Executive Coaching Series . From Bull to President?

Executive Coaching Series . From Bull to President?

Welcome to our series: Executive Coaching . The Inside View with Barry Pogorel

Promoting from within has its own pitfalls for all concerned, especially so for senior management, charged with leading a company full of uniquely gifted and challenged people. 

Must those pitfalls trap you? This case study may echo one you’ve seen up close… or lived yourself.

A CEO’s Dilemma

The Chairman of a global company contacted me. He said that he was looking for the company’s next President.

His top performing executive had asked for the job. This man was his most effective EVP, however, at the same time was a significant liability. The executive produced outstanding results in developing new business. When developing a project, however, he would do whatever it took to make it happen internally.
Although many people appreciated him, and were even in awe of him, they also feared him. He would threaten, cajole, pressure, force whomever and however across the company to get what he wanted. He moved quickly, decisively, and was frustrated and impatient when others didn’t do the same or had objections or issues with what he wanted. Finally, and this was the last straw, he told the Chairman that if he wasn’t made President in short order, he would leave the company and go to a competitor.

The Chairman told me that if he promoted this man, many people in the company would call and say, “Are you out of your mind?!” The Chairman asked me if I could “make him into a president.” I said that that depended on whether he was coachable and willing to deal with the issues the Chairman and others saw and wanted resolved. I proposed to meet with the man and find out.

In our first meeting, I instantly liked him. I could see that his commitment and brilliance was dimmed by his forcefulness and impatience. He told me he was interested in executive coaching and was open to discovering how he could function differently. He expressed genuine excitement to have the opportunity to develop himself as a leader. Although he didn’t entirely agree with the Chairman’s assessment of him, he saw there were some points that were valid. We began to work together.

Can You Tame a Talent from Rough to Ready?

In the course of our coaching sessions he discovered something profound in looking at his past. Oftentimes the biggest barrier to achieving what we most care about is our own past and the life-altering decisions we’ve made (and now are unaware of).

In looking at the origins of his impatience and forcefulness, he remembered a morning when he was a child. His mother sat him, his brother and sister down and cried for a few moments, and then said that she and their father were going to divorce, that their dad had a new job in England and would be living there. He recalled being shocked, scared, and confused. He also remembered thinking to himself: “I don’t have a dad anymore. No one’s going to protect us. I have to do things all by myself.” He became a solo force in the world. To others, this manifested as a one-man, independent power with great impatience to get things done.

This was the origin of his bull-in-a-china-shop behavior.

Some insights are merely theoretical. Other insights gained through self-reflection are deep and life-altering. This insight produced a breakthrough and he felt released. His effectiveness in producing results was undiminished, while at the same time he began collaborating with people, listening to others, inspiring and moving people into action rather than threatening/forcing them.

A Revolutionary Result:

Within 6 months, the Chairman appointed him President.

Out of our work together, my clients gain the key insights required to liberate them from whatever is constraining or limiting, and they achieve what they aspire to.

Your comments and questions are invited. about this post or any issues you’d like to see in the series.

You’ll may also want to visit “How to Choose the Right Executive Coach” for a winning approach to selecting the right coach for yourself.

Executive Coaching . The Inside View #1

Executive Coaching . The Inside View #1

Welcome to the first post in our newest series: Executive Coaching . The Inside View with Barry Pogorel

Every executive wonders whether they can achieve what they are expected to accomplish.

Expectations come from others — a board of directors, shareholders, the senior management team as a whole, employees, even the public—, and can be very specific.

Expectations also come from within oneself, though these are often elusive and not easy to identify, yet powerfully present as well.

For both new and seasoned senior executives, the mountain gets steeper and more challenging the higher they climb. This often brings up the question of whether coaching, and outside perspective and expertise is what’s needed.

In this series, we will explore real life examples of people and circumstances that Barry has coached. Yes, names and organizations will remain confidential, as all of Barry’s clients enjoy, yet you may often recognize yourself vividly throughout the series.

Let’s begin with this group…

The Wild Bunch

This team was like The Wild Bunch. 90% of the team were PhD’s in computer science. They were bright, fiercely independent, loved computer science, didn’t fully trust others on the team although they generally liked each other, prided themselves in listening to others and didn’t really hear others without judging and evaluating, and were fixed-opinionated about most topics. Eight were men, two were women. The women felt a bit marginalized and discounted and that they didn’t have the room to fully express themselves. The men (secretly) considered themselves superior to the women, more logical and practical, and less emotional which they considered a good thing. Everyone was extremely busy and felt they could never catch up.

