I sent Yvonne an invite on LinkedIn. Yvonne and I are social buddies and friends. Here’s Yvonne’s email response to me:

Wow, so happy to connect with you in the professional world. What an honor!

Sweet, right?

I adore Yvonne. But here’s the secret code hidden in Yvonne’s email to me:

We separate professional and personal.


Don’t get me wrong. I believe in strong personal boundaries. Not every colleague needs to become a friend, just as not every friend is my best friend or my closest friend. There are gradations in all of our relationships.

As an entrepreneur, I have learned that the great clients, the lasting ones, often become friends. Good friends.

 Like Read more

Holiday time.

Amid the social frenzy, family rituals and religious celebration, we stumble into the occasional moment when we reflect.

On the year that passed.

We tend to focus on the outliers. High points, low points. Accomplishments, challenges.

But how about looking back and asking an entirely different question.

What energized me this year?

My definition of energize: I feel more stimulated when I do it. More stirred. More alive. More wholly engaged. Mind, body, spirit. All of me.

Some things that have energized me this year, in random order:

Exercise. Swimming. Clients that teach me and keep me on my toes.

 Like Read more

I am hopping up to Manhattan for 2 days this week.

Revel in a bit of holiday magic.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The windows at Saks. The ice-skaters at Rockefeller Plaza. The Union Square Holiday Market.

Memory links.

To 20 years lived in this magnificent city.

To Christmas pleasures that delight the little boy in me.

To memories of a fully lived life.

That’s the gift of the season.

To know the magic again.

Christmas is a formidable reminder. I can know the magic anywhere, of course. But New York happens to overflow with the sparkle of it all.

Holiday magic is the easy magic, if you will.

 Like Read more

Andy Cohen is the affably vivacious host of BRAVO Television’s late-night talk fest “What Happens Live.” Like him or hate him, Cohen has created a hard-to-ignore reality television empire at BRAVO.

I view this show as an authentic, no bullshit experience, he croons in the November 2014 issue of Details Magazine. Cohen is describing his talk show. I cringe.

Not at Cohen. No, at the ease with which we toss about the word “authentic.” Ever since Bill George popularized the notion of Authentic Leadership in his book True North, we have steadily killed the meaning of the word. Andy Cohen is describing a carefully curated, packaged and produced television event.

Authentic? As if we all agreed on what the heck “authentic” is.

 Like Read more

I was at a networking luncheon the other day.

Delightful event.

As the entrees arrive, fellow networkers stand up and pitch their organization’s holiday parties.

It’s on Thursday the 11th, and I realize there are 3 other great parties going on that evening. But we have a raffle and a special entertainer and it’s a benefit for Jobs for Youth. So please, please, stop by at our party!

Whew. I feel overwhelmed.

The world is screaming commitment and obligation.

I like to go to parties with the rest of you.

But more importantly, I like to stay underwhelmed.

Obligation is a mental frame. Commitment is a personal choice.

And they are conjoined twins. A heightened sense of obligation will trigger my willingness to make commitments I resent and don’t wish to keep.

 Like Read more

First meetings.

We have them every day.

Some are memorable, some not.

They have the power to birth a thrilling professional relationship. Most of the time, we’re on full-throttle birth control. Double-condom protection.

Here’s a first meeting to outshine all first meetings.

The great movie director Mike Nichols, director of classics like The Graduate and Carnal Knowledge, dozens of Broadway standards and HBO hits like Angels in America, passed away on November 20. In a year-old clip from the tv show The View, Nichols talks about his first meeting with Whoopi Goldberg.

I was teaching an acting class once a week and someone told me about this person who was doing a one-woman show in a studio down the street. This somehow felt plugged into what I was doing. I went to see your show and I wanted to meet you so I went backstage afterwards. This has never happened to me before or since. You opened the door, and I burst into tears, and we just fell into each other’s arms.

 Like Read more

It seemed like a silly question.

What’s your secret to being happy in your 40s? a reporter asks actress Jennifer Aniston.

Does she really have to answer this kind of crap? I think to myself. Ms. Aniston answers.

Don’t overthink it.

Great life answer. Great business answer, too.

We know the perils of collective overthinking. We have catch phrases to describe it. Group Think. Analysis Paralysis. Mental Constipation.

We rely on process tools to accelerate thought. Risk Analysis Tables. Decision Matrices. Helpful. And they often foster more paralysis.

When a bunch of my big clients brought in McKinsey and Company for an organizational diagnosis, the answer, down-the-line, was the same:

Inability to make decisions.

Uhuh. Overthinking.

 Like Read more

I stumbled across the word bloom last week.

I know the word, of course. It’s the context that enthralled me.

For 3 decades, Jon Kabat-Zinn has been a prominent American crusader for the benefits of everyday mindfulness. A friend gave me a copy of his brilliant 1994 book “Wherever You Go There You Are.” 

See if you can detect the bloom of the present moment in every moment, Kabat-Zinn writes, the ordinary ones, the “in-between” ones, even the hard ones.

The Bloom. 

Easy to see in the blush of accomplishment. During the thrill of the victory lap.

The Bloom.

How do I see it when the same colleague pisses me off once again? When another tedious meeting ends in indecision? When I don’t look forward to completing a single task that is in front of me today?

You know the list.

 Like Read more

Convenient little lies.

I am astonished to what lengths we go to perpetuate them.

I could chuckle about it. Except that it’s not funny. Little lies are how we collectively hold each other back.

Finance People don’t like to role-play.

A little lie from the training world in which I toil. You know the stereotypes behind the lie.

I spent an entire day last week with 20 finance folks. We did a large-scale workplace simulation. Of course we had a blast. In my experience, finance folks absolutely relish role-plays. And that’s NOT a little lie.

Don’t do any fluff.

That’s what my boss told me, a few years back, the day before I flew to Huntsville/Alabama to work with the NASA instructional design team that develops all the training programs for astronauts.

These are the most over-educated people you will ever meet, Cindy warned me. Don’t waste their time. No fluff.

 Like Read more

I’ve learned that it’s what you leave OUT of a performance, not what you put INTO it, Tony Bennett says. Less is more. It’s not because of my age, but it’s the right thing to do.

Tony Bennett is 88. Wondrous insight.

I think of the oh-so-not-helpful advice we give folks on how to maneuver.

Just be yourself.

Let’s be clear. At work, nobody wants you to just be yourself. We want you to make choices about the self you bring.

Channel the you that enhances execution and personal connection. Check the other selves at the door.

Tony Bennett knows. When you style a song, there’s the craft of singing. And there are the choices you make. Yes, less is more.

I have to be authentic with people.

The most overused leadership cliché of the past decade or so.

 Like Read more