Leadership Solutions from Read Solutions Group

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pattern recognition

Annie McKee, of Wharton, speaking at the Philadelphia ICF Conference last week said that there is only one cognitive ability that differentiates average from outstanding leaders - that of pattern recognition.

Do you agree that pattern recognition - a fundamental skill in strategic thinking and change through systems thinking - is a key underlying differentiator?

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Power to Get Things Done - Your Reputation

Do you have the power to get things done? Do you know how to leverage your knowledge, position and personality to lead and influence others?

What I hear from my HR contacts most frequently is that they are looking for coaching clients to have a bigger impact on the organization. From my clients, I hear that they want more success for themselves, but they don't want to change who they are. These clients are always smart, competent, dedicated people, so the coaching question is not what to change, but rather about how to leverage their strengths in new ways.

This articles focuses on reputation and impact it has on the ability to lead in organizations. It includes research about the power of reputation from two recent books - The Elements of Power by Terry R. Bacon and Power by Jeffery Pfeffer.

If you are frustrated in your career and want to learn how to have greater influence and power, or if you are seeing people in your organization limiting their impact through their behaviors, give me a call or drop me a line to talk about some quick changes that will have a lasting impact.

The Power of Reputation

Power within organizations can arise from formal authority and position, but true leadership power is defined relative to others. It is observable in people's willingness to follow, and more critically, their willingness to take risks for the leader.

Reputation is defined by Bacon as "an estimation of the overall quality of a person by others in the community to which the person belongs." Research shows that reputation has a significant impact on perceived power and being viewed as a role model.

Accomplishments matter, so does Reputation.

Reputation is one area where perception affects reality. If, prior to a presentation, sales meeting or interview, you are described as a rising star; what impact will that have on the expectations of the people you are to meet? In comparison, consider the impact if you are described in only "so-so" terms. Expectations set by a reputation will influence the nature of the interactions. In fact, Bacon's research indicates that people with strong reputations are more successful at building alliances, gaining consensus, negotiating, persuading through logical reasoning, building rapport, and using formal authority without causing distrust.

Reputations take time to develop; however they can be damaged quickly when norms of behavior are violated. To build or enhance a reputation, consider these steps.

  1. Become aware of what your reputation is. Ask trusted advisers what you are known for; listen to how you are introduced; consider what people might say about you when you aren't listening.
  2. Make early good impressions. The reality is that it is difficult to make a good impression each and every time. The key is to use your networking to engage in a lot of interactions and seek to present yourself in the best light each time.
  3. Develop a "brand you" - knowing and leveraging your strengths, understanding the distinctive role that you bring to a team or organization, and build and protect that brand.
  4. Deliver consistent high performance and demonstrate core values in your behavior.
  5. Join organizations and institutions whose reputation will enhance yours.
  6. Know the opinion leaders at all levels and enable them to sing your praises.
  7. Seek opportunities to speak, write and appear in media; avoiding blatant self-promotion.
  8. Develop strong self awareness and self-management; recognizing that leaders live in a glass bubble.

Take some time this week thinking about the reputation of the people you work with; what is the reputation based on? What impact does it how on their power and influence with different constituencies?

Identify a couple of colleagues whose reputation is not as good as it should be and think about what you might advise them to do differently?

Finally, outline the steps that you could take today to build your reputation and to leverage the power and influence associated with it.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Political Landmines

The past few postings (see past posts at Leadership.ReadSolutionsGroup.com ) focused on development of influence skills through understanding your network and thinking consciously about how to develop and utilize it. Operating without a network or oblivious to the nuances of other’s networks represents a walk through a field – not a pretty meadow – a minefield of opportunities for the unaware to be damaged by political landmines.
Consider these common landmines:

Sabotaged – Unfortunately many business environments contain overly political types who will do whatever it takes to look good; frequently at the expense of others. They sabotage projects, proposals and your good name out in the open or behind the scenes. Tools of choice include gossip, fixing blame, interruptions, condescension, cutting off resources, set-ups for failure, and raising doubts about capabilities.

