Articles

Mastering Soft Skills Beyond the Boardroom

Posted February 23, 2024

Another way to elevate your executive presence

By Monica HoyerTwo women talking in conference room

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, being successful is more than just doing your job well. It’s also about possessing specific skills that enable effective collaboration with others. These skills, known as soft skills, become more important as you move up in your career. It can be challenging to improve and use these skills in your leadership journey, but let’s explore why they’re crucial for leaders.

Understanding the Power of Important Soft Skills

Soft skills encompass a lot of different things, including:

  • Clear communication
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving

As you move forward in your career, these skills become increasingly important. They have the ability to significantly improve your workplace and contribute to the overall success of the company.

Mastering Clear and Strong Communication

For executives, clear and strong communication is a cornerstone soft skill. Expressing your ideas in a way that others can easily understand ensures your team is aware of what you are asking. Actively listening to diverse perspectives is crucial for many reasons:

  1. Informed Decision-Making:
    Your decisions impact the entire organization. By hearing all perspectives you will have a more comprehensive understanding of various viewpoints and potential implications. This will lead to more effective and well-rounded solutions.
  2. Inclusive Leadership:
    Taking into account perspectives from individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints fosters an inclusive culture. This, in turn, encourages everyone to contribute their best ideas and feel a sense of belonging within the organization.
  3. Employee Engagement and Morale:
    Recognizing and respecting all employees positively impacts employee engagement and morale. When employees are heard they feel valued and know they are in an organization that encourages innovation. As a result, employees are more motivated and committed.

And finally, speaking with confidence inspires confidence in others.

Action Step: Practice Public Speaking

Join a local Toastmasters club or a similar public speaking group to enhance your communication skills. Participate in regular meetings, deliver speeches, and receive constructive feedback. This hands-on practice will boost your confidence and refine your ability to articulate ideas effectively.

Effective communication is a two-way street. It’s not just about expressing your thoughts; it’s equally about listening to others. (Active Listening is a topic in itself. We will tackle that in the coming weeks.)

Navigating Emotional Intelligence

emotional intelligence
noun
: the ability to recognize, understand, and deal skillfully with one’s own emotions and the emotions of others (as by regulating one’s emotions or by showing empathy and good judgment in social interactions)

To improve your emotional intelligence, focus on listening attentively to others, ask for feedback on your emotional responses, and reflect on your emotions in various situations.

Empathy is a key component of emotional intelligence. It involves putting yourself in others’ shoes, understanding their perspectives, and responding with compassion. Executives who demonstrate empathy create a positive workplace culture, fostering strong connections within the team.

Action Step: Conduct 360-Degree Feedback

Seek feedback from colleagues, subordinates, and superiors to understand how your emotions impact your work. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and develop strategies to enhance your emotional intelligence. The Energy Leadership Index (ELI) Assessment has a 360* feedback add-on — contact your iPEC coach today to learn more.

Excelling in Team Collaboration

Working effectively in a team is crucial for leaders. Executives are required to be not only effective leaders but also supportive team members. Respecting diverse ideas, fostering a positive team environment, and actively contributing to the team’s success are all key components.

Whatever teams you are on, encourage open communication. And remember to encourage and value each team member’s contributions.

Action Step: Lead a Collaborative Project

Take the initiative to lead a cross-functional project that requires collaboration among team members from different departments. This hands-on experience will enhance your teamwork skills and showcase your leadership abilities. It will demonstrate how you foster a positive and collaborative team environment.

Embracing Change and Problem-Solving

Adapting to change and solving complex problems is one of the keys to successful leadership. Leaders need to be flexible, embracing change as an opportunity for growth rather than a hurdle. And when the organization sees leaders acting this way, it will encourage others to be flexible and curious.

Continuous learning is one strategy for adapting to change. Stay informed about industry trends and seek out opportunities to learn new skills. By staying proactive in your learning journey, you position yourself as a forward-thinking leader capable of navigating the challenges of a dynamic business landscape.

Action Step: Engage with a Coach

If you’re serious about honing your soft skills and want to receive personalized guidance tailored to your leadership role, consider hiring a coach. Coaches can help you hone these skills so they work for you. A coach will help you identify areas for improvement and work with you to outline actionable strategies to enhance your leadership skills.

Coaching is a collaborative and goal-oriented process that aims to unlock your potential and drive professional growth. A coach can help you set clear objectives, develop a roadmap for success, and navigate challenges along the way. By seeking guidance from a coach, you invest in your ongoing development as a leader.

