It’s Okay To Be Bold. Here’s How To Start.

Advancing in your career, let alone life takes a little luck and a lot of work but in the end, you hopefully land where you want to be which is happy and successful.

How you get there is the real question.

We all know the folklore about the famous success stories paved with failure after failure only leading to success but what you don’t hear much about is the actual make up of these individuals – insert definition:

  • adjective: bold; comparative adjective: bolder; superlative adjective: boldest (of a person, action, or idea) showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.

According to Costa and McCrae who are known for the development of the OCEAN modelbelieve there are ways to measure one’s openness to things like: ideas, actions, feelings, values, fantasy and aesthetics. Here are their six factors to consider when determining your level of openness:

  • Openness to ideas. Do you like a mental challenge? Rather than reading only popular novels, do you enjoy dabbling in philosophy at least once in a while? Are you open to ideas and solve problems just for the sake of keeping your mind active?
  • Openness to actions. Are you willing to try new things or do you prefer the same-old/same-old? If you’re high on this openness facet, you’re willing to try new foods, visit new places, and perhaps you’re always ready to check out the latest tech.
  • Openness to feelings. At any given moment, can you identify whether you’re happy, sad, or afraid? Do you find it easy to read the emotions of others? People high on openness to feelings are receptive to their own feelings and those of others. If you’re open to feelings, you’re both passionate and compassionate.
  • Openness to values. Do you think that there is only one “right” way to live? Should anyone who commits a crime be punished, or do you think that criminals can be rehabilitated? If you’re open to values, you’re able to see that life is full of gray areas. You also appreciate that other people’s views have validity and are willing to learn from them.
  • Openness to fantasy. Do enjoy imagining possibilities that don’t yet exist? Are you prone to daydreaming? Being willing to engage in mental flights of fancy suggests that you’re high on this openness trait. You like to turn new ideas over in your mind and even if you don’t act on them, you enjoy thinking about them.
  • Openness to aesthetics. If you’ve got free time, would you rather go to a concert or art museum or would you prefer to “veg out”? Is gardening or taking care of indoor plants one of your favorite pastimes?

Being bold can look like a lot of things. Take this quote from Sir Richard Branson. Wildly successful and equally known for being bold and taking risks. It’s served him well and if you look at the factors above mapped against his career success, the OCEAN model becomes a lot clearer to understand.

Call it “hustle”, “grind” (well actually please don’t as I can’t stand these terms) or simply call it being proactive, assertive, fearless or even courageous. No matter the label – there is an art to being bold without being overbearing. In order to move forward in life and get what you want, you will undoubtedly have to move beyond your comfort zone requiring you to take action, be open, be bold and hopefully not brash. Here are 5 ways to do just that:

  1. Speak up & Stand up: The only given if you don’t is that the answer will always be no and the situation will most likely never change. Don’t overthink it and put your fears about being judged to the side. Everyone gets scared but it’s the ones willing to breakthrough it who choose to be bold. Bold people actively express their needs with the intention to have them heard and fulfilled.
  2. Stop apologizing: There is an old expression that says never apologize more than once as it’s a sign of weakness. Never make excuses and own your actions as this shows both maturity and confidence. People who give a lot of excuses are typically fearful of being judged. Bold people understand this and don’t dwell on the negative and look to move forward.
  3. Don’t crumble at criticism: We all know the stories of Oprah, Disney, Dyson, Einstein and so on. If these people gave up on their ideas and pursuits because of public opinion, who knows where we would be today. Bold people know this and keep moving forward without allowing the naysayers to completely stop them in their tracks.
  4. Take measured risks: Bold people know that in order to exercise their courage, they will need to do something they haven’t done before and out of character. Being bold means experimenting. It doesn’t mean being irresponsible, it simply means you are able and willing to see past your current circumstances and open to creating new ones.
  5. Act “as if”: Or as many like to call it, “fake it until you make it.” It turns out there is something real to this. Pretend for a day that you are bold, no seriously try it. How would that make you feel? What might you do differently? Find bold people that you admire, research and study them and examine what and how they do things. Then model them and act as if you, too, are bold. Then when situations arise, don’t act as you would normally but pause and ask yourself what that person would do. Bold people know that this works and in order to grow in this area, it will take both time and putting yourself in new place and situations where you can expriment without feeling judged.

Final thoughts:

One could argue there is a fine line between being bold versus brash and they would be correct. Take our pal Sir Richard Branson, many have called him the latter but in the end, his boldness and of course his heart has won more people over in his achievements. Finding where the line is for you is your mission should you choose to accept it. Just remember along the way to be authentic, be vulnerable, be open to learning from failure, challenge the conventional ways, ask for help and if you do these things, you will undoubtedly begin to trust yourself more and increase your ability to be bold.

The floor is yours: What’s your advice on how to be bold?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Joshua /

Please ‘Follow’ if you would like to hear more from me in the future.

Career Engagement

Career Engagement Begins With You

Got a case of the Mondays?

No seriously.

You wouldn’t be the first, and you’re probably not the last.

It’s no wonder why come Sunday, people dread going to work the next day. The reality is that the vast majority of Americans hate Monday not because it’s the beginning of the work- of week, but because of their lack of enthusiasm at their j-o-b.

Career engagement has become the holy grail of culture design for many companies.

Each year, Gallop (the gatekeepers of employee engagement): releases a survey around professional engagement on the job, and year-after-year the results are staggering.

70% of those surveyed say they are unhappy on the job – they’re either disengaged (not giving their all) or actively disengaged (consciously not contributing) employees.

Recently, I sat down with Tom Perry, founder of Engaged Pursuit based out of Seattle. Tom’s a 20-year tech leader with experience launching huge products and running global teams across Fortune 50 organizations. He left his corporate gig after experiencing his own professional disengagement to build his own company to address this massive problem.

I asked Tom one simple question: “How can employees stay out of that 70% and create career engagement?”

Here’s what he had to say:

Know your “Professional Story”

What’s that you might ask? You can think about it in a couple of ways. It’s not only your elevator pitch highlighting your strengths/interests, but it’s really knowing (and articulating) what makes you “tick” professionally. The most commonly asked question in an interview (from the informational to the intense in-person) is “So tell me about yourself?” The VAST majority of professionals don’t know how to answer this simple question in an inspiring, confident, and impactful way.

For more on career engagement:

His Advice: Paint-a-picture of who you are professionally, highlighting your previous paths, your home runs, your style and your intent for the future. This should take about two mins of time, not even touching the specifics of your resume. Check out how his approach, and, with his help, discover (and articulate) your Professional Story clearly and confidently.

Network, Network, Network.

If you’re looking for something new, 90% of the time a more engaging role will come through direct connections, peers, previous managers or friends-of-friends. To date, none of his clients (zero!) have secured a better gig by applying through a corporate career/job-portal (even though that’s where the vast majority start). All found something new through networking. Tom says the most effective work he does with his clients is on the art of networking, as it actually takes a ton of work to be successful – especially for those who aren’t comfortable in this type of experience (or never done it in the first place).

His Advice: YOU have to own every single element of the networking experience. No more “Keep your eyes out for a position that I might like!” From the initial sit-down request, to creating a clear picture of what’s desired, to managing the contact’s next-steps, to making it super-easy to say “yes” at every step of the way, it’s the job of the candidate to do all of this work. It takes time and practice but the investment is worth it.

Own the relationship with your boss.

You’ve probably heard it time-and-time again – the manager/employee relationship is a major contributor to employee engagement and one of the main reasons why professionals leave and/or start looking for something new. This partnership is crucial; however, Tom thinks individuals are not taking enough ownership of this relationship. As a former people manager, he found it frustrating when team members would come to him asking “for more opportunities” or wondering what they needed to do to get a promotion. In addition, he encouraged employees to tell him what they were good at and what they wanted to work on next.

His Advice: TELL your manager what kind of experience you’re going to create for yourself (in the parameters of your job description, of course), TELL your manager how you’re going to onboard yourself if you’re starting something new, TELL your manager how you want to utilize your strengths to maximize long-term impact, TELL your manager your ideas around getting that promotion to the next level and TELL your manager how they can most effectively manage you/your style. Having intent around this relationship is crucial – try it!

Final thoughts:

Tom’s employment engagement point of view and advice focus not on providing employee perks but focusing on how you can empower your own career journey. If you are reading this on the weekend and thinking, “Oh great, I have one more day before I have to head back to the office it may be time to think about how you can empower yourself to be more engaged in your career. If you get stuck, check out Tom’s company’s Linked-In page or reach out to him directly … there’s a reason his company is called Engaged Pursuit

The Floor Is Yours: Are you too happy or just too ehh? Take this quiz

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With Leadership,

Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller is a creative leader and impactful executive coach.

