Category Archives: Leadership

2020 Vision: 3 Conversations to Have About the Future Today

David Coffaro
David Coffaro

Strategy Imagine it’s New Year’s Eve 2020. It’s getting close to midnight and under your breath, you say to yourself “I can’t believe the year went by so fast!”

You have a few quiet moments by yourself before gathering with family and friends to join the countdown to 2021, and you reflect back on highlights of the year that’s quickly coming to a close. You mentally run through some of your personal highlights: family, vacation, social gatherings, exciting events. Then like most leaders, you roll through scenes from your work life that stand out.

As you think back over 2020, what are the top two or three highlights that come to mind? What were the greatest contributions your team made to the success of your organization? Which activities that your team intentionally engaged in had the greatest impact toward fulfilling the company’s vision?

Right now, thinking about the completion of a year that hasn’t yet begun may seem far off in the future. This is the time of year when leaders are fine-tuning their financial plans and budgets for 2020 and generally focused on the question “How will we make our numbers next year?” The numbers question is important; we have to deliver expected financial results.

But numbers in isolation are simply a reflection of what’s already happened. They quantify results of the activities we’ve already completed and how effectively we executed upon them. They are not a picture of what we want to make happen. That’s where the vision thing comes into the conversation.

2020 Vision

As you think about the impact your organization will make in 2020 beyond the financial results you plan to create, consider revisiting the vision. Even if your organization’s vision has been more cosmetic than actionable, this is the perfect time for your team to delve into three strategic questions that can shape accomplishments in the upcoming year. These are three conversations about tomorrow for today:

Conversation No. 1

How well do our actions align with our company’s vision? This conversation requires a candid self-assessment of the vision to make sure it’s real and the team owns it. If there’s any doubt about true buy-in to the vision, an early strategic priority leading into 2020 is to invest leadership team time into redefining where you’re going. Vision sets an organization’s course and informs activities. 

What do we do (mission), why do we do it (purpose), and how do we fulfill our mission (strategy) are essential questions an organization must answer in order to define its place in the world. Taken together, the answers define an organization’s vision.

Conversation No. 2

What are the most important two or three strategic priorities we want to deliver beyond the expected financial results in 2020? With your vision as the guide, this conversation informs specific areas of impact your team will focus upon beginning now. Vision is irrelevant unless it informs priorities and those priorities define actions.

This conversation takes a deductive “if, then” approach: “if our No. 1 priority is acquiring and developing new talent, then we will _________”.  This conversation also leads to rich self-assessment of previously stated strategic priorities. If a team said their No. 1 priority last year was acquiring and developing talent, yet no specific actions were taken, it wasn’t really a priority.

Conversation No. 3

What are the areas in our organization we should be looking at for self-disruption? During the late 1990s tech boom, the concept of disruption grabbed the attention of the business world. New entrants in a market gave birth to novel ways of serving customers, gained share and changed industries. While disruption has become a core strategy, today the question is “where are there opportunities to self-disrupt?” 

This conversation invites your team to temporarily step outside their roles, look at the organization from a third-party observer perspective and ask the question “if we were starting this business from scratch today, how would we do it?” It requires temporarily letting go of legacy constraints and look at your operation the way a potential disruptor would see things, then challenge your organization to initiate self-disruption.

One of the greatest responsibilities we hold as leaders is driving continual evolution of the organization toward a well-defined future state. Today is the right day to begin these conversations about the 2020 vision your team wants to create. Today you can write scenes of the story you’ll look back to with great fulfillment on New Year’s Eve 2020.

Author: David Coffaro, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Book Review: “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

This book review is on “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown and published by Penguin-Random House (2018). Brene Brown is one of my favorite authors on leadership. She is a social worker and researcher at the University of Houston.

Her TED Talks on Vulnerability is amazing. Her recent work “Dare to Lead” is one of my top favorite leadership books of 2018. She explains why true leadership is about vulnerability and connection-not power and strength.

Brown describes the four skills needed to become a courageous leader. These skill sets are 100% teachable, observable and measurable.The first and most important skill is Rumbling with Vulnerability. Brown had assumed that the biggest barrier to courageous leadership would be fear, but her research indicated that fear is not a barrier. In fact, leaders she interviewed admitted to being fearful much of the time. The real barrier is how people armor themselves to deal with the fear. It is critical to understand that we all self-protect when we feel scared, defensive, or vulnerable.

