Unrecognized Ineffective Habits of Successful Leaders – Part Two

Showing visible emotions have no place in business. Leaders who use emotional volatility as a management tool will only survive a short time as an executive. They use scare tactics to get the job done and use and abuse those around them.

“Last week we talked about great leaders who attempt to add too much value by taking over every meeting and every situation and promoting themselves to all who will listen. This week we will explore the deterioration of management respect when overusing emotions. To read last’s Part One, click here https://marykuniski.com/2018/06/27/unrecognized-ineffective-leadership-habits/.

“I realize there is something incredibly honest about trees in the winter, how they are experts at letting things go.” 

Jeffrey McDaniel

Overusing Emotions

Speaking when angry

Showing visible emotions have no place in business. Unfortunately, we are all human and no matter how hard we try our feelings will come out from time-to-time when we are facing stressful situations.  Our response to these unexpected emotions often separates the good from the great leaders. Alternatively, leaders who use emotional volatility as a management tool will only survive a short time as an executive. They use scare tactics to get the job done and use and abuse those around them.

I once worked for a Regional Vice President who believed in using emotional volatility as a scare tactic to engage his store managers across the region. One can only guess how he rose up the ladder to that level. For nine months he drove the staff crazy with his ridiculous demands. Store managers and their crews were working around the clock to meet his requirements. The stores did improve in appearance, but after a time the regional management team had enough of his needs and together made serious complaints to the corporate office. Not only did this leader have to apologize to his team of District and Store Managers, but he was demoted to a store manager and never had a chance again to rise to a leadership level. His career virtually ended after the complaints rolled in.

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Ambrose Bierce

How does one control his or her emotions?

Here’s a simple formula. Think Ctrl, Alt, Del. Ctrl stands for controlling your emotions. Alt stands for altering your attitude, and Del stands for delete negative thoughts. The next time you feel ready to explode, hit ctrl, alt, del on your emotions and smile and reboot!


 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics negativity costs business $3 billion a year due to its harmful effects. No matter what the cause, negativity is damaging to the workplace. Gossiping, poor attitude, communication, and even external investors can breed negativity. Unless a leader quickly and directly addresses the situation, the consequences will tangibly affect the business. For instance, negativity can lead to distrust within a team, a decrease in employee engagement, or even liability issues if it evolves into harassment. Negativity in the workplace saps energy and diverts attention from productivity and performance, and because of this, leaders need to be proactive in maintaining a positive culture.

How to convert to a positive culture?

Leaders need to model the behavior they want to see. For example, if a leader spends his/her entire management meeting verbally acosting his/her staff when business is down, business will likely get worse. The best leaders I have experienced  communicate in a positive way that they understand why they did not make the plan during the previous period, but identify all the ways the team can overcome the problems they had in the last period. All they need to be successful is a positive approach and extra elbow grease. Using this method provides an encouraging positive environment that discourages negative gossip and improves morale.

Leaders who provide rewards and recognition to their team will see an increase in morale and productivity. Negativity is harmful to the workplace and can be eliminated through positive communication and individual recognition.

Clinging to the past

I once had a district manager who loved to say, “shoot while the ducks are flying.” One day during a district visit my store manager got out a pop gun and put a plastic duck in a Ficus tree. When the DM walked into his office, the store manager came out from behind his door and shot the duck. While it was not a good idea to be holding a gun when his DM showed up, the store manager made his point that we cannot live in the past. Our customers and we struggle with change. How many times have we heard or said, “but we have always done it this way or if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The point both parties were making was going after the business while its happening. Do whatever you need to do to keep it going.

Today, we are experiencing change more rapidly than at any time in history. In 1984, my husband and I  purchased the a board game called Dark Tower. It was the first game with some technology. The game had a tower that spun around for each player. It was pretty exciting, and we spent three days playing it before realizing we were obsessed with the game. Think about what we are obsessed with today. We are in an age of virtual distraction, and our electronics are changing faster than we can absorb. The ideals, beliefs, and perspectives of the past are exploding to reveal a wildly different future, which is why we are perplexed when we see businesses frantically clinging to the past and relying on old approaches rather than shaping new ones. Consider the retailers that failed or are failing due to their inability to change. Montgomery Ward – the original eCommerce retailer failed because they could not adapt to match the Amazon fulfillment approach. They merely operated themselves out of business. Radio Shack, a key retailer of electronics could not keep up with the changing marketplace. Toys R Us – the number one retailer of toys going out of business now. How does this happen? Undoubtedly, the failure of leadership to accept and make a dramatic change to keep up with the changing landscape made a massive contribution to the failure of these retailers.

Too often, we fall into the trap of thinking that our past successes will enable future ones. Events occur, and we overestimate the risks of attempting a new approach to driving business and underestimate the risk of standing still. For example, would we ever have thought that 9/11 would happen and reinforce the need for us to accelerate our rate of change, innovation, and creativity?

How do we make change happen?

Use the acronym ADKAR to remember the steps. First, make sure all employees are aware of the need for change. Outstanding communication that identifies the business problem and provides the financial implication of the problem is required. If the message is on point, it will generate a DESIRE for change. Escalating the desire for change is crucial to final acceptance. Next, an evaluation needs to be completed to determine if each workgroup has the KNOWLEDGE and ABILITY to make change occur and be successful. Most important of all is REINFORCEMENT of the change. Leaders who do not identify a methodology to ensure the change sticks are immediately subject to failure.

Making excuses

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ouerselves. The process never ends until we die. Moreover, the choices we make are our responsibility.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Why is it that we believe we need excuses for not getting work done. We are all busy so making explanations look legitimate has gotten a lot harder. How many times have you had an employee arrive late for work and say traffic was horrible when you were in the same traffic. Perhaps you have someone that is known for not answering his/her emails. Their excuse – it went to my spam email. These plausible excuses become more and more deniable as time goes on.

As a leader, do you accept responsibility for your actions? Accepting responsibility has two primary components. First, one has to take responsibility for his/her actions or failures. Leaders who fail to do this will immediately lose the respect of his/her staff. All human beings make mistakes and/or poor choices – some mistakes being worse than others. Errors include occasions when we fail to act when we know we should.  The second component is accepting responsibility when you have indirect responsibility for those that report to you. When you take responsibility for your direct reports mistakes your character is revealed.