The leader of the team looked like he had his hands full: a bit disheveled, worn out, and worried. Every team member liked him, respected him. He would walk into a meeting with his team with a fully prepared agenda and timeline. Rarely was the agenda met or the timeline kept. Team members often left meetings a bit frustrated, some wondering why they had to be in that meeting since topics discussed didn’t pertain to them, or why it took so long, or wondering what was accomplished. The leader was generally in a state of frustration.

I coached them as a group. We explored: listening powerfully,  letting go of and being free from the past, self-reflecting on their automatic responses to real or imagined threats and their formulaic solutions and approaches versus real freedom to be and create, integrity, authenticity, straight talk that made a difference, what it took to trust each other, the protocols for effective and efficient meetings, how to create a shared future with goals and milestones that they were all inspired and excited by, and how to interact across the organization with other groups to gain their cooperation and collaboration. Every member felt respected, heard, appreciated, and of equal value, men and women alike.

A Revolutionary Result:

The team was transformed. They became a team of aligned, collaborative leaders. They produced the highest level of results they’d ever achieved. The CEO acknowledged them as “a seamless team, the star of the company, and the engine of the company’s growth”.

Your comments and questions are invited. about this post or any issues you’d like to see in the series.

You’ll may also want to visit “How to Choose the Right Executive Coach” for a winning approach to selecting the right coach for yourself.

Leadership Transformation #4 . The Courage to be Real, Honest, Genuine

Leadership Transformation #4 . The Courage to be Real, Honest, Genuine

The more clearly a leader can see objective reality, the more effective that leader will be in dealing with it.

To separate out “the facts” from interpretations, opinions, prejudices, assumptions, points of view, “what everybody knows,” as well as separate the facts from one’s hopes, fantasies, wishes, and
“what should be.” 

This kind of rigor in dealing with external objective reality begins with a rigor in dealing with one’s own internal reality.  That is, to be honest with and about oneself in all one’s affairs.

From dictionary.com –  Genuine (Adjective)

    • not fake or counterfeit; original; real; authentic
    • not pretending; frank; sincere
    • being of authentic or original stock

How does one develop being genuine?

We must start with the already-existing state of being human: it is often not one of being real, genuine, honest. I suggest that if we give a straightforward look at ourselves, we often feel less than honest or genuine. We strive to be liked, to win, to avoid looking foolish. We want to be well thought of.  And in those pursuits, we often sacrifice being real. Honesty can seem so much less important that these other pursuits. And in not taking seriously our own realness, we miss the enormous power, clarity, and peace available.

Being genuine feels vulnerable. It can include feeling embarrassed at times. Being honest can mean admitting we were wrong, or that we failed at something, or that we made a mistake. And in telling the truth about these things, it at first seems threatening, dangerous, counterproductive. And for sure, counter-intuitive.

Vulnerability like this takes courage.

It takes an actual commitment to take on being genuine with self and others.

Being well-intended, reading inspiring quotes, feeling strongly about it….make little or no difference. Just as it takes commitment to develop stamina or learn a new skill, it takes commitment to master being honest and real. It is not a momentary decision that transforms one, but rather an ongoing commitment—more like taking on a project—to be genuine and when you are not, catching yourself and then being genuine in that moment.

This kind of honesty builds trust with others, let’s you see clearly what is, and gives a sense of peace since there is nothing to hide. You discover yourself.

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.       
                                        – e.e. cummings

Your comments and questions about Leadership Transformation #4 above, and our earlier posts about Leadership Transformation are very welcome.

You’ll also want the “The Six Leadership Keys” for executives.

Click here to get yours, free, from our Edgevantage Guides series.

Leadership in the Heat of Battle . Transformation #3

Leadership in the Heat of Battle . Transformation #3

In a Harvard Business Review article, Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria wrote: “Despite some individual successes, however, change remains difficult to pull off, and few companies manage the process as well as they would like. Most of their initiatives—installing new technology, downsizing, restructuring or trying to change corporate culture—have had low success rates. The brutal fact is that about 70% of all change initiatives fail.”

Although written in 2000, asking executives today, the statistics seem to be about the same. The costs of this are staggering. What is at the root of this failure rate? What is missing?

It is the third transformation needed to be a powerful leader: becoming someone whose word is their bond.

In business and life, there are always situations, changing conditions, problems large and small. This is part of the fabric of business and life. There are a multitude of difficult circumstances and good reasons why something can’t/didn’t happen. And leaders are in the business of making happen what was not going to happen.

Here’s what George Bernard Shaw had to say about this:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him.
The unreasonable  man adapts  surrounding conditions  to himself.
All progress depends on the unreasonable man.

                                -from Maximums for Revolutionists

How do you become an “unreasonable” leader?