His career spans both the advertising world and the world of leadership. In advertising, he was the creative lead, responsible for the campaign strategy for Fortune 100 brands. Today, he is an innovator. He’s supporting the executive development and change management for many of the same companies.

Joshua studied at Syracuse University, NYU and Stanford. He combines that background with his deep knowledge of organizational behavior, performance and change management. He focuses on the analysis, design, development, delivery, and evaluation of scalable and global talent development solutions programs.

Joshua is a Master Certified Coach. He trained with the International Coaching Federation and CTI (The Coaches Training Institute).

The Real Reasons Your 2019 Commitments Won’t Last

In a world that appears to be heavily divided at times, it’s comforting to know that regardless of your race, religion, or political views, we’re most likely all going to fail together on our 2019 commitments before Valentine’s Day even hits. Not exactly the storybook ending you hoped for, but the harsh reality nonetheless. Read more

3 Reasons Your Company Has A Weak Coaching Culture

Leaders don’t listen.

There, I said it.

Okay, maybe not all leaders – but many of them are guilty of being overworked, under developed and lacking adequate time management skills, which as a result doesn’t allow them take the time to truly listen to their people resulting in some bad habits as a people manager.

So why is this important?

As a coach, you must be able to stay present, engage others through powerful questions and then wait long enough for a response from the other individual. Coaching is not about being right or knowing the answer, it’s about guiding the other person to the place where they can discover the answer on their own. Coaching is not about giving direction, leading the witness or bullying the other person into action.

If a leader doesn’t feel equipped with the necessary skills or training to do this, you won’t be creating a coaching culture…but rather a demanding one.

I’ve been writing about coaching for almost as long as I have been a coach and if there’s one thing I have witnessed, it’s the rise and fall of coaching cultures within organizations. It’s no secret that many companies want to create an empowering and impactful coaching culture but the odds of its success are not always clearly outlined. Last year, in my article “A Coaching Culture: Why Leaders Struggle As Coaches (Part 3)” I wrote about what it takes for an organization to seriously consider building out a coaching culture and the strategic work that’s involved, now I want to discuss “why” it isn’t working out (or working out as well as you would hope).

If you are one of the few organizations whose been trying to stand up a successful coaching culture and has experienced more failures than successes, don’t give up just yet. Although giving up may be the easiest of options, it’s worth first diagnosing what’s blocking your success.

Unfortunately, the decision to create such a culture can stem from a variety of places none of which are ideal if the goal is to create a successful coaching culture. Often times, the directive comes from the top down and the person or persons responsible for carrying out this initiative are either ill-equipped, ill-educated or ill-advised on how to execute effectively.

What comes next is something I have witnessed firsthand and all too often.

An organization sends a group of their pre-selected leaders to a workshop to learn a variation of one of the basic coaching models (usually called GROW) and then expect them to walk away prepared to coach anyone and anywhere. This is both fundamentally wrong and a disaster just waiting to happen. Organizations need to view this type of project like any other change initiative, using a systematic and strategic approach that’s been thought out well in advance and mapped to both a broader vision around the company’s talent development philosophy and roadmap.

“Changing culture is not as easy as changing your outfit”

Some basic questions organizations should consider before embarking on creating a coaching culture:

  • Why do we need this?
  • What specifically are we looking to achieve?
  • How will we know we were successful?
  • How do we know we’ve selected the right group of coaches?

Only  11% of senior leaders actively use coaching despite  70% of organizations claiming they coach their people

Here are three common reasons many organizations fail when it comes to successfully standing up a coaching culture:

The Framework Is Weak. Just as you can’t train anyone to be a coach if they aren’t interested in being one, you also can’t throw any coaching model into an organization and hope it sticks. GROW is widely used as the go-to model for many companies looking to train the trainer or introduce coaching within their functions and culture. The reason is obvious, it’s easy to understand and in theory apply but that’s where it falls apart. More times than not, the tool is introduced with the majority of time spent on what it is vs. how to use it. Having any model with little to no direction on its application renders it useless and potential harmful to others. It’s called coaching, not modeling. The coach is responsible for supporting the other individual’s growth and change, not the model. A good (or even great coach) will be able to see the potential in any model and decide how and when to apply it.

The Coach Is Weak. If your leaders training isn’t great, then don’t expect greatness from your leaders. Common challenges for coaches (at any level) right out of the gate is a common lack of presence. Being present is everything as a coach, and from there is where you (the coach) can actually go to work. When a coach isn’t properly trained, they are going to rely on what it’s comfortable and familiar which is typically the opposite of coaching. I see managers all the time with the best of intentions of actually looking to coach but in reality they are directing, giving advice or sometimes consulting. Coaching isn’t a check mark in a box, it’s a commitment to another person’s greatness to ensure they’re in check.

The Accountability Is Weak. I always tell my clients that the true value of the coaching work we do will come the moment the session ends and you go back to your life and apply what you learned. The same holds true in the workplace. The leader/manager’s duty as a coach doesn’t end when the session ends, in fact that’s when it begins. Holding your coachee/employee accountable to what was covered in the session, discovered through conversation and committed to before the next session is critical. People who receive coaching are usually lacking follow through (amongst some other common blind spots) and the best way to aid another person’s accountability is to demonstrate your own. Being accountable to your employee is about owning your integrity. You can’t expect someone else to follow through if you don’t.

Note: These two reports from HCI and the ICF “Building a coaching culture with millennial leaders” and “Building a coaching culture for change management” are both insightful and packed with incredible data.

The floor is yours: How important is coaching to your companies’ culture?

With Leadership,

Joshua |

Joshua Miller is an executive coach, creative leader and bestselling author. His career spans both the advertising world and the world of leadership. In advertising, he was the creative lead, responsible for the campaign strategy for Fortune 100 brands. Today, he is an innovator. He’s supporting the executive development and change management for many of the same companies. Joshua is a Master Certified Coach trained with the International Coaching Federation and CTI (The Coaches Training Institute).

Please ‘Follow’ if you would like to hear more from me in the future.

Workplace Shaming: Some Employees Need A Time Out

Recently, my oldest son came to me about a situation at school. He was being bullied by someone three grades older than him. As a parent, this is one of those conversations you probably dread having. My wife and I successfully handled it by talking to someone at his school. But something came out of the conversation with my son that I wasn’t expecting.

You see, my son looked me straight in the eyes and asked me if there were bullies at work. I looked at him straight in the eyes and told him the truth.

The answer was yes.

He’s almost seven, so I didn’t see any reason not be honest. Workplace bullying and workplace shaming both are certainly a part of life.

“What seemed like a teaching moment with my son suddenly turned into a coaching moment for myself.”

Nowadays, the word “shaming” is a popular topic in a lot of conversations. But there seems to be a disconnect with the concept of workplace shaming.

Many companies have implemented a zero tolerance policy for workplace bullying. However, many people don’t know the difference between bullying and shaming. And since there is a ton of information out there on this topic, that’s where we’ll begin.

Bullying vs. Shaming

Shaming someone typically occurs not for what a person has done, but for who that person is. The shaming could be because of a physical attribute, race or skin color, for instance. It’s simply a demonstration of the other person’s prejudices.

Bullying, on the other hand, is meant to humiliate and often physically harm or hurt someone perceived as weaker. Bullies seek power at the expense of others while attempting to dominate them. Adult bullies in the workplace, for example, are known to cause toxic atmospheres. These atmospheres diminish performance, destroy interpersonal relationships and erode company culture.

The psychological scars of both are real, raw and relevant to the victim. The victims of shaming and bullying are sometimes prone to turning their pain and emotions towards those who hurt them and anyone they felt condoned it. This creates another, much more serious situation.

This type of behavior has lead to some of the most horrific events that played out in the news. How many times did we learn that an assailant was a victim of bullying or constant abuse?

The bottom line: Neither shaming nor bullying can exist without a victim. And there is no place for this behavior in or out of the workplace.

The Impact Is Real

You might think this type of behavior isn’t a real threat or something to be concerned about. If you do, I would ask you to suspend that disbelief for one more paragraph.

When someone is bullied or shamed, it causes the victim to feel inadequate. This leads to disempowering thoughts such as, “Everyone must think I’m stupid or weak.”

That inner dialogue has been proven to trigger past memories of similar experiences, which leads to a deeper and more painful experience. Then, the emotional and mental impact leads directly to a physical one. And both of these are a superhighway to poor performance and lackluster employee engagement.