A great tool to use when Rumbling with Vulnerability is curiosity. “When I find myself in a tough situation or I’m about to receive some hard feedback, instead of getting my armor up, I stay open and ask questions, so I can get specific information,” Brown explains. In the book she identifies 16 different ways we armor ourselves and offers ways to move that armor out of the way to become a daring, courageous leader.

The second skill is Living into Your Values. Leaders constantly must do tough things, give hard feedback, put bold ideas into motion while being unsure of the outcome, and take many risks. Courageous leaders are able to do this consistently because they operate with a clear set of values and behaviors that line up with those values. “It is important to have values as a leader, but it is critical to operationalize them. Otherwise they are just vague concepts, not guiding principles,” Brown explains.

The third skill, Braving Trust, can be tricky because many leaders don’t know how to talk about trust. Direct reports have to trust their leaders in order to have honest conversations and both parties have to be in an unarmored position. It’s no secret that the highest performing teams are built on a foundation of trust. And building trust is a skill that can be taught and learned.

The fourth skill is Learning to Rise and deals with the ability to re-set after an error or mistake. The ability to be resilient helps leaders learn from mistakes quickly, share those learnings, and continue to move forward in a positive way. And, yes, it is a skill that every leader can learn.

“Courage is a skill set we can teach, measure, and observe, but we are choosing not to because it is an investment of energy and time and it takes muscle building. But why are we choosing not to do it? If we need braver leaders, but we’re not investing in skilling them up, what is getting in the way?” asked Brown.

“Dare to Lead” is the ultimate playbook that offers practical skill-building tools for creating brave leaders in your organization. You will not be disappointed.  (Chad Gordon-BleacherLeaderChat)

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Leadership Is About Coaching – Here’s How To Do It Well

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

Michael Bungay Stanier is a Canadian coach. He is the author of “ The Coaching Habit.” He is one of my favorite people on coaching.

The following piece of his is terrific.” If you’re a leader or a manager, you probably wear a lot of hats. You’re a project manager, delegator, spokesperson, and most importantly, a coach.

But the problem is that no one ever tells you how to be an effective coach, or even what that means. Are you supposed to act like a sports coach? A therapist? Perform some bizarre (and arcane) HR ritual?

The answer is none of the above. In fact, it’s about making one tiny change to your behavior, one that will bring about significant impact. Being a coach is about being more curious, and being slow to give advice and take action.

But the truth is, most of us are advice-giving maniacs. We do not listen as much as we should. Being curious involves asking questions. The best question is What else?? It is based on the understanding that the first answer someone gives is never their only answer.

Coaching is an essential leadership behavior. Curiosity is the driving force in being more coach-like. Questions fuel curiosity. Remember as a leader and a manager, your job is not to have all of the answers-but to guide your employees to come up with the right ones.”

Author:  Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Good Leaders are Confident…But OOPS! Overconfident?

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

Good leaders are confident. Their confidence inspires trust and a sense of fulfillment for the mission. But there can be a fine line between confidence and overconfidence. The Wall Street Journal recently published an excellent article about this conundrum.[1] I will address the four questions, which are very explanatory, then add the characteristics that show up in leaders who are arrogant (overconfident?).

Four questions to ask yourself: The author of the article, Sydney Finkelstein, notes four questions that allow a leader to do a self-evaluation. They are:

            • How much time do I really spend listening?

            • Do I originate most of the ideas?

            • Do I often feel like I am the smartest person in the room?

            • Do I think of myself as indispensable to my business’s success?

The article includes some findings from a random survey of workers across the US, done online, that distinguishes characteristics of ‘bad’ managers called “The Impact of Arrogance”. Many relate to being overconfident. They are:

            • Doesn’t show concern for my career and personal development.

            • Isn’t open or interested in feedback.

            • Wants to prove himself/herself right.

            • Isn’t self-aware.

            • Betrays trust.

            • Plays favorites.

            • Doesn’t listen.

Believing in yourself makes for better outcomes. But as the author says, “in management as with everything else, you really can have too much of a good thing”.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org



[1]Confident or Overconfident? Four questions to Ask Yourself” by Dr. Sydney  Finkelstein (Dartmouth College), the Wall Street Journal {C-Suite Strategies), February 25, 2019.