Accepting responsibility, both personal and indirect responsibility is one of the most important factors in defining a person’s character.  When that responsible moment comes, what you do or don’t do is an indication of the type of person you are.

How to change?

Accepting responsibility requires you to own your behavior and that of your team. Admit your misconduct or failure-to-act when you should have done so. Next, offer a sincere apology to those you have wronged. If possible, make amends or do what is needed to correct what you have done. Finally, accept whatever punishment is handed out for the choice you made. These steps may sound simple, but they can be tough to take. Accepting responsibility is part of being a great leader. Start early in your career with this process and accepting responsibility becomes more natural as time goes on.

Playing Favorites

Who doesn’t like to be the boss’s favorite? Unfortunately, for all its management inappropriateness, favoritism is rampant in the business world.  Georgetown University’s business school surveyed senior executives at companies with over 1,000 employees and found that 84% admitted bias is alive and well in their organizations. There is an apparent reason for this behavior. Managers want to give work assignments to those employees whom they can trust. Typically, the favorites are the trusted employees. Trusted employees are most often given the favored assignment due to their competency in completing the task, but this behavior does not allow other employees to be trained or show their skills. They too might be supported if allowed to show their skills and abilities.

How to stop showing favoritism?

Leaders need first to be aware that they are showing favoritism. One of the best ways to ensure they are not favoring certain employees is to make a conscious effort to divvy up the work assignments in a fair and equitable way. Next, managers need to hold themselves and others accountable for getting the work done. If one of the employees fails to do the job, don’t let them off the hook. Instead, challenge them to get back on track and only give them help when they have made the effort to complete the work themselves.

Executives can be successful leaders by receiving stakeholder-centered feedback and addressing areas of opportunity like those discussed in today’s blog.  With courage, humility, and discipline good leaders can become great leaders. The business world could use a lot more great leaders! For more information about improving your leadership skills, contact Executive Coach, Mary Kuniski at mkuniski@me.com.

Published by GoldenProfessionalCoaching.com

A Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Company

We Build Tomorrow’s Leaders


“What Got You There Won’t Get You There.” Marshall Goldsmith, pg. 40

“The Golden Book” Dale Carnegie

“https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2018/01/16/a-common-but-overlooked-   howmanagement-problem-playing-favorites/#7f7771f635dd




Unrecognized Ineffective Leadership Habits

Successful Leadership takes discipline, powerful communication, inspiration to keep good employees happy, inclusion of all cultures, and most of all assuring personal success. Extraordinary leaders still make ordinary mistakes This four part series reviews those mistakes and describes how leaders can avoid them



Great leaders exhibit courage, humility, and discipline combined with selected competencies that can drive their performance from good to great. Key competencies that successful leaders need to be exceptional managing are communication, associate engagement, business change, the inclusion of ideas and people from all cultures, faiths, and beliefs, and assuring personal success. For a closer look at the definition of these competencies click here https://wordpress.com/post/marykuniski.com/531.

Unfortunately, even the best leaders have bad practices. This series will examine the unfortunate habits of those whom we consider good leaders and provide future leaders with some ideas on how to overcome these unacceptable behaviors. Four primary categories represent 20 ineffective habits of successful leaders. These categories include the following: 1) promoting one’s value; 2) overusing emotions; 3) empowering the ego 4) upholding boundaries. This week’s blog will focus on the methods some leaders use to promote their value.

 Adding Too Much Value

We have all attended meetings only to discover that the person that takes over every session is in attendance. Nothing could be more frustrating to the meeting leader than having an attendee who knows nothing about the topic, shows up late and interrupts the meeting to talk about something completely out of context to the discussion. A consultant I once worked with routinely showed up 20 minutes late to every assemblage and asked us to repeat everything that we discussed in the time he missed. We all decided he was trying to show us how important he was by arriving late, but he certainly did not gain our admiration using this behavior. He would talk and talk about what he had done at other clients but he never really added value to the discussion because he did not understand the day-to-day operations of our business.  He merely wanted to be heard and had an overwhelming desire to add his two cents to every discussion.

Keeping in mind this consultant was a direct pipeline to our supervisors we were a little stumped on how to deal with the situation. In reality, our bosses would have had more respect for us if we called the consultant out on the behavior. Meeting leaders have a responsibility to keep meetings on track by having an agenda with time blocks for each topic and sending the program out to the participants in advance of the meeting. The time and date of the meeting should also be broadcast to all participants, and the meeting should start and end promptly as advertised. Latecomers should not be allowed to interrupt the meeting. When the attendee is late several times and participants refuse his/her request to repeat information they will stop attending late. If they are unavoidably late, they can make an appointment with the meeting leader to catch up after the meeting. The meeting leader should limit the amount of time given to participants to discuss topics. If he or she feels the discussion is going on too long and not making progress, they can undoubtedly table the discussion until the next meeting and ask everyone to finetune their thoughts. Meeting leaders must show balanced governance to prevent participants from attempting to add value when none exists.

Claiming Credit That We Do Not Deserve

As our consultant’s engagement was ending, all the captains of the teams he established were aghast when he took the credit for the results of the commitment. He certainly had the right to claim some credit. After all, he was the one who came up with the ideas for the four workgroups. However, workgroups mean multiple individuals were working together to resolve problems. The teams developed and changed processes, communicated to the executives and their managers, and implemented change management. The workgroups deserved to be recognized for their efforts as they went far and above their regular jobs. The consultant may not have been aware that he was going to be recognized for the results of the workgroups. However, his response should have been to circle back and make it clear where the credit was due to the leaders in each workgroup. Using that approach would have earned him credibility and admiration.

What should the workgroups have done?  Each team had a captain who was steering the work of the group and reporting results to the executives. These captains should have gotten together and provided a list of names in their cohort to the consultant so he could ensure the workgroups were recognized. A small reminder such as this will usually stimulate the individual who is taking credit to provide credit where it is due.