Imprisoned – Too tough, too soft, too analytical, too pushy, not strategic, not a team-player. These labels and others can hold you in a prison of perception. The stories that underpin the label may be old, they may hold some truth, or they could be fabrications of the saboteur. Regardless once conceived and placed in action, these labels take on a life of their own. Repeated behind closed doors, documented in performance reviews and career discussions, and reinforced by whatever evidence meets the need.

Shunned – While managers might say that healthy conflict is great for the team, sometimes those that step forward, challenge conventional wisdom and “take one for the team” may find themselves relegated to lesser duties and cut off from the inside track. Honesty, raising issues and questioning assumptions are important to maintaining integrity. The landmine comes when passion and voice move ahead of the thoughtful analysis of consequences and options.

Lost – What was important yesterday is not today. The boss who was managing your career moves on. The posters and programs espouse the values of the organization, but the people getting ahead don’t seem to. The pace of change in the market place, in Wall Street opinions, in corporate leadership creates a landscape where agendas reverse, morph and compete on an almost daily basis. Rules change and the person not constantly attuned to the clues can quickly get lost and left behind.

Do you need to become a political operative to successfully navigate this minefield? To be recognized, rewarded, influential? No, but becoming savvy, developing and using your network, learning to spot the clues, and knowing how to take pre-emptive action, can allow good leaders to rise and flourish with their integrity intact.

If you are worried that these landmines lie in your path or are exploding around you, or that the leaders in your organization or on your team are stepping on these landmines day after day, let’s talk about how coaching can help identify, avoid and disarm these hazards.

Sherry is also available to lead workshops for management teams, emerging leader programs, and other organizations on Power, Politics and Influence.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, April 08, 2011

Registration Opens Habit Change Coach I

Habit Change Coach™

Training Program

Habit Change Coach I

Coming Again in September 2011

Habit Change Company is pleased to offer a course in Professional Coaching, utilizing a values-based approach to coaching. This approach helps people and organizations achieve their maximum potential. The Professional Coaching Course, “Habit Change Coach I” is an open-enrollment, skill development program that utilizes experientially-based teaching and learning models consistent with programs for adult learners.

This class will be held at Neumann University. To learn more, visit http://www.neumann.edu/academics/contedu/coaching.asp

Instructors: Christine Coward, MSW, PCC and Sherry Read, MS, MBA, CPC, CEC

What is Coaching? Coaching is a profession of partnering with clients in thought-provoking and creative processes that inspire them to maximize their personal and professional potential—according to the International Coach Federation. Among the many benefits of being a certified coach are flexibility and access; coaching can be in-person or phone-based, working with people all over the world, with opportunities for travel. Coaching, as a rewarding career, can provide opportunities to assist others in their personal and professional lives, and can positively impact individuals, groups, and organizations.

After successful completion of Habit Change Coach I you will be able to:

  • Define and distinguish Coaching as a profession, from other helping professions
  • Create the coach-client alliance
  • Use mindfulness to effectively raise awareness across 8 life practices
  • Explore personal thoughts, beliefs, and values and how they affect coaching
  • Act according to guiding ethical principles, including individual, community and global responsibility
  • Apply a spiritually-based approach to serve others
  • Use effective listening skills to deepen client awareness
  • Facilitate learning for results, help clients break through change barriers
  • Use supportive methods of holding clients accountable for making change
  • Access and use intuition to maximize client experience
  • Implement key skills used in coaching and use positive psychology techniques in coaching.

Career Opportunities: Professional coaches have found successful careers with corporate employees, career-changers, hospital patients, and many other individuals and groups from varied disciplines, on a contracted basis. This program may be of particular interest to those looking for a part-time or full-time career as a professional life coach. The most successful coaches offer a blend of academic depth, professional experiences, and appropriate credentials, including academic degrees and demonstrated key competencies like self-awareness, compassion, responsiveness, and flexibility to client’s needs. Effective coaches are also self-directed, life long learners who continually seek knowledge to grow both personally and professionally.

Habit Change Coach I is focused on the student’s personal development as s/he learns how to coach. Components of the class will include mindfulness & eight integrated habit areas, personal life planning, personal values, defining coaching, personal ethics, overcoming psychological barriers, self- management, and branding you as a coach. Upon completion of this course, students will be able to confidently coach clients and begin a part-time or full-time career in coaching.