In Summary

As a leader, soft skills play a pivotal role in your success. Mastering clear communication, understanding emotions, excelling in teamwork, and handling change are skills that can be honed with intentional effort. Take control of your career trajectory by focusing on these important skills and explore the transformative impact of consulting with a coach. Your success as a leader isn’t just about what you know; it’s also about how well you can work with others and lead.

“Life is a perfect adventure; a game that cannot be won or lost, only played.”

-iPEC Foundation Principal

7 Tips for Effective Goal Setting

Posted January 26, 2024

By Monica Hoyer

Setting clear and actionable goals takes time and energy and is crucial to navigating a successful career.  When done well, the investment of time and energy becomes worthwhile, serving as a guiding compass leading you toward success. Goals can help you overcome challenges and fulfill your professional and personal aspirations.

So let’s dive into some tips for setting goals.

 

Tip 1: Reflect on Your Values and Priorities

When you align your goals with your values they take on more meaning and serve as a guide to help you stick with them. This will allow you to lay the foundation for goals that resonate.

Take some time to figure out what matters to you and when you’re writing your goals, make sure they align with those things. This will give your goals a clear purpose and make them more satisfying.

 

Tip 2: Define SMART Goals

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. When you write goals with this in mind, you will have a straightforward roadmap for success. Making your goals action-oriented allows for clear focus, accountability, and more likelihood of success.

Instead of saying, “I will read 6 books” say, “I will read 6 books on management by the end of June.” Now you have a definite understanding of the path in front of you and your success is more likely.

 

Tip 3: Break Down Big Goals

Large goals can be overwhelming, but when you break them down into smaller steps makes it easier. This will allow you to celebrate each of the milestones and can give you a sense of accomplishment. Which will boost your motivation and commitment to the larger goal.

When you look only at the large goal, you run the risk of procrastinating or burnout. When broken down into smaller steps, each step is a little victory, and celebrating those keeps you motivated.

Taking this one step further, when you focus on your most important goals first, you use your time and energy wisely and focus on what really matters. This will help you to achieve more meaningful results.

Download our worksheet on goal setting to get started today!

Tip 4: Embrace Flexibility and Adaptability

As with everything, being flexible and adaptable is key. Unforeseen challenges and opportunities may come up that force you to adjust your goals. Remember that being flexible means adjusting your plans without losing sight of the long-term vision. You can stay on track even when things don’t go as expected and maybe even learn something along the way.

Tip 5: Create a Support System

Identify people in your network who will cheer you on, give you advice, and share your commitment to growth. When you talk about your goals with others, you gain valuable insights and feedback. They will not only hold you accountable but also provide encouragement during the challenging times in your journey.

Surround yourself with supportive people who understand your goals and want to see you do well.

Tip 6: Regularly Review and Adjust Goals

You may encounter a shift in your priorities and interests while you are working toward a goal. When you revisit them regularly, you can adjust your route based on new information so you stay on track with your career. 

This also echos back to Tip 4 – staying flexible allows you to see a clearer path ahead and adjust as needed.

Tip 7: Celebrate Achievements Along the Way

Recognizing your progress reinforces your commitment to your goals. Reflecting on your accomplishments fuels the motivation to continue moving forward. When you express gratitude for the lessons learned you will be ready to tackle future challenges. 

Celebrating your success will boost your confidence and make you excited to move forward.

 

Ready to embark on a journey of self-discovery and transformation? This tool will guide you through the goal-setting process so you can easily articulate your goals, create actionable steps, and track your progress. 

 

When you are looking to move your career forward, effective goal-setting is your secret weapon for realizing your full potential. By incorporating these tips into your strategy, you can seize your goals with intention and determination.

“We either grow or die.”

-iPEC Foundation Principal

Discover Your Path to Successful Leadership

Posted January 12, 2024

By Monica Hoyer

In today’s dynamic landscape, you may find yourself at a point where leadership skills play a pivotal role in your career advancement. Understanding and adopting the right leadership style can make all the difference. In this blog post, we’ll dive into different leadership styles to empower you to become a more effective and influential leader.

Why Leadership Style Matters

Leadership style is the unique approach a person takes to guide and motivate others. It influences how decisions are made, conflicts are resolved, and goals are achieved within a team or organization.

Recognizing the impact of your energy and leadership style on team dynamics, productivity, and your team’s job satisfaction is a powerful tool in your career advancement.

There are two types of energy – anabolic and catabolic. Anabolic energy is creative and fueling whereas catabolic is destructive and stressful energy. Both can be effective when you discern your feelings.