Passing Judgment.

We all are judgmental at times. It is simply unavoidable. Yes, even you. I  am many times. I believe it is human nature.  Walt Whitman once said, “Be curious, not judgmental.”

We have to ask ourselves how helpful it is to be judgmental. Does it do any good when we talked about the girl who just walked by, and most of her body was covered in Tattoos? Did we make a sale when we prejudged a customer and assumed they did not want the top of the line TV? Think about it for a second; we see someone and based on their looks or actions, we pass judgment on them. Not a good judgment, either. Usually without even knowing the person. Moreover, that’s it — that’s usually the extent of our interaction with that person. We don’t make an effort to get to know the person, or understand them, or see whether our judgment was right or not.

So let’s consider what happens when we pass judgment on people we do know. We see something they do, and get angry at it, or disappointed in the person, or think worse of them. We judge, without understanding. That’s the end of it — we don’t try to find out more, and through communication begin to understand, and through understanding, start to build a bridge between two human beings.

How do we stop this personal behavior? Pure acceptance of each other probably will not work, however, what is the most natural solution? Dale Carnegie says, “Become genuinely interested in other people.” Building a new habit of becoming genuinely interested in others helps us recognize when we might be judgmental. To make this change, we should stop at least once each day when we begin to judge another person and observe them. We might reframe what we are seeing in a new scenario that is easier for us to accept. This process takes a great deal of self-awareness. Seek to understand the other person. Put yourself in his/her shoes. Try to imagine their background. If possible, talk to them and find out their story. Once we are aware and understand how the individual got to this point, we will stop being judgmental and begin to accept the person for whom he/she is without trying to change them. Taking this action will relieve a great deal of stress in our lives.

Starting with No, But, or However

Dale Carnegie often pointed out that we should never tell someone they are wrong. Don’t the words No, But or However already say the speaker is wrong? Think about it a minute. You are having a great meeting; Everyone is participating and throwing out their best ideas. Someone brings up an idea that has been tried before and you say NO we tried that before and it didn’t work. Suddenly, dead silence falls around the room, and no more suggestions are forthcoming. The same could happen with the word BUT (which is an acronym for Behold The Underlying Truth). You partially agree with the idea but you want to add one more thing. Instead of saying but, perhaps you could use the word AND we can add one more element and make this idea better.  The word HOWEVER is used to introduce a statement that contrasts with or seems to contradict something that has been previously been said. Doesn’t that definition sound like a fancy way to tell the other person No?

So often when we respond, we immediately say what we think or give our opinion without giving it much thought.  How different our response might be if we allowed ourselves to formulate our opinion with evidence before responding. We might even ask a question or two to ensure our understanding. The next time you disagree with someone take a minute or two to consider why you disagree. Ask yourself why you think that and what proof do you have that what you think is correct. Then when you respond you can begin the substantiation, then tell what you believe the verification indicates to you and then what you believe based on the evidence. The conversation might go something like this.

Person 1 – We cannot add any additional resources to our staff because there is no space for them to sit.

Person 2 – I have read some interesting articles that indicate many companies are adding a second shift to have employees share the space available and the results are improved productivity. I have also read that allowing employees to work from home is becoming very popular and would only require us to supply a computer and access to our network. Therefore, I believe we can add resources to our staff by entertaining one or both of these solutions.

This type of answer does take a little practice but what a difference your response makes and how you benefit with admiration as a leader.

Making Destructive Comments

We all do it; we make negative or sarcastic comments right in front of the person, so they get our point or to make ourselves sound sharp and witty. People make adverse comments all day long, and the comments often lead to downgrading themselves. For example, a person might say to themselves no one ever bothers to tell me anything, or there’s no way this will work. Perhaps they think of themselves as a loser because other people can do what they cannot do.

Facing problems such as destructive comments head-on is the only way to handle these situations. Begin by logging what you and the other person said. Next, analyze why you said something destructive about yourself or another person. If you did say something harmful to another person go back as soon as possible and apologize. Let the other person save face by explaining you were in the wrong by making a comment. Continue this practice until you can determine the true cause of your unhelpful feelings. Once you understand the cause, you can correct the situation. When leaders make destructive comments, they are often showing their insecurity. Only you can change this insecure behavior!

Final Thoughts

Demonstrating genuine and positive leadership can be very difficult at times. Even successful leaders have moments when their behavior does not match the picture of an effective leader. It is very rare when we influence our employees each day through praise and honest appreciation. Even if our employees have made a mistake, as leaders, we are challenged to call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly. Often if we talk about own mistakes first, we can make our point to our employee without criticizing them.

For more information about improving your leadership skills, contact Executive Coach, Mary Kuniski at mkuniski@me.com.

Published by GoldenProfessionalCoaching.com

A Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Company

We Build Tomorrow’s Leaders

Reference: “What Got You There Won’t Get You There.” Marshall Goldsmith, pg. 40

“The Golden Book” Dale Carnegie

Can Amazon Be Beat With Customer Service?

CEO of Fedex, Frederick Smith responds with customer service. He walks the talk.


The Impact of Amazon

Every day I am asked what I think the impact of Amazon is on brick and mortar retail. There is no question that Amazon is affecting the assortment, accessibility, and speed of delivery. However, with the company’s growth, the organization appears to be lacking in face-to-face customer service. As their home deliveries grow the final miles become saturated with employees that are untrained in customer service skills. Last week, we received a bicycle camera we never even ordered and for which we were not charged. Try to talk to a human being to resolve the problem – impossible.  Have you felt like home deliveries in the little white van are a bit like a private detective arriving at your front door? Are you afraid to open your entry to the person delivering, and if you have opened your door, have you received a thank you for your purchase? The need for outstanding customer service in today’s business world is growing. Providing outstanding customer service is one way for retailers to overcome the loss of business to  Amazon.

