“Now, remember, Ben likes to shake things up; don’t be afraid to stand up to him.”

This was my boss, Eric, coaching me on an upcoming first-time meeting with a powerful VP in our organization. I was an ambitious young professional, recently hired from the outside and ready to make my mark at the new company. Eric realized my potential and arranged a meeting with Ben so that I could demo some new training materials that were being set up for Ben’s area of responsibility.

The meeting started well enough but then devolved into a train wreck as I struggled to maintain my composure with Ben’s “shaking things up.” He poked holes in my assertions, challenged my ideas and didn’t let up for almost 45 minutes. I left that meeting thinking, “I will never work for that man. He’s a tyrant.”

I received no sympathy from Eric. “I told you he was going to be tough,” my typically easy-going boss said in stern reproach. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: How valuable are your organization’s board meetings?

  • Highly — we get a great deal of value from our board: 21.89%
  • Somewhat — board meetings deliver some value but not a lot: 39.3%
  • Not very — the meetings are more of a formality: 24.38%
  • Not at all — the meetings simply consume time and energy: 14.43%

Stop telling and start asking. The board is tired of hearing you talk and likely frustrated you’re not asking them for more guidance. Spare them the business unit updates. They can read those on the plane on their way to the meeting. Instead, use your limited and valuable time with them to get their perspectives on issues they can help you work through. (read more…)

The continued struggles of the Secret Service are a series of failures and performance lapses that have gone on for several years. One person, however, was warning of the decline of the agency well before the Salahis crashed a state dinner in 2009; well before the 2012 prostitute scandal in Colombia; before a knife-wielding man gained entrance to the White House last year; and before the recent episode in which drunk agents drove their car up to the White House and interrupted an active bomb investigation.

Ronald Kessler, a New York Times best-selling author and journalist for the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, has written two books and an op-ed piece that have spelled out dire consequences if the Secret Service doesn’t heed the warnings of their continued failures. In his book In The President’s Secret Service,” Kessler warned that without significant changes in the agency and its culture, “…an assassination of Barack Obama or a future president is likely.”

recite-1vk9zkcI talked with Kessler recently and discussed the lessons for business leaders that can be gleaned from the Secret Service’s continued lapses. (read more…)

Are you overlooking the talents and skills of someone on your team?

Some star performers may lack the confidence to challenge conventional thinking about themselves and therefore they stay in their given roles.

Those who manage the talent pipeline would be wise to heed the words of composer Ludwig von Beethoven, who wrote, “The barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, ‘Thus far and no farther.’”

Talent wins!

John Baldoni is chair of leadership development at N2Growth, is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2014, Trust Across America named him to its list of top 100 most trustworthy business experts. Also in 2014, Inc.com named Baldoni to its list of top 100 leadership experts, and Global Gurus ranked him No. 11 on its list of global leadership experts. Baldoni is the author of more than a dozen books, including his newest, “MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.”

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader. (read more…)

Business success today demands careful attention to risk management. Contingency plans, redundant systems, business continuity insurance, and countless other vehicles protect organizations from the volatility and unpredictability of today’s business landscape.

But there’s one area where risk should actually be cultivated rather than averted, and it’s the on-the-job growth, learning and development of leaders.

By definition, developing a leadership capability, skill or experience set means throwing someone into the unknown to do what he or she has not mastered or perhaps even attempted before. There are no guarantees of success when a leader is given an opportunity to develop on the job. But, it’s precisely through these sorts of challenges that humans in general – and leaders in particular – learn most quickly and powerfully.

My ongoing research with senior leaders in 25+ organizations across the U.S. paints a compelling yet simple picture of the most effective leadership development strategy. When asked how their own managers or mentors helped them to grow the most, the No. (read more…)