When you can identify the type of energy you are experiencing, it becomes easier to adapt to situations depending on the outcome you would like.

Identifying Your Current Style

The first step in refining your leadership approach is to identify your current leadership style. You’ll also want to evaluate the energy you bring to situations.

Reflect on past experiences to assess how you typically make decisions. Take into consideration the feedback received from colleagues. Are you more authoritative, democratic, or transformational? Recognizing your default style is the first step toward growth.

Comparing Leadership Styles

Let’s start by exploring three different leadership styles and understanding their characteristics. The three prominent leadership styles we are exploring here are Authoritarian, Democratic, and Transformational. They each have distinct attributes, effects, benefits, and drawbacks on team dynamics.

1. Authoritarian Leadership

Authoritarian leaders are decisive and make decisions independently. They provide clear expectations and guidelines for their team members to follow. While this style can be effective in certain situations, it may stifle creativity and limit employee engagement long term.

This style is more catabolic in that it doesn’t allow for much creativity or enjoyment for the team. A leader may use this style to push through any conflict and get projects done. While it can be a good thing to get the team to move forward, there could be underlying issues that don’t get addressed. Those issues can continue to show up if not resolved.

Benefits:

  • Authoritarian leaders make decisions rapidly without waiting for consensus.
  • Team members receive clear instructions and guidelines, reducing confusion.

Drawbacks:

  • Team members may feel disempowered, leading to lower morale and job satisfaction.
  • The rigid structure may stifle innovation and creative problem-solving.

Ask yourself: Do I value control and direction, or is flexibility and collaboration more important to achieve goals?

2. Democratic Leadership

Democratic leaders encourage collaboration and seek input from team members when making decisions. This inclusive approach fosters a sense of ownership and engagement among team members. 

Democratic leadership is more anabolic in that it allows not only the leader but also the team to get creative and find solutions to problems. When decision-making involves the entire team, goal completion could take longer since you need buy-in from everyone.

Benefits:

  • Engaged team members who feel valued which leads to increased job satisfaction.
  • Decision-making benefits from a variety of perspectives, often resulting in well-rounded choices.

Drawbacks:

  • The democratic process can be time-consuming as it needs to take into account everyone’s opinion.
  • Differing opinions may lead to conflicts if not managed effectively.

Action: Reflect on your comfort with shared decision-making. Consider whether involving the team in the decision process aligns with your leadership vision.

3. Transformational Leadership

Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their teams by fostering a shared vision and encouraging personal growth. This style emphasizes innovation, creativity, and a strong commitment to organizational values. 

Transformational leaders inspire their teams which makes this style anabolic. There is very little stress in an organization when transformational leadership is at play.

Benefits:

  • Transformational leaders foster a sense of purpose and commitment – they inspire their teams.
  • The emphasis on personal growth encourages innovative thinking and problem-solving.

Drawbacks:

  • Leaders may take too many risks and don’t balance that with logic.
  • Some team members may resist the constant push for transformation.

Action: Assess your ability to inspire and motivate others, considering whether you prioritize personal development and innovation within your leadership philosophy.

Choosing Your Path

Now that you have a better understanding of three leadership styles, you can make informed decisions about the type of leader you aspire to be. While each style has its merits, a successful leader can draw on the most effective style to achieve the goal while meeting the team’s needs.

The Energy Leadership Index Assessment can give you insight into your leadership style

and help you identify areas where you want to improve.

1. Flexibility is Key

Leadership is not one-size-fits-all. Effective leaders adapt their style to the demands of the situation. When you recognize that different circumstances call for different approaches you become a more effective leader.

2. Aligning Values and Vision

Aligning your personal values and professional vision with your leadership style is crucial. Authentic leaders foster a culture of innovation and prioritize collaboration. So it’s important to choose a style that resonates with your individual beliefs.

3. Continuous Learning

Leadership is a journey of continuous learning and growth. Actively seeking opportunities for professional development, mentorship, and feedback is key to growth. A commitment to learning allows you to refine your skills and stay adaptable in an ever-evolving landscape.

Conclusion

In the quest to up your leadership game, acknowledge that self-discovery and exploration are where you need to start. By understanding leadership styles, reflecting on personal strengths and weaknesses, and embracing a flexible and values-driven approach, you can pave the way for impactful leadership. Remember, leadership is not about a title or position; it’s about inspiring and empowering others to achieve collective success.

When you’re ready to explore your leadership style and how to move your career forward, a Ressmeyer Partner coach can help.