Outstanding Customer Service

Recently, I had a positive experience with FedEx that made me realize that some companies are still out there providing outstanding customer service.  I needed some workbooks printed for a workshop that I was giving 1200 miles away. The associate at my local FedEx spent a great deal of time with me so we could determine the optimal number of pages, the best paper, and the best way to copy the document. At one point I mentioned that I had to carry the copies on the airplane, and the store associate indicated she would be happy to locate a local FedEx office so I would not have to take the prints on the plane. She promised they would be ready on Saturday morning by 9:00 am. When I arrived at the local FedEx, not only were the documents available, but I found out that my local store associate had called that morning to ensure the workbooks were ready. I was so blown away by the experience that I was compelled to write a positive note via email to the CEO, Frederick W. Smith. Below is an excerpt of the letter of response I received two days later.

“We appreciate your kind remarks regarding the service you received from Dollie. There is no doubt that our company’s success is directly attributed to the commitment of our employees to provide the best service offered in this industry, and we also understand the lasting impact that a courteous, professional employee can have on our customers. It is a pleasure to hear firsthand that Dollie’s assistance was helpful to you, and I am confident that both she and her manager appreciate your praise. Your letter serves as another important reminder to all of us at FedEx that our customers always deserve our best efforts. We have an internal process for recognizing such events, and Dollie will be rewarded for her efforts on your behalf.

A letter such as yours is particularly gratifying; a heartfelt note of praise from a person says not only a lot about the intended recipient of the recognition, but it also means a lot about someone who would take time out of their busy day to acknowledge the efforts of another. We thank you for taking the time out of your day to bring this to our attention.”

Upon receipt of this beautifully written response, I was reminded of the many years I spent as a store manager, and asked myself the question, “did I provide this level of service every day?” Outstanding customer service begins at the very top. Regional and District Managers need to walk the talk in every visit and every customer interaction. Store Managers need to talk about customer service and customer follow-up every day to their associates. I can tell you without a doubt that the next time I need copies or something shipped, I will be going back to FedEx. Not only did all the local staff meet the customer service challenge, but there was a CEO walking the talk.  The store associate was recognized and he graciously complimented me for taking the time to acknowledge the outstanding employee. He left me feeling like I had done something spectacular when all I did was send an email. I would love to send more emails like this but unfortunately, I have not found that same level of customer service in the brick and mortar stores, and even if I found it would I find the CEO’s email on the Internet? What this says to me is that retailers are missing the opportunity to offset the impact of Amazon with outstanding customer service. Congratulations FedEx’s CEO, Frederick Smith, for a job well done!

http://www.goldenprofessionalcoaching.com – A Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Company

We Build Tomorrow’s Leaders

A Diamond in the Rough: Identifying Qualified Candidates For Business Leadership

Determining your future management needs is very difficult with today’s baby boomers retiring. Learn how to build a effective plan to identify and train emerging leaders through executive coaching.

canstockphoto49928082Developing the right talent today will ideally contribute to tomorrow’s business success. In our last issue, we talked about Jane and the challenge in determining whether she was qualified to receive the investment in executive coaching to move her to the next level. Jane has courage, humility, and discipline but is lacking in several critical competencies that could cause her to fail.  To determine her potential, due diligence must be completed to make a very thoughtful decision. As an organization, evident criteria must be developed for future business needs and accurate data gathered on the employee to which one needs to compare to the criteria. The most common method to collect this information is to complete a Marshall Goldsmith Global Leader Stakeholder-Centered 360 assessment, which is offered by Golden Professional Coaching LLC.

To ensure the achievement of any succession planning effort, the executive board will need to identify any significant business challenges they anticipate in the upcoming one-to-five years. Critical positions required to support business continuity must be identified and flagged along with the competencies individuals will need to be successful in situations to meet the defined business challenges. The process is used to develop a pool of talent to step into critical positions as employees leave or retire.

To illustrate this point, let’s again look at Jane’s profile. The mission statement should include a statement about the organization’s ethical values. For example, if the company is concerned about the employee’s work/life balance, Jane’s behavior regarding overtime could be a checkmark against moving her up the ladder. Conversely, if the company has a five-year strategy to improve research and development to drive more business, Jane might just fit the business need and, therefore, be worth investing in executive coaching.

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Henry David Thoreau

Succession planning can only be helpful when the process is supporting business strategies and goals. Often businesses are completing succession planning without a goal in mind. Executives need to be vested in the process to ensure its success. They will need to clearly define and manage the development of key talent. Employees will also need to understand their role in the process and know what is expected of them.

Developing the Talent Pool

“Unleash the potential that is in another and you unleash the potential that is in you.” Matshona Dhliwayo

The C-Suite executives begin the succession planning process by identifying their business challenges and critical positions for the next one-to-five years. The following steps in the plan development are to gather data on all employees. This data should include name, address, marital status, college degree(s), previous jobs (employers), awards, top 5-6 skills, bottom 5-6 skills, willingness to relocate, foreign languages in which they are fluent, career interests, and desire to move into a leadership role. Each employee should complete a pre-prepared form with this information and provide it to his/her manager.

The Nine-Box Model

Managers have a crucial responsibility at this stage, which is to place each employee in the correct location on the nine-box grid. The nine-box model is one of the most widely used tools in succession planning and leadership development today. The model is typically used to assess individuals on two dimensions including their past performance and their future potential.

The X-axis (horizontal line) of three boxes assesses performance, and the Y-axis of three boxes (vertical line) assesses leadership potential. A combination of Y and X axis makes up the box within the grid in which each employee is placed.

Below is an example of a typical nine-box chart from VIA Consulting, who has some beautiful materials available for no charge. More often than not, there are three categories for performance and three categories for the potential of the employee.  This type of grid can easily be customized to meet the needs of the business.  The horizontal line places the employee in a performance assessment placement from Low Performer (first row) to High Performer (3rdRow). Next, the employee is evaluated against leadership potential using the vertical line. The first column indicates that the employee does not have future potential with the 3rdcolumn indicates the employee has high potential.


While an individual leader can use the nine-boxes to assess their own employees, the real value to this process is when a leadership team uses the nine-box grid as part of a “talent review” to have a discussion about the entire organization’s collective talent. Once the nine-box grids have been completed by each manager, each division should complete a talent review and identify back-fills for each critical position. Employees in the division should be ranked by potential and performance. Plans should be developed to resolve the issues with the low performer/low potential associates. These individuals will hold the company back. Finally, each division will present their high-potentials and company will recognize their high-potentials and their diamonds in the rough.

