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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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What I’ve Learned From the Young Leaders of Stoneman Douglas High School

I took the picture that accompanies this post from atop a trash can at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Montana Avenue in Santa Monica on Saturday. Thousands of people rallied there at the end of one of 800 March for Our Lives events that were held around the world that day for students, their families and friends to speak out against gun violence. As you’re no doubt aware, the largest of the marches took place in Washington, where the student leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida spoke to a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people.

It was only six weeks ago that 17 students were killed in a mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High. This past weekend a million or more people marched around the world in support of the Parkland students’ movement that is encapsulated with the hashtag NeverAgain. Like many of you, I’ve marveled at and been inspired by the initiative of a group of high school students who have organized themselves to lead a nationwide movement to curb gun violence.

Whether you agree or disagree with the policy prescriptions advocated by the students, there are some clear leadership lessons...

How to Stop Selling Your Ideas and Start Enrolling People in Them

Think about the last time you made a big purchase like a car, a major appliance or a mattress. With the possible exception of the car, there’s a pretty good chance you bought the product online after reading a lot of customer reviews. Why was that the case? Of course, one reason is that Amazon and other online retailers make it easy to buy things online. Another likely reason is that you would do anything to avoid an aggressive sales pitch at the dealership or the store.

There are very few of us who like to be sold to. It feels insincere and competitive because our interests rarely align with that of the sales person. A win for you is great value for your money. Unless the incentives are thoughtfully considered, a win for the salesperson is to maximize the money you spend. Making a major purchase in this kind of scenario is usually a stress-inducing experience.

Even though most of us don’t like to be sold to, many of us regularly engage in selling our ideas or initiatives at work. And how effective is that? All too often, the answer is, “Not very.” I was recently reminded...

How Do You Score on the Stress-O-Meter?

Earlier this year, I was talking with an executive coaching client about everything that was going on at once in his business life. The short and incomplete list included integrating an acquired company, moving his company’s headquarters to a new location, the annual planning process and addressing some significant new competitive threats. After hearing his list, I said to him that it reminded me of that list of stressful life events where you add up the scores of each event that is going on in your life to determine how much stress you’re dealing with.

That stressful life events list is called the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory. It was developed in 1967 by two psychiatrists (unsurprisingly named Holmes and Rahe) who analyzed the coincidence of stressful life events with the health outcomes of 5,000 of their patients. If you score more than 300 points on the inventory, the research shows you have about an 80 percent chance of a stress-induced health breakdown in the next two years.

When you read through their list of life events through the lens of 2018, you realize how much the world and society has changed since 1967. For instance, one of the...

How to Tackle Unpleasant Tasks

What do you notice about your thought process when you’re about to start something that’s difficult or intimidating? Is your inner monologue helpful or hurtful? Here’s a hint: Your self-talk is highly predictive of the result you’re going to get.

There’s a simple mental shift you can make that almost guarantees a better result when you have to do something you’re not totally excited about or find a little bit scary. Instead of telling yourself, “I have to do this thing,” say to yourself, “I get to do this thing.”

As I’ve written here before, I learned this little trick years ago from speaking coach Dr. Nick Morgan when he was helping me prepare for the biggest speech I’d ever given up to that point. It was a keynote to a 1,000 people at the Washington Hilton with production values that were through the roof. Spot lights, teleprompters, the works. When you’re walking from the green room to the stage at the Hilton, you walk through a hallway that is filled with pictures of every U.S. President who has ever given a speech there. It’s an intimidating setting...

Leaders Focus on the Trends, Not the Data Points

In some organizations, this is the time of year where individual performance from the previous year is summarized and communicated in annual reviews. (Which, by the way, is an abysmal practice that does nothing to develop people and has at least an 80 percent chance of causing them to feel disengaged.)

One of the reasons annual performance reviews suck so much is that they too often deal in data points, not trends. Too many managers don’t provide meaningful performance feedback on a real-time basis so when performance review time rolls around (as it always and predictably does), they find themselves scrambling for points to make in the review conversation. That’s where the data points come in. In the absence of any meaningful thought or preparation, whatever happened recently suddenly becomes a trend. That meeting you nailed? Good job on that—you had a great year! That presentation you muffed? You know, I’m not sure you’re really a good fit for us.

Here’s the thing. A data point does not a trend make. A data point is exactly that—it’s a data point, not a trend. Lots of data points observed and documented over time...