According to bullying expert Sherri Gordon, (the author of over 20 books on the subject), the impact in the workplace is quite extensive. She states that, “If you’re a target of bullies in the workplace, you probably start each week with a pit of anxiety in your stomach. Then, you count down the days until the weekend or next vacation.”

Inappropriate behavior by adult bullies may include:

  • Berating people
  • Stealing credit
  • Excluding others
  • Making snide remarks
  • Threatening others
  • Unfair criticism

Bullying has been known to cause a myriad of physical and psychological health problems.

These might include: stress, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, and higher blood pressure to name a few.

The impact on a bullied employee’s performance is also very real.

She cites some of the top issues as being:

  • Having trouble making decisions
  • An incapacity to work or concentrate
  • A loss of self-esteem
  • Lower productivity

Bullied workers not only lose motivation, they lose time because they are preoccupied with:

  • Trying to defend themselves
  • Avoiding the bully
  • Networking for support
  • Ruminating about the situation
  • Planning how to deal with the situation

But wait, there’s more…

In the full article (here) the author states that in addition to disrupting the work environment and impacting worker morale, it can also:

  • Reduce productivity
  • Create a hostile work environment
  • Promote absenteeism
  • Impact workers compensation claims
  • Result in costly, and possibly embarrassing legal issues

Other costly effects on the employer include:

  • Increased use of sick leave, health care claims and staff turnover
  • Erosion of employee loyalty and commitment
  • Additional costs to recruit and train new employees
  • Poor public image and negative publicity
  • Increased risk of legal action

What You Can Do About It

When discussing “what” to do about this type of behavior, we must also consider “how” it should be addressed and by “whom.” This is because there are two distinct parties involved. The first are the individuals – in this particular case, the victims. The second are the companies/employers where this type of behavior is taking place. Let’s start with what companies can begin to do or simply reinforce current policies.

In this fantastic HuffPost articleMargaret Jacoby pointed out some steps EMPLOYERS can and should start implementing:

  • Know what bullying looks like.

In a professional environment, this includes repeated mistreatment including verbal humiliation, persistent and unwarranted criticism, isolation and exclusion from social activities. Obvious signs are physical and overtly verbal abuse, but the subtler signs include sabotage of a person’s efforts to succeed.

  • Look out for targets of bullying behavior.

Certain types of co-workers tend to be targeted for workplace bullies – those who are very skilled at their jobs, favorites of management, those well-liked in the company and those not particularly aggressive. Take note of those who seem to have positive relationships and who doesn’t seem to interact with a group.

  • Focus on job performance.

Avoid negative comments unrelated to the job or the task at hand. Comments such as “any dummy could do this job” can be viewed as bullying. Train your managers and supervisors on appropriate ways to provide constructive criticism to workers without resorting to name-calling or using negative personal comments.

Your leadership sets the tone for how employees are expected to treat each other. Therefore, make clear in your handbook and by your own actions what type of behavior is permitted. Also outline what behaviors are expressly prohibited. Provide clear directions for reporting allegations and prohibit retaliation against those who do complain.

  • Investigate complaints promptly. 

Don’t ignore direct complaints or rumors of bullying in your workplace. Take immediate action. Because the longer you permit bullying, the greater the damage to the victim and potential liability to your company.

  • Provide training to both supervisors and employees.

Your policies will mean very little if supervisors don’t understand them and how to enforce them. Therefore, supervisors need to know how to identify bullying, fairly investigate claims, maintain privacy and appropriately discipline the offenders. It’s also important that all employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities to report such behavior.

If they aren’t, they will continue to believe that the employer doesn’t take these situations seriously.

  • Encourage a zero-tolerance environment. 

In the survey mentioned previously, bullied workers were asked how the employer handled the situation. The majority of bullies were found to be bosses or supervisors. And 72% of those surveyed felt their employer rationalized, or even encouraged, a culture of bullying. Some even denied it existed.

In those cases, it’s impossible for employees to feel safe or have any confidence. Because of this, they’ll have trouble being productive and happy in their jobs.

  • Call bullying what it is. 

Using terms such as incivility, disrespect, personality conflicts, difficult people, management style, trivializes bullying. It also underestimates the damage it does to the person who was bullied. In other words, not calling bullying “bullying,” in order to avoid offending someone just adds to the injury. After all, these victims’ jobs, careers, and health are threatened as the result.

If this subject has piqued your interest, I recommend grabbing these reads from Amazon. They can help you gain deeper insight into workplace shaming and positive company culture.

As an EMPLOYEE and potential victim of workplace bullying or shaming, there are certain empowering and necessary actions one should take. And according to Ms. Gordon’s insightful article titled, “How to Confront Workplace Bullying,” these are some to consider:

1. Take care of yourself and learn to recognize bullying

When you realize that you are being bullied, you are less likely to blame yourself or take responsibility. Remember — bullying is a choice the bully makes, not something defective in you.

2. Realize that you can change your response

Although it is impossible to change someone who doesn’t want to change, you can change how you respond. Take some time to think about how you want to handle the situation.

Do you want to search for a new job? Or maybe to report the incident? How about requesting a transfer?

Only you can decide how you want to address the situation.

3. Learn how to set boundaries

Be direct with the bully about how you plan to address his behavior. Furthermore, learn to be firm, confident and assertive. For example, tell the bully if he continues to threaten your job, you’ll report his behavior to human resources.

4. Keep a journal

Be sure to document any improper behavior. Because this information will help managers or outside organizations take action.

Be specific about what you write down. Include the date, the time, the location, the incident or words the offender said. Also, include any witnesses to the event. It might even be helpful to include how it made you feel or how it affected you. Likewise, you should record details about complaints that you filed and the responses you have received.

5. Create a paper trail

If it seems like someone is sabotaging your work, be sure you create a paper trail. This should clearly outline what you’re working on and your progress. Because if a bully is trying to force you out or squash your chances for promotion, the best way to fight back is to make sure others know about your projects. First of all, use e-mails, activity reports and other tools to share your progress with your co-workers and supervisors. Also, be humble in emphasizing your accomplishments. But be sure people are aware of the work you’re doing.

6. Report incidents

Being silent about bullying gives the bully more power and control over you. So when you feel ready, it’s important to report the bullying to a manager, supervisor, or another person in authority.

Remain calm and keep your emotions in check when sharing details about the bullying. After all, overly distraught complaints are distracting and may make the message confusing. So be consistent with details. It may be helpful to write out what you want to say ahead of time.

7. Keep your report relevant

In other words, share only specific details about the bully’s behavior. Don’t make assumptions or exaggerate details. Furthermore, don’t criticize the bully as a person or call him names in the meeting. After all, it’s the inappropriate behavior that needs to be addressed. Keep the focus there.

8. Seek outside assistance and find help for your situation

Report the behavior to the bully’s manager or supervisor. Bullying is a big issue that cannot be handled alone. If the bully is the owner or the manager, consider filing a complaint.

9. Surround yourself with empowering people

Find people who understand what you’re experiencing and who will provide support. Above all, talk about it. Don’t keep it inside.

10. Seek professional help or counseling

Finally, being targeted by a bully can certainly have a serious impact. It can affect your mood, your self-esteem, and even your physical health. Therefore, it’s important to find some outside help. This is especially true if you start to feel depressed.

The floor is yours: What can you do to prevent workplace bullying and shaming?

Have an extra 2 minutes to discover more about yourself? Take the quiz to find out if you’re happy or comfortable.

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With Leadership,

Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller is a creative leader and impactful executive coach.

His career spans both the advertising world and the world of leadership. In advertising, he was the creative lead, responsible for the campaign strategy for Fortune 100 brands. Today, he is an innovator. He’s supporting the executive development and change management for many of the same companies.

Joshua studied at Syracuse University, NYU and Stanford. He combines that background with his deep knowledge of organizational behavior, performance and change management. He focuses on the analysis, design, development, delivery, and evaluation of scalable and global talent development solutions programs.

Joshua is a Master Certified Coach. He trained with the International Coaching Federation and CTI (The Coaches Training Institute).



I want to preface that this article will not be touching on the industry itself, only coaching principles.

I won’t cover what makes an excellent coach. Nor, will we debate who can actually call themselves coaches.
I decided with this piece to keep it directly around the application of critical principles. There are the principles leaders should understand. A leader must be able to demonstrate these coaching principles when looking to develop someone on their team.

It’s essential to first understand what coaching is and what coaching is not.