What We Can Learn From Baseball

Dave Blankenhorn

A recent article, authored by Dave Blankenhorn (my son), in The Zweig Letter uses an interesting baseball story to illustrate the importance of “top down” and “ bottom up” communication in any organization.

There was much controversy in the last World Series when Dave Roberts, the Dodger manager, removed pitcher Rich Hill in the seventh inning who had at that point held the Sox to only one hit. The result was a Dodger loss which led to their eventual defeat.

What happened?

Following the game, it was revealed that the decision to remove Hill stemmed from a quick statement Hill had made in the dugout at the end of the sixth inning expressing concern to Roberts that he might not be able to hold up much longer. Roberts did not reply. So after walking the lead off hitter in the seventh Roberts walked to the mound to simply check in on Hill. He did not raise his hand signaling for a reliever. It was just a check-in. However, Hill assumed he was coming to remove him. Without a word he handed the ball to Roberts and walked off the mound. This lack of communication changed the trajectory of the game and in the end the World Series. Both said later that had either of them followed up with a question to clarify the intent of the other then Hill would have stayed in the game and the World Series would possibly have ended in a different way.

This story highlights the importance of complete and clear communication in any organization. Leadership needs to set a clear vision on the culture and strategy and let the staff know where to focus their energy. In turn staff needs to listen to staff to gain that input on how to be more effective. Any explicit or implicit message should be clarified to avoid a “7th inning” moment that could do great harm to your organization.

Author: Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Three Reasons to Hire a Coach

Karen Haren

Leaders in not-for-profit organizations frequently ask why would I hire a coach. In my own experience as a leader and in coaching executives, here are three reasons you might want to hire a coach.

It can be lonely at the top. Even though there are others who work in your organization, you can feel isolated. As a leader, you wrestle with many issues that you can’t share with your colleagues, direct reports, boss or the board. A coach could help you talk through the problem or opportunity and develop your strategies.

You are dealing with change. You are stepping into uncharted territory with a new job, project or responsibilities. You may want to make a career move or you want to retire. A new phase can be unsettling and cause insecurity. A coach can listen to you and help you chart your course. A coach can accelerate your learning through the transition.

You are up to your assets in alligators. It’s hard to remember your objective was to drain the swamp. You may be stressing over a personnel problem or worried that you can’t raise enough money to keep the organization afloat. The three most frequent subjects raised by not for profit executives are personnel, fund raising and boards of directors. A coach can let you vent and help you work through options to chart your course.

Coaching is a relationship process that can help you solve problems, manage change and/or reach goals. Being clear about your reason for hiring a coach will accelerate the process of reaching your objective.

Author:  Karen Haren, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Conducting an Effective Meeting

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

Do you dread attending the weekly staff meeting and other meetings on your calendar?? Melanie Woodword from Balance Small Business offers the following advice:

“7 Tips For Effective Meetings 

Establish the Meeting’s Objectives

Before sending out a meeting alert and putting it on your calendar, ask yourself why you want to hold a meeting and determine the objective.  Is it a meeting to bring employees up to speed on a change in management?  Are you making a decision regarding a project?  Is it a brainstorming session for a new business strategy?  Be certain that gathering employees in a room for face-to-face discussion and interaction is necessary for your objective; if the purpose of the meeting is a status update, perhaps sending out a group email is a better use of everyone’s time.

Communicate the Purpose of the Meeting

When inviting others to your meeting, be clear about the purpose of the meeting.  This will not only keep you focused but will enable employees to attend the meeting prepared either with documents or with thoughts on the matter at hand.  Communication is essential for an effective meeting.

Be Selective about Attendees

No one appreciates attending a meeting that has no connection to them or their work.  Determine who really needs to be there and why.  Whose input do you need?  Which colleagues must participate and will likely have questions on the matter?  If someone is on your list that simply needs to be informed of what was discussed, then do them a favor and take them off the list.  They can be easily updated with a follow-up email.  Time is valuable and no employer wants to negatively impact productivity by having employees sit in on meetings that are unnecessary.

You Must Create a Meeting Agenda

Holding a meeting without a set meeting agenda is akin to climbing into a sailboat and hoping the wind takes you where you want to go.  You will – quite literally – be lost at sea.  Your meeting agenda will guide you to your final destination.  Include topics to be discussed and who will be addressing each item if others are taking part.  Email the agenda to attendees ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect and comes prepared.