“We either grow or we die.”

iPEC Foundation Principle

The Forest and the Trees

Posted November 17, 2023

Dense ForestAt face value, the idiom, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” is a clever reminder to zoom out and see the bigger picture. Digging a bit deeper highlights an even more important idea – that we can look at any situation from a variety of lenses.

Everything is a matter of perspective, and it is our ability to move between viewpoints that allows us to balance big picture thinking with identifying difference-making details.

Coaching Case Study

I had an executive client who was struggling in their relationship with a direct report, a senior director. There was churn in the c-suite and in the interest of “protecting” this director, my client had been choosing to not communicate details around what was going on.

There was certainly some logic to this thinking – manage uncertainty throughout the organization, keep unofficial information to a small audience of decision makers, and avoid distracting employees from their existing work.

The effect of this approach, however, was that my client had been acting as a filter and was doling out specific actions and small slivers of information that gave no context to the bigger picture. This was perceived by the director as micromanaging and they could sense there was more to the story that they weren’t privy to.

My client was focused on an individual tree, “protect my direct report”. This was having negative consequences on the performance of the team, it widened the power differential, and was degrading a relationship which had once been strong.

Through our work together, my client began to zoom out. They identified things like:

  1. The c-suite churn isn’t sensitive enough that it cannot be shared externally
  2. The director is highly effective & has shown massive leadership potential that I can help develop
  3. I want our relationship to be open and transparent – a partnership
  4. I want to create the space for this director to identify areas where they can contribute without having to act as gate keeper/micromanager

Once my client started seeing the landscape from this vantage point – what was working well, what wasn’t, what was most important – the forest – their options started to open up. It was from here they could dive back down into the trees to answer questions like:

  • How do I want to engage with my direct reports?
  • What information would be beneficial to share?
  • How do they want to be communicated with?
  • What level of uncertainty are they comfortable with being a part of?

The conversations between my client and the director changed drastically & the dynamic that resulted was tremendous. The increase in transparency led to more trust, and the approach of “partnership” allowed the director to self-identify and execute on areas of impact. Further, my client felt relief in no longer having to act as a self-appointed gate keeper and could engage more openly with their team.

Everybody in the picture was happier, more aligned to the purpose of the organization and were able to use their skills to make forward progress.

Ideas to Consider

As you navigate your challenging decisions, it is helpful to zoom out and look at the forest before you identify which details – which trees – to focus on.

For integrated career and life decisions, look across these segments:

  • Personal development
  • Career – Trajectory & Balance
  • Personal Finances – Need vs Want
  • Relationships – Intimate, Social, Family
  • Health & Wellness
  • Personal Growth & Development
  • Fun/Enjoyment

For leadership decisions, the following segments are important areas to keep in mind:

  • Communication
  • Productivity & Desired Outcomes
  • Time Management
  • Relationship Building
  • Role Clarity & Accountabilities
  • Work/Life Integration

Opportunity for Reflection

Everything is a matter of perspective – we have to remember that there is both the forest and that it’s made up of the trees. Seeing the forest helps us scope the problem and understand the landscape. This allows us to dig down & focus on the key details.

Some questions to consider:

What’s challenging for you these days? A career decision? A difficult conversation? Staying motivated? Figuring out what’s next?

  • How big of a picture are you looking at?
    • What haven’t you been looking at that would be helpful to consider? Consider the areas above.
  • With this big picture in mind, what detailed focus areas will help tend to the overall forest?
  • What support will be helpful in managing these details?

“Sink or Swim” Onboarding: A Coach’s Lens on Individual Responsibility

Posted October 30, 2023

In today’s business environment, most new hires experience a “sink or swim” onboarding approach. While many organizations have attempted to implement effective onboarding procedures, most are either hastily implemented or do not consistently yield favorable outcomes.

As a coach working in the leadership and transition space, I frequently advise clients that, regardless of the organizational landscape, there are critical behaviors and mindsets individuals must adopt to ensure their success in a new role.

Why Individual Behaviors Matter

Even in companies with structured onboarding processes, your first impression is fundamentally shaped by your actions and how you engage with the process. In organizations without formal onboarding, individual initiative is your only lever. We must keep in mind that onboarding is not merely about how to do your job; it serves as the foundation for your relationships, your initiation into the organization’s ethos, and the unwritten rules that exist within the company.