“Coaching is the universal language of change and learning.” – CNN


Coaching differs from other types of counseling methods. Coaching is a unique proposition. It can combine management, counseling, mentoring, psychology, and leadership training programs. It takes inspiration from these areas. Then, implies them to help people reach for their excellence.

Recommended reads about coaching principles to dive deeper:

Coaching is not training.

Both promote learning. However, in different ways.

Training is about teaching specific skills or knowledge. Coaching is about facilitating someone else’s thinking. Coaches help them learn on the job.

Training usually takes place off-site or in dedicated classes. Coaching takes place in the office. It can be integrated into day-to-day workplace conversations or over the phone.

Training is more typically carried out in groups. Coaching is usually a one-to-one process. It’s tailored to the individual’s needs.

Training is usually delivered by an external consultant or a dedicated internal trainer. Coaching can be provided by an external consultant or by a manager.

Coaching is not mentoring.

A mentor is typically a master or SME within the field of their knowledge.

Mentor advises. They base their advice on a gained personal experience. A coach does not have to reach for their expertise in the specific field to adequately support the client in achieving their goals.

Mentoring allows the learner to own the goals and the process. Mentoring allows the learner model their behaviors on given examples. In coaching, the learner has primary ownership of the goal. The coach has a central role in the process.

Coaching is not therapy.

A lot of people associate (life) coaching with therapy. Coaching is not targeted to help people with their psychological problems. Trained coaches who have gone through an accredited certified coaching program will have been taught how to spot this. For most people who haven’t had this type of training, some of the signs could be (fill in).

Therapy focuses primarily on the past. It can be rooted in managing and coping. Coaching is focused on improving the development path of the person taking the current situation as an initial point. It is rooted in empowerment, exploration and specific solutions.
Therapy raises the question of why? While coaching focuses on the present and builds the future, asking more what? And how? Questions. It focuses on solutions and actions by which a client seeks to achieve results, rather than looking for causes of his failures.

So what is Coaching?

Coaching a useful way of boosting performance. It can help deal with challenges before they become significant problems. A coaching session will typically take place as a conversation. It focuses on helping that individual discover answers for themselves regarding a current or future challenge or goal.

The fact is, people are much more likely to engage with solutions that they have come up with themselves, rather than those that are forced upon them by their manager or leader.

In some organizations, coaching is still seen as a corrective tool. In many companies, coaching is considered to be a positive proven approach for helping others explore their ambitions. Leaders in today’s organizations are being asked to do more coaching, but the data points to the fact that most leaders are just not equipped with the skills necessary to effectively coach. Managers meet their coaching obligations by giving performance reviews, holding occasional meetings.

A manager can be just as effective as externally hired coaches. Managers don’t have to be trained formally as coaches as long as they stay within the scope of their skill set. They must maintain a structured approach. They can add value and help develop their people’s abilities as long as they understand what they are creating.

Follow these 14 core principles to ensure you are effectively laying the groundwork to coach your people successfully.

Future State Thinking

Be clear in your own mind about what you want the other person to accomplish. If you are their manager, this will be a more natural process. Focus on what the end result should look like. Don’t focus on how you think they “might” get there. Think about the big picture. How will their success impact the broader companies objectives? How will their success impact their personal development goals? When you are clear, you’re more likely to get buy-in.

Build Trust

The foundation of every relationship regardless of its nature is trust. It’s critical that you are able to establish an atmosphere of open communication. A coach’s ability is predicated on how much and how quickly they can build this foundation. The foundation of any coaching relationship is rooted in the manager’s day-to-day contact with the employee. Without some degree of trust, conducting a useful coaching meeting is impossible. Your employees need to believe you are here to help them succeed.

Powerful Listening

One of the most significant skills a coach/manager must practice is active listening. Fully deploy listening skills to ask more useful questions of the employee/individual. Get to the heart of an issue to assist them in finding a solution.

Getting Agreement

As a manager, getting your employees to agree that there is a performance issue can sometimes be an uphill battle. Overlooking or avoiding the performance issue because you assume the employee understands its significance is a typical mistake of managers. To get an employee to acknowledge a performance issue exists, you must be able to define the nature of the problem and get the employee to recognize the consequences of not changing their behavior. To do this, you must specify the action and clarify the results. Be careful not to assume that your understanding of the situation is the right one. A coaching session is a two-way communication process. You should encourage your employees to explain how they interpret the behaviors and agree on the nature of the issue.

Be Curious

Rather than just jumping into problem-solving mode and rescuing every person in site, first get curious about what may be causing the problem. This helps define the problem more clearly. Some questions to ask the person you are coaching:
– What do you think is really creating this situation?
– What’s holding you back from the goal?
– What is it about this situation that is keeping you up at night?
– In what ways are you not being the person you’d like to be now?

To have successful coaching relationships with anyone (especially your employees), you really need to get to know them on at least some personal level. Let me stress, this is not about being friends or socializing outside of the office. Understanding a little bit about the person you are supporting can offer you valuable insight into the “why” they do what they do. Thinking about thinking is an integral part of the coaching process so remember to ask open-ended questions.

Be Flexible

Remember that each person has different motivators and communication styles. Recognize and understand that each person may have a different form of learning and respond differently to how you communicate. If someone is slower to speak and answer, for example, allow them time to think and process rather than interrupting with ‘helpful’ suggestions. This is typically a learning gap for the coach who wants to jump in, create results for their employee and get back some valuable time in their day – especially when they see the issue with no bias or judgment.

Flexible doesn’t mean being a pushover or getting someone to like you.

It means you are doing what’s needed with this individual to ensure they are moving closer to their goals. You are also maintaining the proper level of trust, commitment, action, and integrity required to run the coaching partnership forward.

Have and Set Goals

Discuss what you want to accomplish and be clear about your expectations. Consider giving your employees a model of what their end goal looks like or set specific criteria for what the output should include. Coaching is focused and grounded in a future state of possibility. This is only achievable with a clear timeline. Setting milestones that build toward the end goal with prescheduled “check-in meetings” will allow you to get together along the way to evaluate how things are going. Talk about a deadline and indicate how important the timing may (or may not) be to the success of the project or performance gap. Personally using the S.M.A.R.T Goal framework is a high starting point for both the conversation as well as to ensure it’s achievable.

Provide Feedback

As your employees work toward accomplishing the goal you set together, be sure to attend your check-in meetings at the agreed upon times. This applies to both the process but equally important is when they reach their milestones and ultimately their end goal. Allow them to ask questions. Acknowledge them for what’s going right with the project and make suggestions if you feel they need more direction. Remember to Be Curious, Be Present and Listen and Revisit the agreed upon End Goals.

Alignment With Your Company’s Core Values

When possible, your coaching should be based on your organization’s core values (or the employee/individual you are coaching). This becomes the “why” behind your support and coaching actions. As a result, your coaching becomes less about what you think and reinforces the culture that you want in your organization. And when you and your employees are looking at the bigger picture together, it should help them be more receptive to you, understand how this impacts both the broader organization and ultimately their individual goals and aspirations. Managers who know the business case for coaching and developing others typically value the process and use it more effectively.

Collaboration Is Key

No matter the situation, coaching conversations should flow both ways with ample opportunity for mutual feedback and discussion. This way, you’re not removing your employees’ responsibility in the matter of doing the work for them. When you establish great coaching relationships with your employees, it can improve every interaction you have with them and makes management far more accessible. Remember, a coach is not the expert but rather a sounding board who can and should reflect back to their people what they see and hear (but not “feel”) regarding their performance as it relates to that vital end goal.

Explore All Possible Solutions

With the help of your employee, brainstorm alternative solutions and possibilities to the issue. Your role is to ensure that your employees come up with specific alternatives to the existing challenges and not create broad or vague solutions. The reason is that you need to hold them accountable to the answers and clearly define what your expectations of the performance are. Your focus is to help them set goals (i.e., SMART) and support them in coming up with specific alternatives to create the highest possibility of success for reaching them. You can provide your own ideas, but be aware that they will carry more weight just because it’s coming from you.

Commitment To Act

Different then getting agreement, the promise here is around taking action and ensuring that they see what’s possible in it for them by taking action. It does not matter how great of a solution or roadmap to get you there is. If your employee doesn’t see it, get it or possibly feel it – then you should pause and recalibrate. You don’t want a false start. This works for you the coach too. Outlining what they (your employee or individual) can expect from you regarding showing up, supporting them, keeping and scheduling meeting times and most importantly ask them if there is anything specific they need from you – will demonstrate the level of integrity you are seeking them to model as well.