“Many people think of management as cutting deals and laying people off and hiring people and buying and selling companies. That’s not management; that’s deal-making. Management is the opportunity to help people become better people. Practiced that way, it’s a magnificent profession.” –Clayton M. Christensen

Now that we have identified the vital back-fill individuals for the critical positions, we also need to identify the individuals that will back-fill the key individuals. These individuals come from the middle column (top two rows) and are perfect candidates for executive coaching. We know they will likely hold leadership roles in the next one-to-five years, but also know they are not ready. Now could we go out and offer managers off the street for these positions? Most certainly we could use that approach, but the real cost/benefit of doing so just does not work.

First, the cost of recruitment is generally three times the person’s salary. Then there is training. The best case for a new employee is six months but more likely a year. Then there is the break in continuity of having an employee that understands the company model. These costs far exceed the cost of an executive coach, which averages 25% of the employee’s salary.

Golden Professional Coaching offers professional executive coaching to the diamonds in the rough using the Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching method. If you are interested in a program with a 95% success rate, please contact us at mkuniski@me.com. It is time to take those diamonds in the rough and turn them into your company’s future leaders!


Courage, Humility and Discipline – Building On The Foundation

Looking for the most important competencies when selecting leaders to move up in the organization? Look no further. This blog outlines exactly what you are looking for in an upcoming executive.

Over the last several weeks, we have been reviewing the keys to leadership development. As a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach, I look for three leadership traits in individuals before selecting a client for a coaching program and selecting the coaching program I will use.

First, the leader must have humility. Although he or she may be the highest rank leader in the organization, they need to be willing to accept suggestions and recommendations from their team to maximize their success.

Courage is essential for all leaders because all must have the willingness to change. Nelson Mandela once said, ” I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” As we make a change, we will have success, or we will fail. Either outcome will require courage.

Lastly, leaders need to have discipline. The difference between good and great leaders often comes down to control. So my question is this – how disciplined are you as a leader? While subjecting yourself to the rigor of discipline is not easy, it is essential if one wants to maximize their effectiveness as a leader.

Let’s now consider that we have selected Jane to be part of the executive coaching program. She is a high potential leader in the organization and is projected to move a least two levels in management over the next three years. Jane has a couple habits that are holding her back. The administration wants to help her eliminate those habits but is not quite sure how to address them. She completes a tremendous amount of work, but her team feels that her communication with them is weak and are frustrated with never knowing when they will have to work overtime. Jane does not understand this because she works hard to provide a clear expectation of what needs to be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done. In fact, Jane is so clear about her demands she easily could be classified as an autocratic leader.

Autocratic leaders are firmly focused on command by the leader and control of the followers. There is also a clear division between the leader and the members. Authoritarian leaders make decisions independently with little or no input from the rest of the group. Jane’s team resents the fact that they are not working together to create a shared vision on how to get the work done, They have ideas on how to reduce the time it takes to get the assignments completed, but Jane does not encourage any constructive dialog on these assignments. She just accepts the work and assigns it out. Some question Jane’s integrity and believe she is merely trying to make a name for herself.


Jane is failing in the communication competency. She needs to develop a shared vision with her team on what they stand for and what type of service they will provide. Her integrity is being questioned so it would be helpful if Jane would switch her leadership style to a participative manner, which would be much more effective. Team members would be encouraged to engage in constructive dialog and their opinions respected. Participative leaders encourage group members to participate in discussions, but the leader retains the final say in the decision-making process. Group members feel part of the process and are more motivated and creative.

Associate Engagement

Moving to a participative leadership style will encourage associate engagement as well – another of Jane’s weaknesses. One of the concerns of moving Jane up the ladder is there is no one on her team to replace her. As a leader in the organization, one of Jane’s responsibilities is to develop people to fill leadership roles.  Since Jane does not talk with her team much, she really has no idea who might fill her position when she is promoted. Jane could experience multiple benefits by identifying a team member that could be trained to fill-in when she is not available. Jane would benefit from having someone to whom she could delegate some of her work. Her employees would see that if they worked hard, there is an opportunity for advancement. She would begin building partnerships with her team and peers by sharing leadership of her department and provide better service.

Continuous Change

Jane is one of the few leaders in the organization who loves change. She sees continuous change as an opportunity to generate new business. Jane is always anticipating new opportunities in the global organization and works hard to bring these opportunities to the engineers. The challenge that Jane has is throwing the unique opportunity over the wall to the engineer and failing to follow-up. Jane feels like she is way too busy to help the engineer develop the market availability for the opportunity, but building a backup supervisor on her team might open some time for her to do that work. As Jane moves up the ladder, she will need to find new business opportunities and build them by developing the ROI on the project. She needs to learn how to lead change.

Boundary-less Inclusion

As a global organization, Jane may benefit from moving to an expatriate assignment to improve her ability to think globally. She currently works with an offshore team to manage her customer’s EDI processing but has never lived in a foreign country. Jane will need to empower her team in her new country as she needed to do in the U.S. Jane will need to understand and value diversity. She needs to understand and live the culture to ensure she is not rude to her peers and employees. Building the mentality of boundary-less inclusion can be challenging for Jane. A good attitude and foreign experience will be invaluable to her long-term success as a leader.

Assuring Success

Jane’s success is an indicator of our success as an Executive Coach. She is part of the millennial generation and seems to have a natural ability to understand and recommend technology advances to help the organization. Jane would benefit by acting as a business lead for an upcoming systems project. Doing so would require her to count on her team and empower them to make decisions. Leading a project would strengthen her interpersonal relationships and improve her ability to influence change through collaboration rather than control and command. Since most of the developers are offshore, Jane would need to value diversity to ensure the developers understood the requirements of the project.

Final Thoughts

Is Jane the right individual for this company to encourage growth through leadership training and development? Should she go on the list as a high-potential for a future executive position? Jane has the three foundational attributes – Courage, Humility, and Discipline, but are her five competencies strong enough? Can she 1) assure success through 2) communication, and 3) engaging people? Can she manage 4) continuous change and willingly accept 5) boundary-less inclusion. You decide!  Comment on your thoughts as to whether Jane can be a successful executive.