Stick to Your Plan

Even the best-planned meeting will go awry if the discussion gets derailed and goes off on tangential topics.  This is why most meetings fail to achieve their objective – they do not stay on track. At the outset of your meeting, establish ground rules and a specified time allotment for each item on your agenda as well as the overall meeting. For example, “Thank you for coming today.  Everyone’s time is valuable and it is my goal to keep this meeting to less than an hour.  Let’s stick to the items at hand and reserve discussion on other subjects for a later time.”  Rein in anyone who is monopolizing the discussion or introducing topics, not on the agenda.

Keep Them Engaged”

Visual aids go a long way in keeping everyone focused on the meeting and not on their phones or the clock.  Post the agenda on a Smart Board in the front of the room.  Project visuals onto a large screen using a computer; anything to keep their eyes up front.

Summarize the Meeting

Ever leave a meeting and have a totally different takeaway than your colleague?  Make sure this doesn’t happen with your meeting by emailing a follow up within 24 hours.  Include a summary, highlight key topics addressed, tasks assigned and indicate deadlines.  Sending this out in a timely fashion will ensure that attendees don’t head in the wrong direction.

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC,org

Characteristics of a Good Leader

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

When plans don’t go as we hoped they would, or we get discouraged, we may ask ourselves what went wrong. What kind of a leader have I become? I recently read a very interesting article that provided the ten most important characteristics of a good leader. The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) is known for its rigorous research on leadership styles.  Their commitment to growing good leaders is unparalleled.

Based on their research – interviews with leaders from many parts of the world – CCL found a consistent core of leadership traits. They are…

            • Honesty                                • Commitment

            • Ability to delegate                • Positive attitude

            • Communication                    • Creativity

            • Sense of humor                     • Ability to inspire

            •Confidence                            • Intuition

I have already blogged about self-awareness – a good start on knowing if we possess any of these qualities. Another test might be to focus on a good leader we know and ask, “do they have these characteristics?”

May this information help your organization select and develop strong and authentic leaders.

Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Book Review by Michael D. Kogutek

   “Extreme Ownership” Jocko Willnik and Leif Barbin, St. Martin’s Press (2017)

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

“Extreme Ownership “is written by two former Navy SEALs, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, who now head up a leadership training and  executive coaching  company.  The battlefield experiences they share in this book are intense and vivid.

The book is written in a very basic and clear way. The authors convey one main point per chapter by sharing a story from their war experiences, then highlighting the main  leadership principle of that story, and finally giving a concrete example of how this principle applies in business and organizational  settings.

The main points can be summarized as follows:

(a) The leader is always responsible and there is no blame to go around. This is the “extreme ownership” concept.

(b) The team must believe in the mission.

(c) Collaborate with other teams to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

(d) Keep plans simple, clear, and concise.

(e) Check and monitor your ego.

(f) Assess your priorities, and then act on them one at a time.

(g) Clarify your mission and plan

(h) Communicate with your leadership team

(i) Execute decisively, even when things are chaotic.

 The simplicity, clarity, and structure of this book are its greatest strength.

A weakness in the  book is that it  does not take in account how emotions factor in  leadership, management and decision making. The book is totally alpha and needs to be balanced. It is a terrific read and I highly recommend it to you and your teams!! As Jocko would say in SEAL lingo: “Get after it!”

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Book Review by Michael D. Kogutek

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

Judith Glaser’s book is a welcome treat for coaches and mentors looking to expand their professional horizons. Her thesis is that the relationship is central and key is providing change and transformation. She comes from a coaching perspective and states that conversations build trust that move us as individuals and organizations.Her definition of trust in human relations is that, “ I get that you authentically have my best interest at heart, not just your own.” Glaser states,”People trust us more when we have their best interest at heart.” She details the case of making sure that one sets up key parameters for enhancing this process. It formalizes the theory behind how conversations evolve and the position of the different speakers. What sets this book apart from others is that the author brings neuroscience and research into the equation to substantiate her assumptions. Glaser’s book can help take your leadership to the next level by showing you how to enhance the quality of your conversations. I highly recommend it!

“ Conversational Intelligence” Judith E. Glaser Bibliomotion (2014)

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org