Handle excuses

Employees may use excuses to lower your expectations of their performance or just shy away from what they don’t know or feel is outside their comfort zone. You should acknowledge them without giving them an agreement while focusing on the solutions and the SMART Goal. There may be situational factors that may affect the outcome of their performance, and as a coach, you need to take them into consideration so, by all means, keep an open mind. Remember to get curious and do some detective work around both the content and context to what they are sharing. The material is the story. The story is where excuses come from. The background (i.e., emotional state) is where a coach picks up the subtle cues and clues as to why they are hesitant to move forward.


Your job is to ensure that your employee understands what you should do if they do not follow through on their commitments. You could ask, “How would you like me to follow up if I don’t hear back from you?” or “If you don’t follow through, how should I help you get back on track?” And then, be sure that you follow through.

If you don’t model accountability, it sends the wrong message and jeopardizes future coaching solutions as well as taints your employee’s listening of you which will prevent further engagement on their end.

I am putting Time Management under this section as it pertains to being, staying and holding others to being accountable.

Remember that coaching can happen in different ways with different needs and circumstances.

Plan your coaching times. Know when they are and ensure that your employee/individual knows. Send calendar invites as well as follow-ups if needed. In the event you cannot make a session, immediately reach out to that employee, communicate the need to reschedule and find a new time as quickly as possible. This will again model both being accountable as well as being in integrity with your words, actions and ultimately the support you have for that person.

The best way to use this information is to apply it during any coaching engagement as a personal checklist both preflight and during.

The reason is quite simple: many trained coaches and/or managers will complete some type of training program and learn to apply that methodology with their people and within their practice, function, and company. There are hundreds of other coaching models that currently exist. Some are more radical and effective while others are redundant.

Your goal is to discover what works best for you AND your people and apply it so that THEY improve.

No one single coaching model will work with everyone-, but you should explore what’s out there. I invite you to use these principles in conjunction with your own personality and style. Any models you feel work for you and your company’s culture are all important factors

Final Thoughts

A manager who sees people’s potential is far better at coaching them towards it. A manager that judges people based on past performance will not get optimal performance. An engaged, well-coached employee will out-perform one mismanaged by a weak boss. If you manage people, you should understand the importance of effective coaching. Management determines effectiveness and productivity.

Have an extra 2 minutes to discover more about yourself? Take the quiz to find out if you’re happy or comfortable.

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With Leadership,

Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller is a creative leader and impactful executive coach.

His career spans both the advertising world and the world of leadership. In advertising, he was the creative lead, responsible for the campaign strategy for Fortune 100 brands. Today, he is an innovator. He’s supporting the executive development and change management for many of the same companies.

Joshua studied at Syracuse University, NYU and Stanford. He combines that background with his deep knowledge of organizational behavior, performance and change management. He focuses on the analysis, design, development, delivery, and evaluation of scalable and global talent development solutions programs.

Joshua is a Master Certified Coach. He trained with the International Coaching Federation and CTI (The Coaches Training Institute).




 Editor Note:

This article is designed for coaches who are looking to create or expand their current practice. Many of the topics I discuss can be used outside of the context of coaching. I don’t believe I  am sharing anything groundbreaking. Nor am I sharing my own personal secret sauce recipe. This is a general overview of how to lay a solid foundation for a successful coaching practice.

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn

I am often asked about my coaching practice. Specifically, I’m asked how I have managed to build, grow and scale my coaching practice. Many coaches (including myself) have struggled to attract new clients, retain existing ones and earn the income they want. All the while, they are figuring out who they are as a coach and who their target audience will be.

I’ve only read one book specifically on this topic which was C.J. Hayden’s “Get Clients Now!” That was a game changer for me within the first six months of starting my practice. I can now say without any hesitation – that it was well worth the read. Her book, amongst other books and support systems, allowed me the catalyst I needed to grow my practice from day one. In transparency – what has worked for me, may not work for others.

I don’t believe there is one complete or full system that will work for everyone.

I realize by saying this, I am going to make some people mad but there shouldn’t be any hard feelings. What works for some may not work for others. I am not here to pitch some proprietary system I created but rather share certain principles I’ve adopted over the years. I constantly tinker with these to ensure I am hitting my personal and professional.

The landscape of the coaching industry is rapidly evolving every day and there is always room for more passionate and committed coaches in the world. However, to succeed in this field—whether as an internal or external coach — you need to make sure you know your:

  1. Worth (Time/Money)
  2. Craft (Skills/Tools)
  3. Audience (People/Market)
  4. Field (Business/Focus)

Incorporating the above (in no particular order) can provide you the greatest possibility in building a thriving coaching practice.


1) Know You’re Worth

Probably one of the most challenging aspects when it comes to establishing oneself as a business professional and brand. I have seen everything under the sun and nothing these days shocks me but then again it’s entirely subjective and there are no kernel rules or laws written on this topic. For example, Marshall Goldsmith – considered one of the most powerful, influential and sought after executive coaches around, doesn’t charge his clients (for 12-16months) until a measurable behavioral shift is achieved. Granted, he and his team have specific and clear measurements to track this but this is a great example of one way to go about getting paid for your services.

In a Harvard Business Review article “What Can Coaches Do For You?” – their research determined that the hourly pay scale for coaches starts at $200/hr. (on the low end) and $3,500/hr. (on the high end); leaving the medium per their data at $500/hr. This article was published in 2009 when the economy was in a much different place but according to my unconfirmed and completely unscientific studies – this isn’t too far off to where we are in 2015. Remember, your rate should be a reflection of your own self-worth and value that you believe you are bringing to the table and your clients – not what someone else tells you. Use the research and speak to colleagues who are at or near your experience level to gauge the landscape.

Rates will always be a sliding scale based on numerous factors:

  • Who is your client (Individual, Team or Company?)?
  • Where is your client (Will you be client facing and traveling?)
  • Scale and scope of your assignment (How long will it be / what is the overall complexity?)

These are just a few factors to consider as there are a few more but I believe these are the foundational ones most coaches should not only recognize but value when it comes to their time and self-worth. The saying goes, “Time is money” so let’s figure out just what that could look like.

The three basic ways coaches typically charge for their services:

  • By the session
    Typically a session is 60mins, but I have seen 30mins twice a month and varying other options. When I first started, I tried a variety of formats and times but ultimately stuck with what was proposed by the larger coaching organization which is/was 60mins.
  • By the month
    If you use the standard rule of thumb, you’re looking at four sessions a month; calculating each session at 60mins per session. This could of course change depending the third option below which is the totality of what you are being asked to perform.
  • By the package / engagement
    There is no right or wrong way to go here. It’s entirely up to you and what you are looking to achieve but I can’t stress enough the importance of doing your own research on what the trends and going rates are per level of experience. Just make sure you are able to back up what you are offering. The coaching industry is small in nature and it’s predicated on word of mouth and referrals so do what you can to ensure you are always representing yourself (and the large industry) in the best light possible.


2) Know Your Craft


There are hundreds if not thousands of coaching programs currently in existence around the world. It goes without saying that you should do your homework when researching what school or program you wish to take on in terms of training. If you are already coach this could still apply to any on going training or learning you are thinking about down the road. The key is finding a training program, school or organization that is accredited (ACTP) by the ICF or other reputable institution.

Now that we have that piece covered and assuming you are already an accredited coach, lets get into what exactly you are practicing.

There are countless models, theories, formulas and assessments on the market and some are quite valuable and effective while others are what I would consider a waste of time. The key is to find what works for you and use it until you find it’s no longer serving you and/or your clients. There is nothing wrong with utilizing whatever tools your coaching program provided and taught you; in fact it would only make sense to gain proficiency in what you learned before venturing off and experimenting with too many different modalities. There is no one or right way to achieve success as a coach and for your clients. In fact, I pull from a variety of backgrounds I have studied across different platforms, models and theories ranging from Neuroscience, Neuroleadership, NLP, Ontology, Psychology and Emotional Intelligence to name a few. I do believe it’s easy to fall prey to believing you know it all or know what’s best.

To avoid this trap, remember the following:

  • Join some groups on LinkedIn, as there are many to choose from. They don’t necessarily have to be in the field of coaching either; in fact I would encourage you to expand your view (and network) by looking at parallel fields.


3) Know Your Audience

This piece typically frustrates newer coaches who are looking to jump into the field and evokes either a shotgun mentality where they focus on everyone and everything or the opposite which involves finding something too specific that may limit their ability to expand their services and reach whatever goal(s) they have set forth for themselves.

                     The first thing you want to be asking yourself is:

What am I most passionate about?