What past students have said: You created the most conducive atmosphere for learning that I have ever encountered. Thank you for bringing out the best in me!” Amy Friedman

“This has been the best training investment I have made. We were supported from start to finish. I highly recommend this and all their training to everyone.” E. Everett Horsley

“I expected to gain professional skills which I did. I also grew personally which was a wonderful gift.” Tamara Gohean

“Taking the coaching class helped me to enter a new professional venue. The class combines theory, experiential learning, personal meditation and group process. It is a high caliber class which helped me reclaim my talents and celebrate them.” Ann David Strohminger

For more information on Habit Change Company please visit www.thehabitco.com and download our prospectus.

Any questions about Habit Change Coach Training program please contact VP of Coaching Services, Chris Coward ccoward@thehabitco.com or call 215.472.1572

Labels: , , ,

Monday, March 07, 2011

Power Up Your Network

When asked where I see my niche as an executive coach, I talk about my passion for the helping people become more influential - the world of Power, Influence and Politics. Whether you are a Six Sigma/Lean Champion trying to implement new processes, a COO driving the business strategy, a regional Managing Director balancing the needs of the region around corporate directives, or an HR director seeking a "seat at the table", becoming and staying influential is key to being able to do good work and get the results you want.

In this newsletter series on Power, Influence and Politics, we are exploring the following topics. How do people become, and stay, influential? Where does power come from, and how can power be increased? Is there a way to be politically astute without being "political"? The last newsletter kicked off the series with the "5 A's of Relationships", that is, understanding your network. In this issue, we'll look at ways to use your network that will enhance power and influence.

As you read this articles, give consideration to how these skills areas could enhance the work of your team, your managers or even your own work. If you see a gap let's talk about how workshops, group coaching or executive coaching can bring about rapid skill development.

Power Up Your Network

In her book, "It's All Politics", Kathleen Reardon Kelley asks the question, "...who will vouch for you if they don't understand you because you seem to foreign, too much of an unknown, too much of a risk?" Powering up your network is about building capability to influence organizations and other people to move in the direction of your good ideas - whether that in hiring you for a job, supporting your strategic initiatives, or giving you the resources and flexibility to pilot a new project. Discussions about networking normally focus on expanding the network, but here we're talking about the key levers in enhancing your existing relationships - your 5 A's of Relationships - Advocates, Advisors, Allies, Acquaintances, and Adversaries.The first step in exploring the 5 A's of Relationships is to build a chart identifying the advocates, advisors, allies, acquaintances and adversaries in each segment of your life – work, community and personal. Fill in the chart with names of people key to your current objective (promotion, job change, implementing a new idea, etc.)

Every sales person knows that we are more likely to trust and respect those who resemble us. The area of FIT is about finding the places of connection, of commonality, of resemblance. To influence fit, do these quick assessments.

  1. What kind of culture your contact live/work in? Is it focused on rational decision-making? Focused on the team and working together? Driven by high standards of excellence and urgency? Or one catalzyed by innovation and creativity?
  2. What key experiences shape the thinking of your contact?
  3. Do you have any similar intellectual pursuits or common outside interests?

Being uniquely different is an asset, yet in powering up your network, it's critical to build a connection to the people in your network by establishing how you FIT together. Choose your topics, present your ideas, and demonstrate respect for them with a focus on the FIT - the points of resemblance.

While the concept of "face" is commonly thought of in an Asian context, sociologists note that it is an aspect of every social interaction. Face is the social value we claim for ourselves or grant to other during a contact.

As you approach a conversation, email, or meeting, consider the following:

  1. Am I giving and asking for respect and trust in how I put myself forward, in areas of dress, demeanor, handshakes, etc?
  2. Are you finding ways to avoid direct threats to others - graciously saying no, focusing on areas of agreement and cautiously approaching disagreements, and using indirect communication when appropriate?

Whether it's a piece of information, tickets to a football game, helping someone with a task, or giving a reference, gifts or favors feed the power in a network. Research shows that the practice of gift exchange is a factor in building binding relationships with another. It can also be used to gain a form of superiority over other individuals through their indebtedness. Finally, social scientists have demonstrated that requesting favors can strengthen relationships as well, as long as the person being asked is able and willing to do so, and consequently feel benevolent.