Creating Connection

Whether you call it networking or relationship-building, creating trustworthy, open lines of communication in your sphere is critical to your success. The word “sphere” here is paramount; this means building relationships vertically (within your leadership chain), horizontally (across departments and with your peers), and below you (with direct reports and support staff). This establishes your brand within the company and creates the partnerships necessary to navigate complexity and inevitable uncertainty.

Tactics to consider:

– Prioritize it! Use your free time—such as coffee breaks and lunch—to reach out and have conversations.

– Ask new contacts, “Who else should I meet?” to build your network.

– Get curious about your new connections. What did my predecessor do well, and what could they have improved? When we communicate, what would you like to see from me?

Ask Great Questions

A drive to prove oneself often limits an individual’s willingness to ask questions—both during initial onboarding and after we believe that we should be up to speed. I invite you to set this belief aside. It is crucial to ask questions and to keep asking questions. These begin as queries to clarify roles, responsibilities, and expectations and evolve into check-ins to keep up with the changing landscape. Contrary to the fear of appearing uninformed, well-grounded questions demonstrate that you are strategic, thoughtful, and driven to contribute effectively.\

Tactics to consider:

– Stay curious! Allocate time to reflect and identify gaps in your skills and understanding. Use questions to bring hidden information to light.

– Leverage the expertise of others. How might you approach x? Where can I learn more about y?

Confidence & the Importance of Showing Up

Confidence was certainly a factor in getting you through the door—you have the ability to perform the role for which you were hired. This invitation for confidence during onboarding is not about protecting your ego with thoughts like, “I’m a big shot and I know everything.” Instead, it’s about having confidence in your ability to figure out how to be effective. To do this, you need to show up with presence, engagement, and openness. Confidence and curiosity are not mutually exclusive; in fact, it takes confidence to be curious.

Tactics to consider:

– Consider asking trusted colleagues the following questions: “What should I be asking that I haven’t?” “What am I missing?”

– Trust that you’re here for a reason and you’ve been successful in the past. Stay engaged and trust that you’ll figure it out. Ask questions and seek help when things feel tricky.

– Remember that your success is in your hands. You can’t look externally to solve your internal challenges.

Tune-in to the Culture

In every organization there are existing cliques, alliances and sources of tension. Dial into the existence of negativity and gossip and be careful taking these things at face value. Remember what your values and don’t compromise them to fit in. Seek to understand the culture of an organization, but remember that you are always creating a culture around yourself! What do you want that culture to look like? Especially if you’re in a leadership role, you have a massive impact on your supervisors, peers and reports by how you show up.

Tactics to consider:

– Note other people’s mindsets – where do you sense negativity? Enthusiasm? Complacency? Judgment?

– Identify and connect to your values – what is most important to you? How are you operating in alignment with them? Where do you see alignment or misalignment in your environment?

Final Thoughts

How you show up as a new employee is your choice – be aware of the muscle memory you have from your previous jobs that may or may not serve you. From the moment you step through the door, your initiative and behaviors set the stage for two things: creating the conditions for your own success and fostering an intentional environment around you. Others can feel this energy, and it gives them the opportunity to meet you there.

If you happen to be a leader and a manager of new hires, keep in mind that the deck is largely stacked against them. By using the levers available to you, you can make a significant difference in the success of new teammates.

Working with an ICF-certified coach can help you put these ideas into practice. When stepping into new spaces, my clients often feel tension that can be challenging to navigate. My coaching programs are designed to help you create awareness and implement concepts like these into your work-life. Reach out to explore how you might benefit from making changes like these.

The Impact of COVID

Posted August 17, 2023

Woman wearing mask on empty trainIt’s three and a half years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and things aren’t quite back to normal.

For most of us, 2020 and 2021 now seem like a weird nightmare. A time where life came to a standstill

I’ve come to think of the last 3.5 years as a collective shake up – a global quake that affected virtually every area of everyone’s life. It may not have caused us to crumble, but it did stop us in our tracks and significantly alter our experience. Consciously or non consciously, it changed structure within our lives & has led us to look at things differently.

Whether COVID-19 actually altered the fabric of our society, or just gave us another view of it, things are different.

In the last few years, we’ve seen people leave their jobs (read: Great Resignation), hunker down (with the continually impending recession), and return to in-person roles after a taste of virtual work.

Though the worst of the pandemic is behind us, it’s effects are present. Businesses are navigating changes in the workforce, leaders are navigating return to work (new social dynamics & employee expectations), and mid career folks are asking themselves, “is this really want I want to do for the next 30 years?”

There isn’t a playbook for any of this. I had a close member of my network say to me recently, “I wish people were more open about how much of a shakeup COVID really was.”

