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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

How to Know if You’re Keeping the Right Pace for Yourself

This is the time of the year when I’m doing a lot of reading and coaching around the results of the Next Level 360 feedback instrument. The 360 provides a picture of how leaders are doing around three vital leadership imperatives: managing yourself, leveraging your team and engaging your colleagues. As I’ve written here before, I completely believe that managing yourself effectively is the foundational imperative. If you’re not doing that well, then you’re not going to be very effective at the other two.

And, if there’s one behavior that underlies managing yourself effectively, it’s pacing yourself by building in regular breaks from work. I have not run a Next Level 360 or self-assessment for a group of leaders in the past 10 years where pacing yourself was not the number one development opportunity flagged in the average scores for the group.

And, as they say, all information is lost through averaging. Pacing yourself by building in regular breaks from work may be the number one identified opportunity but that phrase means different things to different people. It starts with figuring out what a break from work means to you. For a lot of...

What Did You Learn From Your Worst Boss Ever?

My first job out of graduate school was as a first year associate in a Wall Street investment bank whose last of the 10 corporate values printed in their annual report was, “Have fun!” Sadly, I did not.

Decades later, it remains the worst place I ever worked or have seen other people working in in 20 years of leadership development work. I didn’t last long there and a year later was back in my home state of West Virginia leading a small team of researchers in the Governor’s economic development office. One of the great benefits of my job was a wonderful administrative assistant named Freda. She was kind, smart and made sure stuff got done. On my first morning in the new office, she took me aside and asked me, “What’s your leadership style?”

I didn’t have an answer. After sitting there for a few moments I think I said something like, “Whatever they did at the investment bank, I’m going to do the opposite.” So that was my guide. If my terrible bosses in New York managed by fear, intimidation, uncertainty and pitting people against each other, I was going to be...

Stop Inspiring Your Team to Underperform

Every so often I hear a phrase so well turned that I say to myself, “I wish I had thought of that.” That happened a few months ago when I was talking with a top executive of a Fortune 500 company to get his feedback on a colleague who was one of my executive coaching clients. This exec loved my client and compared him quite favorably to his predecessor who, the exec said, regularly “inspired his team to underperformance.”

I laughed out loud when he said that and asked him to elaborate on how that happened. The essence of his answer was that the predecessor leader didn’t set high enough expectations for his team and failed to even follow through on the low bar that he did set.

In close to 20 years of individual and group coaching, I’ve seen a lot of well-intentioned leaders who, by setting the bar too low, inspired their teams to underperformance.

During that period, my company has run over a thousand 360-degree leadership assessments based on the success behaviors I highlight in my book, The Next Level. I’ve read every one of those assessments and have come to some conclusions about...

Don’t Assume the Worst

When I asked communications expert, Dr. Nick Morgan, for his one best piece of advice for anyone who wants to be a more effective virtual communicator, his answer was quick, simple and powerful, “Don’t assume the worst.” Here’s the backstory on why Nick offered that advice and how you can apply it for positive outcomes.

Towards the end of last year, I interviewed Nick about what he learned in writing his latest book on how to communicate effectively through virtual platforms like email, text, and video conferencing. The book is called Can You Hear Me? and I highly recommend it.

Nick is a true expert on the art of interpersonal communication and, I think it’s fair to say, is not a fan of virtual communications when direct person-to-person three-dimensional communication is an option. But, Nick is also a realist and, because getting work done relies more and more on virtual communications every day, he wrote his book to help leaders make the best of a challenging situation.

One of the points Nick made in our conversation is that virtual communications often go nowhere or, worse, go off the rails is because we can’t get all of...

Are You Working With People or Through People?

One of the mentors I feel very fortunate to have had in my life was the late Richard Neustadt, a founding professor of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and author of the classic book Presidential Power. When I was a student at the Kennedy School in the mid-80’s, I had Dr. Neustadt for a couple of classes, got to work with him on some special projects and was part of a group of students he’d occasionally have over to his house to teach us about the subtleties of scotch whiskey.

There are a lot of insights that Dick Neustadt is remembered for but the one that is probably the most cited is that, in spite of the awesome resources at his (and, someday soon, her) command, the true power of the president of the United States is the power to persuade. To really be effective in accomplishing his agenda, the president must influence different stakeholders and constituencies to work with him (or her).

Note the key preposition in that last sentence. It’s with. As an executive I spoke with recently reminded me, great leaders work with people, not through people. You may, at first, think...