Leadership through Eyes of a Coach...Alan Booth

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Here it is only June 30, 2009 and I am back writing again about pride, this time because of Bernie Madoff.

From the New York Times: "...Mr. Madoff had apologized for the harm he inflicted on the clients who had trusted him, his employees and his family. He blamed his pride, which would not allow him to admit his failures as a money manager."

As leaders we all have to maintain our reputation that got us to where we are. But the paradox of being humble and human enough to admit mistakes or not being at the level we want to be (self criticism is powerful stuff) raises the positive value of how others see us...not the opposite.

So I ask my leader friends, what have you been humble about lately? Or, what mistakes have you admitted and asked help from peers or even your staff? What were the reactions from others?

I'll start.

Not long ago I provided feedback to a CEO that was a result of personal interviews of his staff. I provided literal quotes that represented the overall group's sense of what it is like working for this person. The mistake? Moving too fast and not taking one key issue at a time which caused unproductive defensiveness. I will be humble about this during our next meeting even though I risk being "disengaged".

You see, I will fight hard to not let my pride poke its ugly head. That pride would eliminate the trust I need to rebuild to have a meaningful relationship.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Just had lunch with Brad Miller, Chairman of Perimeter Internetworking http://www.perimeterusa.com/ and discussed the dilemma of what to do with "B" players who one inherits through acquisition or the job outgrows them.

One challenge is the expectation of an annual increase when one does not increase their output; thus effectively reducing company margin.

But we do need steady people who are OK in the role they play and do not expect significant changes; the example offered by Brad is the accounts payable clerk.

I always give people the benefit of the doubt that in the right job they can be challenged to give more, increase their value through change in role, skill development and inspiring leadership. Is this easy? NO.

But I can not agree to just accept "B" players as they are. We just need to work harder at learning how to better fit people and engage them to become "A" players as a minimal expectation for employment.

Monday, June 22, 2009


  • I told a friend this weekend that “I help executives deal with pride.”

    At first he thought I was dealing with people who did not take pride in their organization or their people who did not take pride in their work.


    I was referring to those executives whose ego gets in the way of hearing their people express what they think is important for the success of their organization. Worse are those who listen but their pride distorts their understanding…or their pride reverts to anger or frustration.

    This is not to diminish the genuine pride an executive should have in building a strong enterprise that continues to grow in this recession of 2009. It is when pride gets in the way that we need to address the implications.

    For example:
  • Employees not having their ideas acted on because leadership needing to be the generator of new approaches to the business.
  • Executives who are "too busy" because they are reluctant to delegate decision-making with trust
  • Organizations that have low trust of executives because their engagment with the organization is primarily "telling" but less genuine listening
  • Employees who really do not understand what is expected of them.

    Managers and employees ask, “If we do not know where we are going, how can we be expected to perform in ways to get us there?”

    This is truly a challenge I encounter in the beginning of every coaching and consulting assignment: where are we going and how will we know when we arrive? Pride (too much of it) causes lack of clear communication; “Only I know what is happening”.

    How does a coach help the issue of pride? With lots of praise and admiration balanced with small does of reality (feedback). One beginning approach is the question, “What is it like working for (executive)?”

    It is amazing how this begins to encourage an individual to verbalize some of the “truths” that have been previously ignored.

    Example: after a 1.5 hour meeting where the CEO passionately talked 98% of the time, I asked what he thought it was like sitting as a staff member. At first he talked about his entertaining passion and the exciting news he was announcing; but the comments changed when I asked him why, when he asked a question, no one answered!

    “Maybe I should involve my staff better!” This does not diminish pride…it just puts it into better balance with other people’s needs as contributing employees.