Looking for help coaching your high-potential leaders. Visit goldenprofessionalcoaching.com for information on how to get started or contact mkuniski@me.com.


Effective Succession Planning – The Silver Bullet For Successful Companies

How do I select the next leader in my company. This series reviews the need for succession planning and identifies the key traits and competencies of successful future leaders.




In last week’s blog post we pointed out that experienced leaders are retiring at an alarming rate leaving organizations without a pool of leaders from which to choose to fill open roles. Many companies are also ignoring the growth and development of future leaders due to budget shortfalls and lack of commitment to training and development. If a company does not invest in leadership training for its high-potential employees, those individuals are likely to leave and find opportunity and deeper engagement elsewhere. For most people, leadership is a skill that begins in their youth but must be nurtured throughout their career. Companies cannot approach leadership selection and train the same way they approach other opportunities in the company. Leadership selection and training must feel special and be engrained as a core component of the organization’s culture.

This week we will address the characteristics of an optimal leader so that companies have a framework from which to choose the best candidates to fill future roles in your organization. According to Marshall Goldsmith, number one executive coach in the world, successful leaders must maintain the traits of humility, courage, and discipline. These traits coupled with five competencies can build a successful employee into an excellent leader. In this blog, we will review the essential traits and next week we will talk about the core competencies required of a successful leader including solid communication, people engagement, boundary-less inclusion, assuring success, and continuous change.

 “Successful people become great leaders when they learn to shift the focus from themselves to others.”
― Marshall GoldsmithWhat Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful


Holding a position of power may be useful for a person’s ego, but successful leaders ensure that their employees know that their leader is not above his/her shortcomings. Leaders cannot be afraid of their failures. We all fail at some point, but what matters is the way we pick ourselves up and learn from our mistakes. Learning from our mistakes is what helps us grow and be stronger. When employees recognize that failure is natural, even for leaders, they will feel more open-minded and confident. Excellent leaders involve their stakeholders with suggestions to improve their performance and that of their department. They consider all recommendations, accept the ones that make sense and make changes as appropriate. Strong leaders admit they are not perfect and demonstrate leadership growth.

“No matter how good you think you are as a leader, my goodness, the people around you will have all kinds of ideas for how you can get better. So for me, the most fundamental thing about leadership is to have the humility to continue to get feedback and to try to get better – because your job is to try to help everybody else get better. ”  Jim Yong Kim


Leaders need to have the courage to get out of their comfort zone and try new things. They need to be vulnerable, rethink deeply held beliefs, and do what it takes to change. Excellent leaders stand behind their employees and speak up for initiatives in which they believe. New leaders need to learn how to use the power of facts and financials rather than emotion to justify his/her actions. Also, one of the most challenging adjustments a new leader has to make is learning how to handle disagreements or issues. Leaders want to be fair and balanced while avoiding potential conflict, which sometimes can be difficult. In fact, managers often veer away from confrontation and try to avoid it at all costs. New leaders need to create an environment that encourages continuous feedback on both sides. Once they receive feedback, leaders should not criticize or make excuses for the suggestion. Rather they should respond with a simple thank you to the employee for the suggestion.

“Success is not final: Failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Winston Churchill


Leaders need to be able to implement and hone their behavior, habits, and processes. A key indicator of the success of a future leader is the employees’ ability to recognize undesirable behaviors and change them. The employee should also be able to graciously accept criticism from his/her stakeholders and make positive changes in his/her behavior based on that feedback. Making leadership change stick is all about creating more effective habits and processes, which requires disciplined execution of an action plan developed after receiving input from stakeholders. Accepting and responding to stakeholder feedback can be difficult for some employees. When that is the case, developing a successful leader with this employee could be questionable.

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments!  Jon Rohn

Final Thoughts

Baby boomers are quickly retiring leaving holes in the leadership of many companies. Recognizing the employees that have potential to be outstanding leaders is a natural outcome during a succession planning process. Executive coaching needs to begin as soon as possible once these high-potential employees are identified. Companies who invest in coaching receive a 4% to 8% return on their investment. Golden Professional Coaching is a certified Marshall Goldsmith Executive Coaching firm and certified in the John Mattone Emotional Intelligence leadership development approach. Golden Professional Coaching is ready to take on the challenge of coaching your high-potential employees to be the best leaders on your team. Contact Mary Kuniski at mkuniski@me.comfor more information.


“One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens.”       Anne M. Mulcahy



Is Your Company Threatened By This Potentially Devastating Situation?

Leadership experts predict a management vacuum to arise in the corporate world in the next few years. Read here to learn how to develop an effective succession plan.

My Post (15)

Does your company have an effective succession plan that has identified the next CEO and the one after that? Today’s leadership has the responsibility of hiring and training tomorrow’s leaders. Warren G. Bennis, an American leadership expert claims that “too many companies believe people are interchangeable. Truly gifted employees have unique talents that tend to be irreplaceable. Such individuals cannot be forced into roles for which they are not suited, nor should they be. Effective leaders allow talented employees to do the work they were born to do.”

A Challenging Question

Several years ago, my CEO made a challenge to his leadership team. He asked if he took the top 10% of individual performers from the organization to begin a new division, would the leaders have someone to backfill the top 10% of employee’s positions. Of course, the answer was no! Identifying and building a succession plan to train top performers is often a frightening task for executives who fear the associate will leave the organization or worse yet take over the leader’s position. In cases such as this, top performers are quite frequently hidden behind their supervisor’s work and taken for granted. A correct succession plan would identify these high performers and provide a strategy to encourage growth and retention of these future company executives.