The question here is a simple one:

  1. What do I know, have, or can point someone towards that would be of value to them that would strengthen our relationship?
  2. Who is both willing and able to support me in small ways that would increase our connection?

You are the fulcrum around which your network pivots, and a strategic choice becomes where you place the fulcrum - around building a large number of loose ties or a fewer strong ties based on more frequent interactions.

The optimum networking strategy according to Jeffrey Pfeffer in "Power" is to "know a lot of different people from different circles, have multiple organizational affiliations in a variety of different industries and sector that are geographically dispersed, but not necessarily to know the people well or to develop close ties." It's particularly useful to focus these energies around high-status people. The challenge is to build these relationships is a genuine way - one based on the sharing of common ground (fit), respect and trust (face), and reciprocity and benevolence (favors).

  1. What kind of organization could you start that would have a compelling mission that would draw from your diverse and dispersed network, and perhaps draw in high-status individuals?
  2. What meetings, seminars, events, or outings should you attend to expand and deepen your network?
  3. What steps can you routinely take before, during and after you meet new people to add them to your usable network?


  1. BREADTH - Take at look at the 5 A's chart you created. Begin to assess whether you have a widely dispersed network as suggested above, or one very narrowly defined. Where can you connect from the past, the current or future to increase the breadth of your network?
  2. DEPTH - With each interaction, how can I deepen my connection with this person through fit, face or favor? How do I do this in a way that provides positive social value to me and the other person? Please remember to find the balance here!
  3. Based on this assessment, what are the key actions you could take over the next week? The next month? The next 90 days?

The next newsletter will continue the focus on using your network to increase your power and influence. In the meantime, please feel free to send me your comments and questions.

Read Solutions Group focuses on the leadership skills that deliver business results in changing organizations. Sherry is highly skilled at transforming leaders who are successful and stuck, into ones who are confident, capable and moving forward.

Call Sherry today to learn how she can assist you with your personal leadership and career challenges, or how she can support your organization with customized workshops, coach-the-coach training, team facilitation, and executive coaching.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Featured in Delaware Today - Women Today Supplement

An excerpt from the issue ....

Be a Better worker

The glass ceiling. Dress for success. Gender
equality. Over the past 50 years, women
have learned a lot of buzzwords surrounding
women in the workplace. But even with all the
books, articles and workshops, many women
still find it challenging to navigate the workplace
with ease. A change in approach can
work wonders.

  • Realize that your work won’t speak foritself. You need to speak for it. “Talk about what you’re doing,” says Sherry Read of ReadSolutions Group (readsolutionsgroup.com).“Make sure people see your success.”
  • Be more assertive but politically astute.When you ask for what you want, find out how it will benefit the other person, Read says. If you receive the account, promotion or new assistant, how will that help the companyor your boss? “Men seem to understand that there are tradeoffs,” Read says. “There’s a price to be paid.” Learn to negotiate. Toomany times a woman will take a job without negotiating salary, benefits or vacation, notes Judy Czyzewski, ex-officio of Wilmington Women in Business, a support and networking organization. A man, however, often plays hardball.
  • Don’t bring your personal life to work. Never whine about a family situation. Ask for what you need, such as time to care for a sick child, but tell your boss how you will compensate the company for the time you’re away from work, such as working from home or putting in the extra hours when the child is well, Read says.
  • Find a way to respect colleagues you don’t like. If you can respect them, you can work together, Read says.
  • Learn and network. “You can really garner support. ‘We can do this together,’” Czyzewski says. For information on WWB, visit wwb.org.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Synergy, according to Wikipedia, occurs when different entities cooperate advantageously for a final outcome; simply that the whole becomes greater than the sum of the individual parts. So what does a synergistic leader look like?

In their book, Leadership Agility, Joiner and Josephs, define synergists as those who “experience leadership as participation in a palpable life purpose that benefits others while serving as a vehicle for personal transformation.” There were many parts to that statement that we’ll explore through the story of Barb, a fictional character.

