it’s always been a little tricky to explain what, in fact, I do for a living. “I solve problems,” or “I help people clarify what they want,” or “I build management solutions” are typical responses. A past employer taught us to say, “I help clients move from issue to outcome, with pace, certainty and strategic agility.”

Management Consultant What People Think I Do

The truth is that I help management understand their needs and then help build solutions to meet those needs. Since my specialty is organizational and talent development, the types of needs I address are usually related to the people and leadership side of organizations. My colleagues in other specialties do the same thing, but with finance, marketing, customers, supply chains, technology or countless other areas.

Whether you are officially a “consultant” or are a specialist, program manager, project manager or just plain responsible for some type of organizational change, I’d like to introduce you to a basic consulting methodology. Continue Reading…

“Good morning, this is Nathan,” I greeted the caller on my cubicle phone several years ago.

“Yes, this is Bill. I’m a Vice President at First Big Bank. I need to know where our $77 million is.”


“Uh, yes,” I gulped. “Well… do you have an account number?” I was working in the investor reporting department of a major financial institution at my first job out of college. A large commercial property had paid off that week and the payment was split between two separate beneficiaries. As I had entered the $77 million wire into the electronic payment system, I was already preparing my braggadocio about the large amounts of cash I routinely handled in my job (even though this was a special circumstance and was only “electronic” money). But now it looked as though my day was about to be ruined. As I checked the account, my fears were confirmed.

“Um, I think I’m going to have to call you back…” I mustered. Epic. Fail.

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Powerful Question #2

February 6, 2013

Question Mark 2Everyone has development experiences throughout their life and career outside of formal training programs (school, professional certifications, etc.) that impact the way they perform as a person, professional, and a leader.

What’s one of the richest leadership development experiences you’ve ever had and how has it helped shape your leadership ability?

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