The “Obvious” Solution

I remember a woman I hired with several years of work experience. I could tell she was a superstar right from the start. She wanted a manager role, but she just wasn’t ready for that much responsibility. I convinced her to accept a lower position after a tough negotiation. Within a year she was promoted to a manager and that same year she received a perfect employee engagement score from her staff. Two years later she was promoted to a Director. When traveling to a trade show, we ran into the CEO. I made a point of introducing her to the CEO as the future of my company. He smiled broadly and was delighted. Today, she continues to grow in her talents and is still with the company. I am grateful that I was able to assist in coaching her to the leader she is today. Whether she becomes the CEO of this company or another, I honestly believe she has the talent and fortitude to be a CEO one day. 

A Fast Approaching Deadline

Sometimes valuable leaders lurk in the shadows of an organization. These are the individuals that are in the trenches doing a tremendous amount of work but lack acknowledgment or recognition by upper management, which kills their motivation to reach their full potential. Not recognizing future leaders in a company’s succession plan is unfortunate due to the future need for engaged leaders. A vast leadership vacuum is beginning to impact corporate cultures due to the retirement of over 10,000 people per day from the baby boomer era.

If you are ready to build a real succession plan to fortify your company’s future, check back next week to learn about how to create a “bulletproof” organization with effective succession planning.


Will you accept Marshall Goldsmith’s two-week challenge to achieve your goals?


Published by GoldenProfessionalCoaching.com

Marshall Goldsmith is the master of behavioral change. In his book called “Triggers, Becoming The Person You Want To Be.” Goldsmith suggests, can we increase our motivation, demonstrate commitment, focus on positive action and reinforce the idea that goals are achieved incrementally by asking ourselves daily active questions that help inspire us to work toward our goals.

What is the two-week challenge one might ask?

To understand the challenge, we need to understand the concept of a Trigger. Inside of each of us, there is a leader who always wants to behave appropriately no matter what the environment. Yet certain environments cause us to be followers and inappropriately behave when faced with a Trigger. Consider when you last encountered an unpleasant trigger. An embarrassing moment occurred to me when I called the school and asked to speak my child’s teacher. The secretary informed me that the teacher did not take phone calls. I explained that she had told me I could call at any time. The secretary insisted all she could do was leave a message for her to call me. When I did not receive a return phone call for two days, I was exasperated. I contacted the school secretary again, and instead of calmly thinking of what circumstances may have prevented a return phone call, I  got very irate. That is not my typical behavior and certainly did not win me any favors in the long run.

Thus, we can consider the definition of Triggers to be stimuli that prompt a behavioral reaction. They can be beliefs, behaviors, or environments. Identifying your Triggers is useful in all your interpersonal relationships whether at home or the workplace. Being able to work consciously and proactively with Triggers in today’s ever-changing environment, and knowing how to identify, anticipate and adequately respond to them is critical to career success, strengthened relationships, and becoming the best version of one’s self.

The typical cycle for a Trigger looks like this: Trigger – Impulse – Response

To create behavioral change, we must take a moment and become self-aware of how we are feeling and what a proper response should be to this moment. We make many excuses for ourselves to misbehave. In the end, we are the only ones that can change our behavior. We have to decide to change and be accountable for our results

“Between a TRIGGER and our response, there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response. It is in our response that lies our freedom and growth as leaders.”   Victor Frankl

When we add two additional steps to our Trigger response process, we can find our freedom from circumstances.

Trigger – Impulse – Self-Awareness – Choice – Response

Marshall Goldsmith’s program of accountability requires us to ask ourselves (or have someone ask us), a series of engaging questions that are designed to incite a feeling of personal responsibility and demonstrate effort. Asking oneself a specific set of questions each night reflects a dedication to behavioral change. It also provides a mechanism for receiving feedback on current practices. The real key to the queries’ effectiveness is having another person, such as a friend or loved one, respond to the answers and challenge any trouble spots to determine if there is a causal link between behaviors and an environmental factor.

Marshall Goldsmith recommends that we begin at a minimum with six active questions listed in his book. He also advises us to add specific issues that relate to the critical goals in our life and or career. What is important to note here is the development of these questions. Questions that say, “ I have done my best to listen to my staff” are a passive question and give the leader an out. All inquiries should be formatted in an active voice.  This question should be formatted to read; I set aside one hour each day to listen to my staff’s needs.

The Two-Week Challenge

This week I was fortunate enough to offer a workshop on Triggers to the Retail Value Chain Federation (RVCF.com) at their spring conference. We spent about two hours discussing the topic and then agreed to ask ourselves our own set of eight to ten questions every day for two weeks. We determined we would rate ourselves 0-10 on each question each day for two weeks, and at the end of each week, we would average the questions to see if we had improved. Why two-weeks you might ask? It takes a minimum of two-weeks to form a new habit.

Watch for more feedback on how we did.

Final thoughts


Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Tin Can


A few weeks ago, I was working with a development company on a new business website and was frustrated because the project manager did not seem to understand how important it was for me to have a banner under my logo that would easily be seen by the customer. I explained to him that the banner was the most important part of the website and needed to be enlarged and placed under my company logo. After receiving the revision, I realized I oversold the point. Unfortunately, the project manager took my instruction way out of context and made the banner HUGE! I felt like he and I had the conversation with two tin cans and a string. Once I got over my frustration, I realized good communication is not the message you give that matters. It is truly the message that the receiver hears.

Peter Drucker once said, “the art of communication is the language of leadership.” Remember it is not important what you say – only what your listener hears. If we wish to be great leaders we need to check for understanding!

How then can we ensure the receiver hears what we are saying? First, we need to be a good listener. Use active listening by paying close attention to the speaker, ask appropriate clarifying questions, and rephrase what the presenter said to ensure understanding. Use a phrase such as, “so what I heard you say is.” Using this approach will save us misunderstandings later.

When having a conversation in person consider our non-verbal communication. Monitor facial expressions as often our face and the look in our eyes tell the orator what we are thinking. Use appropriate but minimal hand gestures as they can help us make our point if used minimally.  Maintain a relaxed stance as this will encourage others to speak openly with us. When talking on the phone, it is amazing how easily others can hear our body language. If we are speaking on the phone, stand up and smile while we are talking. Listeners will hear the happiness in our voices and listen more closely

Think about riding in an elevator from the first to the thirty-second floor, and we only have the 20 seconds the elevator takes to reach the top to share our thoughts with the other person. Keeping our message short and to the point will make our message stand out. No one enjoys hearing what happened last night blow-by-blow. Think about what we want our listener to know and then cut our words in half. Brevity and clarity are critical in the business world.