I want to invite you all a moment of reflection. How has COVID changed your experience? What’s different about YOU now versus you 3.5 years ago?

What questions are in the back of your mind that you haven’t addressed?

I hope this message is both validating & if you consider the questions, that it leads to insight. We’re all always changing – some seasons change us more than others.

As a coach, I work with folks to help them shape how they want to show up in their lives and in their work. Given the reality that there isn’t a playbook for how to show up, it’s up to us to develop our own. Taking the time to ask and answer questions like this is important. Working with a coach can help provide the structure & accountability to do so.

Reach out to explore what’s possible!

How do I face my fears?

Posted August 4, 2023

Close up of SpiderWith curiosity. It’s quite simple, so bear with me – I’m going to start with a story.

In 2015, I moved into a house with 3 roommates and I drew the short straw. I ended up in a room in a walk out basement in a Seattle neighborhood. The 1970s wood paneling seemed like the scariest part of this story, but if you’re familiar with Seattle homes, you might guess that it’s actually the (unbelievable) amount of spiders that make their way indoors come fall.

I wouldn’t have considered myself an arachnophobe, but I didn’t love the idea of these lil creatures making their way into my room while I was sleeping. And the basement living room. And the shower. And the hallways. Okay, you get it…

Leaning into some vulnerability, I will comfortably admit that I was unsettled by being confronted daily by the presence of these arachnids. Some I killed (sorry), others I spastically relocated outdoors, and some I did my best to ignore until they found some other hidden location to hang out and watch me sleep.

At this time LOGICALLY, I knew my fear made no sense – I knew that there were only 2 species of poisonous spider in Washington state and I knew that none of them were living off of 24th. Still, I had some subconscious programming that was driving a catabolic (flight or fight) response.

After about 2 weeks into the rainy season, I remember a moment of clarity thinking, “this is not sustainable”. I knew I couldn’t be happy in this house if I was unsettled in my space.

So I had a choice to make. How do I cohabitate with this slice of pacific northwest nature? Their presence had nothing to do with me, so it was on me to figure it out. I tried on curiosity, and you better believe that it WORKED.

I started by googling, “what kind of spiders live in Seattle?”. Boom – information. I found a list of species with photos and I decided I would identify the ones that decided to visit. This meant I had to 1. put my face close enough to find identifying features, 2. look at online photos of the options, and 3. spend enough time sitting with them to be sure I was correct.

Once I had the ID, I had access to tons of information – habitat range, seasonal behavior, diet (it turns out they actually DO eat mosquitos), and danger to humans (… they weren’t).

After I identified the first handful, I began to notice that the pit in my stomach when I saw one was gone! It felt like magic. I overcame this fear simply by being curious about a situation.

Now I have tried this approach in other situations dozens and dozens of times since living in this house. Someone makes a frustrating comment? Get curious – what are they reacting to? What did they mean? How sure am I that that’s true?

Someone does something “wrong”? Get curious – what were my expectations? How come? What were they trying to do?

I know phobias are complicated, and can come with very real trauma, but I offer curiosity as a tool to consider using.

All sorts of research tells us that curiosity is huge for happiness, effective communication, and leadership. Consider this your invitation to try it out:

  • What doesn’t feel like it’s flowing? Where are you feeling catabolic energy (fight, flight, or flee)?
  • What can you get curious about? Dig deep, here. Continue asking yourself, what?, how come?, what else?, what if?

Curiosity often shows up in my work with clients. If you have something you’re having trouble getting curious about, reach out and let’s explore together.

OpEd: Executive Coaching in Higher Education

Posted June 2, 2022

By Sacha E. Kopp, Ph.D., Senior Vice Chancellor, University of Nebraska Omaha and Timothy J. Ressmeyer, Ph.D., Founder, Ressmeyer Partners Executive Coaching

Leadership Coaching Higher EducationExecutive coaching has become ubiquitous within America’s biggest corporations. It’s not seen as a sign of failure for Fortune 500 executives to have a coach on the proverbial speed dial. We in academia can take a lesson.

Too often, we think of the ‘content’ of academic administration, rather than the interpersonal skills that lead to true leadership. But just think of the university president who steps down after a regrettable comment uttered in frustration; or the dean who is replaced after a failed reorganization of departments; or the department chair whose term has stalled when a stalemate amongst the faculty can’t be surmounted. The complexities of leadership, and the highly relationship-driven world of higher education, warrant investment in leaders’ skills through tools such as executive coaching.