Start here because wherever your passion lies, success won’t be too far behind. People who are truly successful in life and as coaches possess an innate passion about what they do. By looking at what lights you up, it’s easy to look for the logical and sometimes illogical connections to what profession and/or field you wish to target. Whatever audience you are looking to target, make sure you do your research. Success in any field hinges largely on the audience and what if any need exists for your services.

When you are thinking about who you are looking to market yourself and services towards, think about the following:

  • Who are they and where do they reside?
  • Can you identify a need and/or trend as a way to position yourself and your services?
  • What is the average salary range of this population? (This dials back to the cost and if they can afford you)
  • What is the current and future state of this industry?
  • Is coaching currently taking place within this field/profession and if so, who, where and how long?
  • Who do you know currently in your network (i.e.: LinkedIn) that you can either reach out to or ask for introductions to people in this field or company?

I would start here and if you can’t answer the above questions then take a break and come back to it. When I first started, I leveraged every person, resource and network I had to ensure I had the widest reach and net casted to get my name out there. Don’t rush or push yourself. This takes time and you want to set yourself up for success not frustration.


4) Know Your Field


Similar to your audience, this is all about understanding the larger business landscape of the coaching industry and what’s happening in and around you. You should have a pulse on what’s trending in your respective filed and of course targeted audience. If you are focusing on executives and executive level coaching then spend time researching what the Harvard Business Review and countless other journals are writing about. This will not only aid you in staying current in practice but also in conversation with others. Showing up as a resource to others (both coaches and potential clients) is critical for your own success and the success of your brand and practice.

The second and highly important aspect around knowing your field is to understand how to proactively and effectively run your practice. I thought this may deserve its own post but I promise to pair it down to the key essentials. Whether you are a tenured coach or someone starting out on your own, there are some simple steps you can take to make sure you are running a healthy and productive practice versus a hobby in your spare time.

Here are the basics:

    • Does your company have a name, a logo? What does your brand say about yourself and is it the message you want to convey? Tip: Ask people who know the best to begin to gauge who you are and how you show up at your best with others. This can provide some valuable information you may not get otherwise by picking a random name out of thin air.
    • Are you set up to receive payments from others (both individuals and companies alike?)? Tip: Take a look at as well to name a few, as this will start you on the right path for financial health, security, and stability.

Do you have a marketing plan or some way for others to know you exist?

Nowadays you don’t need to necessarily hire a marketing firm to get your message out there but you do need to make sure people know you are out there. If you can’t afford a website right now, don’t worry as there are other quicker and easier ways to get noticed. Tip: Create a LinkedIn ( account and get active on the site from posting articles, connecting with others and commenting on other people’s posts. This will enable others to view you and your profile. Once you have that down, consider getting account and connect that to your LinkedIn account (for easier management) and this way you can push your articles, comments and likes across different mediums with ease.

As I have mentioned numerous times already, there is no one clear or right way to go about your business but there are certain key aspects you should have thought out and an action plan in place to ensure your practice is current, relevant and prosperous.

Final Thoughts:

In addition to the above 4 criteria, I want to add (and stress) the importance of the “Hustle and Grind”. To say it in a more conservative fashion – “Commitment” to your craft. Anyone can learn a tool, read a book, go to school but in the end, it’s all about what you do with that knowledge. Those who know me well know I am a constant learner. I’m extremely passionate about what I love to do. As a result, I am always looking to be better than I was yesterday. That can look like a lot of different things to different people.

My professional credo around commitment and my practice is quite simple:

“You are only as good as your last coaching call”.

For me, this is a motivator and reminder to never get to high (or low) on myself, remain humble and grateful that I have people who are trusting me with their lives and allowing me into the conversations they are having about their own performance that they may not readily share with others including their significant others.

As coaches, we have one of the most magical roles possible when it comes to supporting others. It’s important to also create that same magic in your own business and brand. Start today by taking a systems check of your practice utilizing the four principles above. See where you can make some alterations so that your practice may grow to be more successful.

Thank you for taking the time to read one of the longer articles I have written. There was no easy way to shorten the content without diluting the main messages. There are great books that delve deeper into the different areas of the topics I mentioned. I encourage you to research as many as possible. I recommend these books:

Find what works best for you.

I would love to hear from my peers, colleagues and other entrepreneurs as to what’s worked for you or not worked so well.

Have an extra 2 minutes to discover more about yourself? Take the quiz to find out if you’re happy or comfortable.

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With Leadership,

Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller is a creative leader and impactful executive coach.

His career spans both the advertising world and the world of leadership. In advertising, he was the creative lead, responsible for the campaign strategy for Fortune 100 brands. Today, he is an innovator. He’s supporting the executive development and change management for many of the same companies.

Joshua studied at Syracuse University, NYU and Stanford. He combines that background with his deep knowledge of organizational behavior, performance and change management. He focuses on the analysis, design, development, delivery, and evaluation of scalable and global talent development solutions programs.

Joshua is a Master Certified Coach. He trained with the International Coaching Federation and CTI (The Coaches Training Institute).



How To Improve Your Executive Presence

Fact: 80% or more of your communication is non-verbal

At some point in your life, you are going to be asked to make a speech, conduct a meeting or make a presentation as an executive presence. As much as you prep and plan – getting in front of a group of people can be a daunting task. You not only haveto captivatee your audience’s attention. It’s just as important is coming off powerful, polished and precise. This is a skill that many executives pay a hefty sum of money to perfect but one I plan to share with you all of you today.

Executive Presence

So what exactly is this term “executive presence” mean and is it something only executives can obtain? The short answer is no. Anyone can exude executive presence regardless of whether you are C-Level professional or a College Student.

Let’s begin by demystifying what this really means. Many times I get people asking me, “isn’t this really about inner confidence?” – my usual reply is that possessing inner confidence is definitely critical and in large part a huge driver for being able to step in front of room of two or two thousand (plus). But it’s also important to remember that public speaking is only a small piece of the pie when it comes to possessing executive presence. But since we’re on the topic, here is a little fun fact.

Public Speaking is the #1 fear of people, more so than death itself. 

In fact, at any given time according to – 5% of the worlds population ranging in ages from 5 – 50 suffer from the fear of speaking to others. That’s quite a high number but shouldn’t be that surprising when death ranks #2. That said, it does bring us back to what exactly is “executive presence” and how does one go about obtaining some.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, they summed up “executive presence” like this:

Ultimately it boils down to your ability to project mature self-confidence, a sense that you can take control of difficult, unpredictable situations; make tough decisions in a timely way and hold your own with other talented and strong-willed members of the executive team.

It further gets to the heart of the matter which is, “can anyone develop executive presence?” – the answer is yes but it will come with some work to do on your end. The first piece according to the article:

  • One must possess a baseline of self-confidence and a willingness to deal with the unpredictable situations that go with the territory at the executive level.

Here are some proven methods to get your executive swagger on the next time you have to enter and hold a room:


 Entering a room for the first time is critical in setting the tone and stage for how your audience will perceive you and then ultimately listen (or not listen) to you. Before entering, make sure you take a moment to run a mental checklist:

1. Be Bold

Many people walk into a room timidly because they don’t want to appear presumptions or self-important. No one likes arrogance but people respect and appreciate an heir of confidence so they can be reassured that their time won’t be wasted. Walk in with a pep in your step. Remember, you’re supposed to be there, so act like it.

2. Hold Your Breath

Okay not to the point of turning red or gasping for air but  rather take in a deep breath to expand your lungs and hold for a bit and then exhale upon saying hello or introducing yourself. This is an old stage trick many use but few discuss. By doing this, upon exhaling – you draw more blood to your face giving a more lively (and quite possibly) confident appearance.

3. Don’t Slouch

Enough can’t be said regarding having good posture. We live in a world of technology which typically requires us to be hunched over but this is not the time for diminishing your physical presence. When you enter a room, don’t walk in with your shoulders slouched and your head facing down like a toddler who knows they did something wrong. Show your confidence by walking in with your back straight and your chin up. Try not to stick your chest out too much or else it will look like you’re posturing arrogance and over compensating for something else. Just maintain your natural and correct posture. Do this and you’ll add inches to your frame and increase your presence in the room.

4. Do your homework

Specifically around the room in which you will be speaking. Familiarity puts our mind at ease – in fact “certainty” is one of five natural brain cravings we are hardwired to have at any given moment. If you don’t have the opportunity to check out your surroundings beforehand don’t worry, I’ve got something for you. According to one expert, the simple act of moving a few things around on a table or desk upon entering the room will send a message to your brain that you have (some) control over your surroundings. This could be a subtle as rearranging a few items in front of you.