Selecting the right medium for our communication is equally important. In business today, we often shoot off a quick email without thought or hesitation. We often reply to all without even thinking about our response. Yet, if we were in the boardroom with that same group of people, our response would be thoughtful and considerate. The problem with written communication is that the reader does not see our non-verbal communication or hear our tone of voice. Therefore, the reader may come to conclusions that are completely opposite of our original meaning. Before sending an email response, read it out loud putting yourself in the reader’s place and see how you feel after hearing the response.

Personalizing communication helps other relax and respond in a positive way. Calling our co-workers by name and asking about their weekend are effective ways to gain attention before beginning your business communication. When we exhibit confidence in what we are saying the listener is more likely to accept our words and respond.

To summarize use the following techniques to improve communication and leadership.

  1. Be a good listener and check for understanding
  2. Monitor non-verbal communication and be engaged with the speaker
  3. Be clear and brief
  4. Double check written communication for unintended negative emotions and/or words. You can’t take them back.
  5. Personalize your communication by remembering and using people’s names

Published by Mary Kuniski, Executive Coach for Golden Professional Coaching

Check out our new website @www.goldenprofessionalcoaching.com

Join us in Clearwater Florida on May 8, 2018, for a two-hour workshop on Triggers – Being the Leader You Want To Be.   Click here for more information https://www.rvcf.com


A synopsis of the false missile alert aimed at Hawaii. Who should take ownership of this significant process failure. Read and decide for yourself.

On Sunday morning about 6:00 am I was reading the news on my cell phone and was shocked to hear that the Hawaii state emergency alert system had sent out the message.


I can’t even imagine what it was like to hear all those cell phones’ audible alarms screaming with this announcement and the panic that must have ensued quickly after that. One of my questions is who wrote the template for this alert? Did anyone read it and assess its impact on the public if sent? Perhaps the announcement was written quickly to give to a developer because he/she needed it in the next hour to hit a milestone. I have to believe that there is no person out there truly believes there is a shelter for this type of catastrophic event. Of course, as we well know now, the alert was false. (CNN, By Zachary Cohen January 9, 2018, 6:06 pm)

What caused this unfortunate panic situation? Unfortunately, we hear the same answer that has been creating terror for us for more than a century. One complacent person made a common computer error by pushing the wrong button during a safety drill. He/she even passed the programmers validation (question: are you sure) by simply pushing yes because he/she had accepted that same validation on a hundred other programs.  State emergency leaders and emergency officials immediately blamed the event on an employee who “pushed the wrong button.” It takes a lot of courage to come out and respond to the terrorized public – sorry we had one person push the wrong button.

The initial response to the tragic event turned into a major embarrassment for the state and its Governor, David Y. Ige. Hawaii officials worked quickly to head off damage to the leading industry in Hawaii, which is tourism, by sending a note out from the Governor to all residents and tourists of Hawaii. My relatives were on vacation in Hawaii during the event and received the letter from the governor under their hotel door. Their response to the dispatch was that the message was a nice gesture. After reading the communication, I believed the notice represented more than a simple apology. The moment of genuine leadership had arrived, and that required someone in power to take responsibility for the crises. Who better than the Governor since the buck will always stop with the top leader?

On Sunday, the Federal Communications Commission said that Hawaii did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place in its emergency notification process. What did Hawaii do to respond to that statement? They quickly added a second person to verify the first button pusher was using the correct button, which was a logical and quick solution. My question is why that step was not already in place? It would have been so easy right then to fire the person who made a mistake and assume it would never happen again. Credit goes to Governor Ige, who happens to be up for re-election this year and has been criticized for his lack of leadership for saving the job and life of the button pusher. Colin Moore, Director of Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaii, claimed there was no better test of leadership than responding to what happened yesterday.(NY Times, Adam Nagourney, January 14, 2018)

And there it is, not a statement about one person creating terror simply by being complacent. Rather we analyze the leadership style of the top man in the state. Aren’t all leaders analyzed throughout their lives? How would we respond in this terrible situation?

In his letter to the residents and visitors of Hawaii, Governor Ige explained “that the cause for this false alert was an error by a Civil Defense employee at Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency who unknowingly activated this alert to be sent. It is ironic that a person who is dedicated to serving the people of Hawaii and protecting their safety was responsible for causing this situation. You can imagine how badly this person feels. I assure you that steps have already been taken by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to ensure that a situation of this type never happens again.”

Now let’s consider what kind of leader holds the name of the person creating such havoc close to his vest, does not fire him, and tells the public how terrible he feels that he made such a horrific mistake. One might consider Governor Ige’s leadership style is startling in the way he is taking care of his employee, but as the CEO of Hawaii, his approach could easily be considered a Laissez-faire leadership methodology. The French word Laissez-faire formally translated means, “let them do”  or more commonly translated to the phrase “let it be” As such, laissez-faire leaders are characterized by their hands-off approach, allowing employees to get on with tasks as they see fit. This leadership approach can apply to jobs where the employee is producing creative content or workplaces where employees are very experienced. However, when an organization/business is facing life and death decisions, leaders must monitor performance and effectively communicate expectations to prevent work standards slipping.

In any leadership style, operational, well-thought-out business practices need to be planned by the leaders and stakeholders, defined through a flow chart, responsibilities in the process identified, leaders of critical process steps highlighted, and one owner of the entire process (whose throat to choke) established before terror ensues. My conclusion based on public information gathered to date is Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency has process gaps that need to be identified and resolved quickly, and the leadership of the agency must be held accountable for future failures.

Let’s ask ourselves if this were our company, would we find similar process gaps. What type of leader are we and how do we blend our leadership style to bring out the best in our company?

Golden Executive Coaching can help you build your leadership team and establish processes to improve your business! Certified by Marshall Goldsmith in Stakeholder Centered Coaching, we have 25 years experience in process management and are certified in change management. Go to www.Goldenprofessionalcoaching.com for more information.