Universities already invest in a host of leadership trainings, such as Centers for Faculty Excellence, or Faculty Development Fellowships shadowing leaders, or travel to professional disciplinary conferences and networking. Executive coaching, for individuals, groups, or teams is another ‘arrow in the quiver,’ and can scale to broader arrays of the university leadership structure. Why make this investment?

Culture defines an institution. The pandemic highlighted this well. Institutions that thrived this year undoubtedly did so because everyone pulled together. How did they do so and what could they fall back on? Cultures of trust, compassion, students-first, or more. Especially in times of uncertainty or change, it is easy to focus on the task of the moment, without fully sharing – or being aware of yourself. It’s easy to throw up one’s hands over dysfunctional cultures. As a leader, you make an impact. How you treat others, aligned with your values, becomes part of the culture. A coach who is working with the leader or team can help them view crises or opportunities differently and help leaders fall back upon built trust to seize the new challenges or blaze new trails. As leader, we are always creating a culture around us, and in so doing model the old Ghandi phrase of being the change we wish to see.

In academia, many have advanced degrees, but not in management. When your unit is called on to develop a new strategic plan, how do you bring everyone together? How often is a dean or chair brought on board to forge consensus, yet frustrated by colleagues’ mistrust? When a leader inherits a team, how are roles crafted around a common goal? When another unit’s collaboration is vital to your success, how is trust built so the teams work together? Too often in academia, the answer is to either duplicate effort (“administrative bloat”) or to seek a new org chart (“rearranging the deck chairs”). Such failures of leadership cause eye-rolls and groans and build on the worst stereotypes of failed leaders. Coaches can help leaders build the skills of collaboration, avoiding the above go-to failures, thus leading change across organizations, that will more likely be successful.

We need to be our best selves. It’s easier to lead when things are going well, but stress and change make it easy to drift into a person you don’t want to be or engage in behaviors that don’t work. The outside perspective of coaching can help you see what is getting in the way of you embracing the behaviors you would like to see in yourself. Built into coaching programs are the uncovering of strengths you have, while at the same time filling in the management skills gaps that will help you succeed.

I’m doing just fine. I don’t need any help. Congrats! Being in that place is an excellent place to be. Beyond triaging challenging situations, coaching is an opportunity to build new skills for future times when the demands are high. It’s difficult when you don’t have confidants around you who you can fully trust when new situations arise. And, all leaders have blind spots that can cause them to miss looming problems or miss exciting opportunities. Ongoing coaching support is a good complement to other professional development workshops or experiences, providing ongoing support and an accountability partner to academic leaders developing their skills. Investing in coaching in advance is one more way to define one’s self as a proactive leader.

Kissinger is quoted to have said “The reason that university politics is so vicious is because the stakes are so small.” We couldn’t disagree more. Stakes are high. Students depend on us to support their journeys. Elected officials depend on us to enhance their communities. Families depend on us for the impacts on their lives. Faculty and staff depend on us to foster the workplace that empowers their authentic selves. Universities aren’t built with bricks and buildings, but with people. The relationships we foster warrant the kind of mortar supported by tools such as professional coaching.

Happy Hour Coach®: Starting from a Place of Past Reflection

Posted January 11, 2021
Past ReflectionWe’re often told that we have to know and assess where we ARE to know where we want to go. And while this is oftentimes TRUE, how do we burst into a New Year with a sense of promise and excitement for “fresh beginnings” when 2020 presented so many challenges for most of us? Whether we experienced 2020 (or any other year) as overwhelming, hopeless, or confusing, or a time for personal reflection, an opportunity to pivot, or a push to learn a new skill set (or, more likely, a mishmash of all of these things and more), it’s time to close the door on what was and to lean into what IS and what CAN BE. What do I want it to be moving forward?

But how can you look backwards to a time that wasn’t ideal and use what you’ve learned to look forward? Do we HAVE to reflect and assess? Or can we just accept and acknowledge what we’ve experienced, and choose to put one foot in front of the other to step into the New Year from a place of moving TOWARDS something as opposed to running AWAY.

This quote that I read today by Dan Millman seemed to really touch on what I was feeling about moving FROM 2020 INTO 2021 in a way that I could really celebrate and embrace and get excited about, in light of all that has happened in the past 12 months.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new”. Or not trying to “fix” what was, but “create” what will be. And that is not to say you can’t honor your past experience that you are coming from.  The question is how can you honor your past experience, yet not let it stop you from living and moving forward and dreaming about what lies ahead?