If you are curious about you can extend your leadership skills or the skills within your team or your organization, give me a call (+1 (302) 545-2892, drop me an email, or learn more at www.ReadSolutionsGroup.com

Greater than the Sum of the Parts

Barb was hired by Larry, a senior Plant Manager, to lead the Human Resources function at his plant. Larry had become excited about the possibilities for radically changing how his plant operated after reading The Lean Manager. He was hoping that Barb would bring a fresh new perspective his management team.

Barb had an interesting track record. She’s begun her career as a pulp and paper engineer, working in various parts of paper-making process, putting in a stint in the training functions, and earning her Six Sigma green belt. Desiring a break from the paper industry, Barb learned about a foundation seeking to improve health in Mali through the implementation of simple behavioral changes. During her year in Africa, Barb realized how own mindsets, beliefs and patterns of behavior got in the way of influencing behavioral change in others. She was fortunate to work with some masterful influencers, and learned how to become acutely aware of what others were thinking and feeling. These skills helped her work through conflicts and bring forward new solutions that supported the needs of the local communities and improved health conditions.

While proud of her work, Barb believed that she could have a broader impact on the world, by bringing her influence skills back into the corporate world. Returning to the US, Barb entered into a graduate program in Leadership and Organizational Change. Due to family constraints, Barb looked for a position in the local community and was thrilled when she talked with Larry about the opportunity at his plant. It was at the level of changing the world, but would give her real-world experience in bringing about change in a very traditional environment.

Barb was barely in the door before the union officials were filing grievances about work cells, the logistics manager was complaining about the manufacturing manager’s incompetence at understanding material flow, and the maintenance supervisors were threatening to quit over disruptions to their change-over processes. Friday afternoon of her first week came around and Barb was thinking about quitting. Arriving home that night, she found in her mail a letter from her colleagues in Mali. They talked about how much progress had been made, the ongoing conflicts and challenges, the children that were now living and studying as a result of the improvements, and how confident they were that she would be able to bring about changes in whatever place she chose. Barb was humbled. How could she walk away from this plant? She knew that if Larry wasn’t able to bring about the desired changes, it was only time before more people would be out of work and there would be one more empty factory on the landscape. A weekend of reading, meditation, and reflection gave Barb the strength to start again the following week. She didn’t know how she would do it, but she was determined to use her knowledge of influence in making this operation a star in the company, in community and maybe, if she was lucky, engage the plant in how they could make the world a better place.

Barb spent the next two years working hand-in-hand with Larry. They listened, listened, and listened to all of the stakeholders, from the union rep, to the mayor of the town, to the corporate R&D folks. They heard and acknowledged the pain and frustration of the slow decline in the business, and they searched for and shined spotlights on every bit of agreement or progress. Over time, they consistently seemed to bring together apparently irreconcilable viewpoints into creative solutions. They kept a focus not just on the question of what contributions could this plant make to the company, but how could this plant make contributions to improving the world we live in. By keeping a vision beyond the walls of the plan, they found that teams began to spring up focused on green initiatives, on community outreach, and even supporting Barb’s former colleagues in Mali with materials and ideas. The best part was that the team cut across functions, levels and union/management ranks increasing collaboration not just on the teams but in the workplace. Looking back, Barb would say that neither she nor Larry knew where their path might lead when they started out, but that somehow they were okay with the “not knowing”.

Characteristics of Synergists:

Synergists have well-developed competencies of the leader levels before them. What sets them apart are:

  • A sense of life purpose that is displayed through the initiatives they undertake
  • A highly collaborative style focused on amplifying the positives and turning adversaries into friends and allies
  • A focus on the question of what contributions this company or organization can make to the world, to its people, through its work
  • A powerful presence that allows a vision which serves multiple, conflicting stakeholders views and interests
  • A comfort and ease in working on ill-structured problems; of long periods of “not knowing”
  • An ability to resolve apparently irreconcilable conflicts and complex interdependent issues

Coaching the Synergist

  1. Take time to experience life to the fullest. Become intensely aware of your own feelings, emotions and compassion.
  2. Continually develop and deepen your sense of purpose and explore how you can align others’ energy with your direction
  3. Practice holding in your mind, without judgment, conflicting perspectives, views and interests
  4. Increase your agility in choosing and using the appropriate style – expertise, authority, personal and political power, facilitation, integration, visionary, participative, directive, etc.

Labels: , , ,