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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.
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Do the Same Rules Apply to You?

If you’re following the news this week, you’ve seen the headlines about Hillary Clinton using a private email account supported by her own private email server during the four years she served as secretary of State. As far as this blog is concerned, I’m not really interested in speculating on her motivation or intent in doing so. Nor, am I interested in spending time here parsing the legalities of how she managed her email.

What I am interested in, though, is the prompt that this story provides to consider this question: 

“If you’re a leader, do the same rules that apply to everyone else apply to you?”

In Clinton’s case, it’s pretty clear that the expectation was that she would conduct her official email correspondence on a State Department email account. No doubt, there were plenty of people at the department (and not just the folks in IT) who knew she wasn’t sending or receiving emails at a state.gov email address. But how hard is it to push back on a leader with the profile of Hillary Clinton? Pretty hard, apparently.

If you’re the leader of a team of any size ...

Three Ways to Coach the Person, Not the Problem

Back when we were co-teaching The Flow of Coaching module at the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program, my good friend, hero and fellow Davidson College alum Frank Ball used to do a funny bit with a bottle of water. To make the point that coaches and leaders should coach people and not problems, Frank would put a bottle of water on the table in the front of the room and say, “This bottle of water represents the problem.” Then he would start coaching the bottle of water. Needless to say, he never got very far. The bottle just didn’t have that many insights on what to change or how to change it.

That’s the thing. People have insights, problems don’t. If you’re a leader who cares about growing and developing your people, you have to coach them, not their problems.

That’s counterintuitive for a lot of leaders and even a lot of professional coaches. The solution to the problem is so obvious (to you) that you just want to jump in there and solve it for them.  That’s not coaching; that’s providing the answer. There’s not much growth in that approach. In fact ...

What Would You Say in Your Acceptance Speech?

So imagine this. You’re an Academy Awards nominee and you’ve just won a coveted Oscar. (Maybe even a super cool Lego Oscar like Oprah got.) You’ve got around 60 seconds at the podium to say what’s on your heart before the orchestra cranks it up and starts playing you off the stage.

What would you say?

Would you follow the lead of Best Supporting Actor winner J.K. Simmons and thank your wife and kids first and then wrap it up by encouraging people everywhere to call, not text, their parents and let them talk as long as they want?

Would you make a statement on societal issues like Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette did on equal pay for women or Best Song co-winner John Legend did on voting rights and sentencing and prison reform?

Perhaps you’d tell a moving personal story like Graham Moore, the winner of the Best Adapted Screenplay award for The Imitation Game. Making a connection between the life of the hero of the movie, Alan Turing, and his own journey, Moore disclosed:

“I tried to commit suicide at 16, and now I’m standing here. I would like for ...

A Lesson on Managing Expectations

My son Brad and I spent a couple of hours at CarMax yesterday afternoon. After moving to a new apartment building without enough parking spaces for his car, he decided to sell it. He strongly prefers public transportation over driving in Los Angeles anyway so the decision to sell it was pretty easy. He had to move pretty quickly, though, because finding parking on the street around where we live is a very hit or miss proposition. The process of a private sale would have taken too long so he decided to sell it to a dealer. I went to a local CarMax with him to start the process and, within a couple of hours, got a great lesson from Brad on managing your expectations and not getting too attached to outcomes.

Brad was selling a 2005 Volkswagen Golf with pretty low miles for a car that old. He had bought it from his older brother a few years ago when Andy moved to San Francisco and concluded that having a car in the city there was going to be an expensive hassle. When he decided to sell it this weekend, Brad cleaned up the car and did the research ...

What Would Happen If You Let Go?

When I wrote my first book, The Next Level, my goal was to make clear the high but usually unspoken expectations of rising executives. A standard formulation in my field for providing behavioral guidance is keep doing, start doing, stop doing. I suppose that approach would have worked for The Next Level but it didn’t feel quite right to me. Instead, what I landed on was picking up and letting go. To get the different results that are expected in a next level situation, one has to either pick up new behaviors or skills and let go of old ones that no longer serve the expected results.

As I’ve been out talking about and coaching around the book for almost 10 years, I’ve recognized that I stumbled on to something deeper than I realized when I was writingThe Next Level back in 2005. Most people that are talented enough to reach next level scenarios in their careers are pretty good at picking things up. That’s primarily a cognitive exercise of learning to do something new. The high achievers have spent most of their lives learning and mastering new skills. Picking up isn’t a problem ...