Okay, you made it to the stage (or meeting room) without any miscues. Nice work – now it’s time to dial in your presentation skills so you don’t lose your audience. Before you open your mouth, make sure you take a moment to run a mental checklist:

1. Make Eye Contact

Any book, expert or not-so-expert will tell you that a simple way to increase your presence in a room and your connection with other people is to look them in the eye. Eye contact is key to creating a connection with people. You should be engaging, but not overbearing. Don’t stare a person down non-stop. You’ll just creep them out. Look into their eyes, while occasionally flitting yours to the sides of their head and then back. One good tip is to divide your audience into sections, establishing eye contact with a few people in one area (around 3-5 seconds per person) and then moving on to the next. But remember, moderation is the key—never breaking eye contact can be just as awkward as never making it at all.

2. Check Your Tone

Nobody wants to recall the famous scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when you are the one speaking. In fact, using that as a perfect example of what not do is spot on. Inflection when speaking is a must. You have to change pace from time to time to keep your audience engaged.Here is a great tip I saw online:• Practice using rhythmic builds. This is when you repeat the same words, in the same place, in three different sentences. For instance: “We have to strive for excellence in execution. We have to strive for excellence in service. We have to strive for excellence in profitability.”Done correctly and effectively, it can create sound patterns that rise in intensity – making both yourself and your presentation resonate while coming off passionate and powerful to your audience.

3. Mind Your Gestures

Gestures should relate to the message and not be a focal point or distraction of the speaker – said another way, make sure you know where your hands are at all times. I say hands because that is what most people cue in on right from the beginning.

Use your hands to create a visual image of the concept you’re trying to communicate. The key is to make sure to keep your gestures within the physical framework of your body so as to not distract your audience (or appear as if you are hailing a taxi). Gestures can be great vehicles for displaying a powerful presence while projecting articulation, but they must be used intentionally and strategically in order to be effective.

The same rings true for walking, pacing or jogging in place (and yes, I saw this once and it wasn’t pretty). Aimless wandering will lose your audience fast so when in doubt keep your movements within a 3 foot radius. How you show up physically sets the tone in which people will react to you and your presence and impact your audience. Start noticing your own body language so that you can begin establishing a strong executive presence.

4. Avoid…um…Awkward Pauses

Begin to notice and stop staying things like “um” and “you know?” and “you know what I mean?” and “like,” and any other variations of this type of babbling. Another critical verbal landline to watch out for is the tendency to “up talk”– that is, don’t end declarative sentences or phrases with an upward inflection, like a question. Lastly, just in case you thought I might have forgotten, some other phrases to avoid at all costs are, “…at the end of the day,” “to be honest,” “In my opinion,” and personal least favorite – “with all due respect…”

Be authentic and know it’s okay to pause to reset and gain your presence but don’t stop.

Here are few more quick tips to remember:• When asserting your ideas keep it short, simple and clear. When in doubt, less is more.• When you are silent, be present by active listening and staying off your devices because people are watching the behavior you are modeling. • Listen like it matters because it does. • When asking questions, keep them on topic or message, short, and oriented toward “what” and “how” and certainly not “why,” and toward the future or present, rather than the past

5. Be Confident, Not Arrogant

Arrogance and executive presence simply don’t play well together. Sure there are many powerful executives out there who people listen to when they speak. But ask those same people whether they would work for them, follow them or even agree with them. I think you may be surprised by what you find. When you’re perceived as arrogant, you’re trying too hard and over compensating for some insecurity.

Others may read it as overbearing and insecure. Either way you are sure to lose your audience if you take on this persona. Instead, if you really want to engage your audience – then focus on them. People want to feel loved, appreciated, and important. We’re drawn to people who show an interest in us. People are like mirrors. When we shine a light on a person, they reflect that light back on us. If we shine a light on every person in the room, we end up being the brightest one there.

For more research on developing your own executive presence:

Final thoughts:

I truly hope that after reading my article you have a better understanding of what executive presence is and how you can begin to possess more of it. This will help you the next time you walk into a room and have to speak other individuals. When in doubt, remember that being nervous is normal and human. And the very best of the best, from presidents down, all sweat from time to time. You just don’t see it.

When you are speaking, don’t worry about what you just said or if you chose the right word. Be in the moment. The key is to have you body, voice, and words in sync at all times. That way your message gets through most effectively. Lastly, nothing can replace taking the time beforehand to prepare yourself for that meeting or presentation. 

People who deserve their seat at the table don’t have to buy it at every meeting but they may have to work to keep it.

When it comes to your executive presence, do you “Purr” or “Roar” when you enter a room? The floor is yours.

With leadership,


Not-your-typical Personal and Executive Master Certified Coach. 
Joshua Miller is a creative and impactful leader. His career experience has spanned both the advertising world and the world of leadership and organizational development. In advertising, he was responsible in delivering campaign strategies for Fortune 100 companies. Now he innovates and delivers results when supporting executive talent development and change management for the same clients.



Some labels are on the inside where they belong, like a piece of clothing, while others are in plain sight where you can’t miss them, like the ingredients on a can. Then there are those that are invisible to the eye but have the greatest impact of all…workplace labels.

No one asks or wants to be labeled. But unfortunately, we are all predisposed to this experience at an early age. For those lucky few who never were labeled anything – I marvel at your ability to live a life free of this experience. And for the millions of others who weren’t as lucky – I feel your pain.

Being labeled sucks. And it can linger like the stink of skunk that just won’t go away.

Labels follow us around like our shadow – sometimes clearly visible while other times completely hidden. Worst of all, they stay with us right through adulthood and yes…right into the workplace.

In order to understand just how labeling works, we must first breakdown the following:

  • Why it’s dangerous to label people
  • Common stereotypes in the workplace
  • Why “perception is reality” and what you can do about it

The Danger Of Labeling Others

As sophisticated as we “can be” as human beings, we are also horribly wired to make some irrational and quick judgments. And we make these judgments on pretty much everything (and everyone). It’s not your fault. Blame it on evolution and the development of our brains. The irony here is that judging people is hard. Knowing people is harder. And understanding them is hardest. For these reasons, we tend to settle for the easiest route, which is to judge. Consider its auto-pilot without the pilot.

People label others together to simplify the world around them and make both interacting and understanding it easier. It’s called Categorical labeling. And although it serves a purpose, it’s deeply flawed and can be the root cause for many of the problems we face in our relationships with others. Labeling is a technique the brain has developed to make understanding the complexities of the world easier. However, these assumptions are often incorrect, incomplete or downright insulting. So how dangerous is this really?

Another way to look at this and a term most people recognize is “unconscious bias”. And in the past decade, there has been an uptick in companies not only discussing this issue but training their organization to better understand what it is and how to minimize it within the workplace. So, what is it (for those who aren’t familiar)?

  • It is an inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group. It’s your unconscious feelings you carry around about other people – these feelings strongly impact and influence your judgement of certain people, while lacking perspective or objectivity limiting your perception.

The impact of our biases are also incredibly real and impact our:

  • Perception – how we see people and perceive reality.
  • Attitude – how we react towards certain people.
  • Behaviors – how receptive/friendly we are towards certain people.
  • Attention – which aspects of a person we pay most attention to.
  • Listening Skills – how much we actively listen to what certain people say.
  • Micro-affirmations – how much or how little we comfort certain people in certain situations.

In the workplace, there are 4 main types of unconscious bias to watch out for:

Common Stereotypes

Now that we covered the “why” – let’s look at the “what” and in this case, the what refers to the various types of stereotypes and labels that currently take place in the office. There are so many stereotypes out there, it really depends on what specific category or group you are looking to typecast. Three common stereotypes you should avoid being labeled as are:

  • The Gossip: Commonly associated with someone who likes to know everything about everyone regardless if it has anything to do with them. You can rarely trust these people. And you’ll often hear them saying something like, “hey, did you hear about…”
  • The Know-It-All: Commonly associated with someone who has an opinion about everything and everyone. Considered a SME in life, can be heard saying, “well, at my last job – this is what we did…”
  • The People Pleaser: Commonly associated with someone who lacks the courage to stand up to others (when asked to take something on) and is taken advantage of over and over again. Lacking personal boundaries and possessing a strong need to be liked, this person can be heard saying, “sure, I can help – whatever you need?”

Did I mention that there are a lot of labels? Lucky for you (and for me) I have found three great reads on Amazon to help you build a strong Company Culture and put an end to workplace bullying:

How To Remove A Label

Labeling and stereotyping in the workplace can quickly sink morale, lower productivity and create a toxic environment for you and your employees. Once labeled, it can be challenging if not impossible to change it. Einstein once said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” and the same theory applies at work. You may not actually be any of the labels placed upon you but to do nothing about it makes the label stick stronger and the perception (to others) is that it’s true.