Rather than reflecting or assessing where we are or what has happened, sometimes, it’s simply enough to just ACKNOWLEDGE what a tough year you’ve had and then VALIDATE that your feelings surrounding the tough year you’ve had are PERFECTLY NORMAL and that anyone would feel the way you do after the year you’ve had. Say it to yourself out loud, with compassion. Try it. “Yep, Wow, what a rough year 2020 was for me. There’s no question about it. And after the year I’ve experienced, it’s not surprising that I feel disappointed and upset. And that’s ok.” And sit with it. Cry about it if that’s what feels right. And then move forward. There will be waves when those painful thoughts resurface. That’s normal and ok. Sit with them again, and you can always be moving towards something new.

And, when you’re ready…….decide what you want THIS YEAR to look like. Stop fighting and start building. No one can predict what this next year holds, but you can commit to choosing how YOU decide to show up in it. You. Choose.

2021 holds promise and new beginnings for anyone who wants it and is brave enough to step toward it.

Explore more about our Happy Hour Coach® service at https://ressmeyerpartners.com/2022/services/happy-hour-coach/.

– Kerri Ressmeyer, ACC, CPC

Kerri is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) where she is accredited at the Associate Certified Coach (ACC) level and is a Certified Professional Coach (CPC) from iPEC (Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching) and is a Certified Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner (ELI-MP).

Taking Control of Your Future: Lessons from a 93 Year Old

Posted February 11, 2020
90sI recently wrote the blog Your 50s Are Your Magic Years!  The premise is there are lots of people in that age group struggling to figure out how to plan for what’s next. I offered a framework to reinforce that they have many gifts to offer and suggested how to take control and move forward with confidence.

I received comments from a lot of folks agreeing with me and also pointing out that people of all ages struggle with the same challenges of being happy, successful, and fulfilled. It’s not just limited to those in their 50s. I wholeheartedly agree!

The most remarkable response came when someone called me and said, “Tim, I want you to be my coach. Can you help me?”

He is 93-years-old.

I have known this man for much of my life but had not seen or spoken with him for over 30 years. I was stunned he was reaching out.

“Why do you want a coach?” I asked.

“Well, I’ve never had a coach, but I think you can help me,” he responded.

“What’s going on?”

“I don’t think I have any value anymore.”

It felt like a punch to the gut.

No value? This guy is a very successful professional who positively impacted the lives of thousands of people throughout his career – including mine. Even as he got older, he never quit working. He told me he “failed at retirement three times.” He was always urged back into service by those who knew what he had to offer.

Things were now difficult for him. He really couldn’t work anymore. He described to me his near blindness, difficulty walking, other health problems, difficulty doing things outside of the house, and several other real challenges.

Through conversations about value, he began to discover ways he does make a difference and deliver value. He also admitted there were things he was not doing that he wanted to, things that would improve both his health and day-to-day feelings of significance.

We meet via phone twice each month, and he updates me on the goals that he established for himself. As his coach, I hold him accountable for those things he wants to do.

His list has included such goals as:

  • Asking his wife to load more books he can listen to on his computer.
  • Using his walker 20-minutes each day to maintain mobility.
  • Consulting with his pastor about the best ways to deliver a virtual ministry for the elderly.
  • Making regular phone calls to longtime friends to stay connected with the people in his life he cares about.

And, one of the most exciting goals was when he decided he wanted to create his own “Personal Board of Directors.” He had done this throughout his career to make sure he was always surrounded by people who he could learn from, solve problems with, and share his wisdom and expertise. However, this time, he reached out to his four young-adult grandsons to be part of this group. He invited each of them to be part of this, and they enthusiastically accepted.

They’ll be meeting monthly. He will lead the Zoom calls using the three powerful questions he used throughout his consulting career: “What is going well? What are you worried about? What would you like to do more of?”

I asked him, “What value will you get out of this project with your grandsons?”

“I will be able to stay better in touch with younger folks and learn from them. I can be sure to stay connected to my family in another way. I know there are struggles they face, and I’m sure there are things I can help them with because of my age and experience.”

It sounds to me like he has quite a bit of value.

This man is taking hold of his life and not sitting back with a “we’ll see” mindset. He recognized he needed something, sought help, and is taking action to move forward even with the genuine challenges he faces.

The 90’s can be your magic years as well.

What's Next?

Wherever you are in your life and your career - in transition, seeking growth, or already planning your next move - our coaches partner with you to help make your next steps as effective as possible. Take a look at our services and bios to explore who we are, who we work with and how we do it!

Our ServicesOur Bios