If you find that you have been unfairly labeled, there are some steps you can take to improve the situation so it doesn’t cost you your career and happiness.

  • Assess the substance and the source of the label. Is there any truth to it?
  • Seek out a second or third opinion from a co-worker/peer you trust to determine if there is any validity to your bad reputation.
  • If you are in a position leadership role, take a look at your style of management -are they any subtle (or not so subtle) changes you could make?
  • If you conclude that you do need to improve a personal attribute, get clear on what it is and make a commitment to yourself to change your behavior.

According to the HBR article You Really Can Change Your Reputation at Work there are some principles to remember if you find yourself being labeled by another person:


  • Address the issue head-on, especially if you were in the wrong.
  • If you want a more positive impression to stick in someone’s mind, you have to offer it up repeatedly.
  • Look for characteristics you share with the person. Common ground will help soften their stance.


  • Accuse the person of being wrong about you. Their perception is their perception, and it’s up to you to help “correct” it.
  • Avoid working with the person. The more you’re in front of them, the better.
  • Expect people to change their minds on a dime. Shifting someone’s perception often takes time.


Final thoughts:

Labeling isn’t always a cause for concern, and it can be useful in certain instances, but when thrust upon another coworker irresponsibly, this becomes both dangerous and demeaning leaving you and your employee’s feeling bullied while fracturing your culture. It’s up to your organization to take the proper measures to ensure discrimination of others and self is not tolerated and a safe workplace environment is created so that you can perform and enjoy your job.

The floor is yours: How does unconscious bias impact a companies culture ?

Have an extra 2 minutes to discover more about yourself? Take the quiz to find out if you’re happy or comfortable.

[interact id=”5b97c86710e74b0014bd0c88″ type=”quiz”]

With Leadership,

Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller is a creative leader and impactful executive coach.

His career spans both the advertising world and the world of leadership. In advertising, he was the creative lead, responsible for the campaign strategy for Fortune 100 brands. Today, he is an innovator. He’s supporting the executive development and change management for many of the same companies.

Joshua studied at Syracuse University, NYU and Stanford. He combines that background with his deep knowledge of organizational behavior, performance and change management. He focuses on the analysis, design, development, delivery, and evaluation of scalable and global talent development solutions programs.

Joshua is a Master Certified Coach. He trained with the International Coaching Federation and CTI (The Coaches Training Institute).

Being Authentic: The Ultimate Leadership Trap

Upon completing my first book, “I Call Bullshit: Live Your Life, Not Someone Else’s” I was bombarded with questions around the word “authentic” and what it means to live a life authentically.

In today’s workplace, being labeled authentic or an authentic leader has become synonymous with being at the top of your game and considered the gold standard so many aspire to achieve.

Sounds great, right?

Well not so fast. In a world where we are inundated by the latest term, acronym or label, it’s easy to fall prey to a word that’s highly overused but often misunderstood.

“No true greatness was ever achieved without great opposition” – Dov Baron, Inc. Mag Top 100 Leadership Speaker

Enter the authentic leader and the confusion, cost and challenge that accompanies this new and widely used label:

The Confusion:

For many the challenge begins with the actual meaning of the word. If you look it up, there are a few different but equally convincing definitions that could apply. The overarching theme is one around being true to your own personality, spirit or character – but that still lends itself to a lot of interpretation.

What many people don’t realize is that there are two fundamentally different types of authenticity which people collapse all the time:

  • Emotional authenticity represents the value of allowing your “true feelings to be known.” This is the quality that most people equate with authenticity.
  • Strategic authenticity places the emphasis is on being true to your goals rather than to your feelings.

Leaders who embody strong emotional authenticity are potentially capable of forging stronger bonds across the organization because a sense of mutual trust develops when the other person knows how they feel. Strategic authenticity is a bit different. This type of authenticity is focused on being true to one’s goals rather than feelings. The fact is, leadership is about people and relationships and the best leaders know this and display a high level of EQ within the workplace. Knowing when and how to place your emotions to the side in service of performing your duties takes both practice, skill and heart.

Leaders are faced daily with tough situations that require tougher decisions. The challenge lies in the landscape of uncertainty these decisions live. So much of life in (and out of) the workplace is steeped in the unknown and knowing what to do and say can leave even the best leaders scratching their heads. Finding the right balance when it comes to sharing with others is part art and part science. Just as you can have too little authenticity, you can also have too much. The great leaders understand and practice this daily, but that doesn’t mean it there isn’t a cost associated with it.

The Cost:

When researching the impact and cost of being authentic, I went directly to the source and someone I admire within his field of work – Adam Grant. In an article from the World Economic Forum, his work points to three costs of being too authentic:

  • Failing to grow. INSEAD professor Herminia Ibarra finds that if you’re deeply concerned with being true to yourself, you’re at risk for sticking rigidly to that self instead of evolving and changing.
  • Over-sharing. In her inspiring book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown has written thoughtfully about how vulnerability is not the same as oversharing. But evidence suggests that oversharing is more likely when authenticity is important to you. In two studies, psychologist Gwendolyn Seidman found that people who are motivated to express their true selves post more personally revealing and emotional content on Facebook. Other researchers have suggested that people who want to be seen authentically are more likely to share information that jeopardizes their professional relationships. Aiming to be highly authentic leads us to filter less.
  • Feeling inferior. Studies in companies and controlled experiments show that people are less creative and less helpful when they work for highly authentic leaders who have a strong sense of their values. I’ve watched this happen with highly authentic Fortune 500 CEOs and military generals: their junior colleagues don’t feel courageous or vulnerable enough. They stay silent, even though that’s the exact opposite of what authentic leadership is supposed to promote.

The Challenge

There are many challenges with being authentic in the workplace. So many in fact, that in my research for both my book and this article – I was left with more questions than answers. From a professional stand point, the Harvard Business Review article “The Authenticity Paradox” does a wonderful job summarizing authentic leadership and goes on to state three main challenges:

  1. Leaders make more-frequent and more-radical changes in the kinds of work they do. As they strive to improve their game, a clear and firm sense of self is a compass that helps them navigate choices and progress toward their goals. But when looking to change their game, a too rigid self-concept becomes an anchor that keeps them from moving forward.
  2. In global business, leaders work with people who don’t share their cultural norms and have different expectations for how they should behave. It can often seem as if they have to choose between what is expected—and therefore effective—and what feels authentic.
  3. Identities are always on display in today’s world of ubiquitous connectivity and social media. How we present ourselves—not just as executives but as people, with quirks and broader interests—has become an important aspect of leadership. Having to carefully curate a persona that’s out there for all to see can clash with our private sense of self.

Another really interesting take on being authentic comes from the framework “The Three Selves” which states the following:

The Three Selves is a continuum that provides a more nuanced way of understanding authentic behavior. It shows that, rather than being either “authentic” or “inauthentic,” each of us possesses the following three selves: the Authentic Self, the Adapted Self, and the Performing Self.

  • The Authentic Self is an expression of your core values, beliefs, needs, desires, thoughts, emotions, and traits—and how you would behave if you didn’t fear the consequences of your behavior. This is the truest reflection of who you are and, given this, being your Authentic Self feels amazing.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Performing Self. This is who you are when you feel like you don’t have a choice but to conform or mask aspects of your true self. It’s the carefully constructed persona that you project to protect against what you fear will happen by being yourself.
  • Between these two ways of being lies the Adapted Self. This is the self that most of us have never contemplated, but that has the power to change our lives, and our perceptions of ourselves. The Adapted Self is who you are when you make a choice to change an aspect of your behavior, in order to meet your own needs or others’ needs. When you adapt, you’re not driven by fear – you’re driven by an authentic desire to change your behavior. Because you’re making a choice willingly, it feels good to do.

In conclusion, there is no one right way to be an authentic leader but there are some common qualities you can learn and adopt which many of the best leaders possess. Start by truly getting to know yourself and understand what you like, dislike and the potential triggers that will keep you from being present. Learn to connect with other people while exhibiting humility, vulnerability and a sincere desire to care for others wellbeing (hint – hone your EQ skills). Lastly, request feedback early and often from people so you can learn as you go and discover who you are and how you show up. Remember, you can’t be a leader if you have no one to lead.

The floor is yours: How challenging is it to create a workplace culture that allows authentic behavior?

With leadership,

Joshua | | “I Call Bullshit: Live Your Life, Not Someone Else’s”