Quoting Michael Jensen, Professor Emeritus of the Harvard Business School:

Doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it.

The essence of being “unreasonable” and making happen what otherwise would not happen, what is often inconvenient, uncomfortable, and uncertain,  and what sometimes may even seem impossible, is being someone whose word is their bond—in particular in the face of one’s own self-doubts, considerations, and one’s own “reasons why not.”

And such a leader asks the same of those they lead.

This is the lever that moves the mountain.

Want the “The Six Leadership Keys” for executives?

Click here to get yours, free, from our Edgevantage Guides series.

Leadership in the Heat of Battle | Transformation #2: Going Beyond Who You Are Now

Leadership in the Heat of Battle | Transformation #2: Going Beyond Who You Are Now

Leadership in the Heat of Battle | Transformation #2: Going Beyond Who You Are Now

Leaders must often make impossibilities happen. How do you do that?

We all have a view of what is possible. Additionally, we have ways of functioning that we know produce results and achieve objectives.

To make an impossibility happen, you must expand the scope of what is possible, and you must go beyond your habitual ways of getting things done.

Take a moment and answer the following question:

What characteristics, abilities, traits do you rely on in yourself to accomplish things? Make a list. I’ll be silent while you write. Take a couple of minutes…

OK—times up.

Second question:

What is something you want to make happen or achieve—something big, something beyond what you’ve accomplished before—perhaps an impossibility? Take a moment and write that down…

If you compare the two lists, and you’ve picked something big enough, you can see that list 1 is insufficient to accomplish list 2.

You must go beyond who you are now, your “comfort zone”. But even more than this, the very strengths you rely on are at the same time your limitations.

If you look at this from a neuroscience perspective, what’s stored in your brain, among everything else, are sets of patterns of behaviors that worked in the past to give you what you wanted. These patterns, or from neuroscience, these sets of neuronal patterns, get “activated”. Like calling up a particular program in a computer. The brain, which is designed for our survival, is a repository, a library of such winning patterns for us to get by, succeed, win, even to survive.

Although we may think you are acting freely, when closely examined, you can start to see the repetitive nature of these behaviors. And they worked! In the past. Here’s the problem: when you are presented with situations that are not the same as the past, that have elements in them, complexities, that  you’ve never encountered before—OR if you want to make something happen, produce a result, beyond anything you’ve ever accomplished before—an impossibility—then these patterns from the past may not serve you. Starting when you are a child, through your teen years, and through your early adulthood, you and I formulate these strategies. Then we get stuck with them.


A CEO of a growing technology company who was very hands on, getting involved in everything, as the company expanded, became unable to control it all.

He had to begin trusting, managing/delegating to, and empowering others.

He had to go beyond the strengths, abilities, approaches that had worked in the past, and discover new ways to think, relate, plan, communicate, act to be appropriate to the scale of opportunity now in front of him.

So, the second transformation of a leader is this…

to recognize these habitual formulas, begin to see how they limit, and be willing to go beyond them to achieve something big, something extraordinary, perhaps something currently impossible!

Your comments and questions about Leadership Transformation #2 above, and our earlier post for Leadership Transformation #1 (here) are very welcome.

You’ll also want the “The Six Leadership Keys” for executives.

Click here to get yours, free, from our Edgevantage Guides series.

Leadership in the Heat of Battle | Transformation #1

Leadership in the Heat of Battle | Transformation #1

Leadership in the Heat of Battle: Transformation #1: Powerful Listening

Watch this short video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubNF9QNEQLA

What does this video (and listening) have to do with leading effectively?

Leaders need to be vividly present to what is happening around them, and most importantly hear exactly what others are communicating. That includes hearing what others are not saying that they are saying. This allows a leader to get critical information needed to make appropriate decisions and take effective actions. It also allows those they lead to experience that they’ve been heard. What is more frustrating than attempting to say something to someone and not experience you’ve been heard? 

When a leader listens, they strengthen relationships and build trust.

The video illustrates how much we miss that is going on right in front of us, and by extension, how much is being communicated that we’re missing.

How do you know you’re not listening powerfully?

    • Is there someone around you who says the same thing over and over as though they’re not being heard?
    • Is there something someone else is telling you that you don’t want to hear it? that you disagree with? that you think is wrong? and you listen to them with that going on with you as they speak?
    • While they’re speaking, are you evaluating, judging, diagnosing, solving?
    • While someone is speaking to you, are you finishing their sentences?  interrupting them with what you have to say? attempting to correct what they’re expressing? preparing to defend yourself against what they’re saying?
    • Do you get impatient when others speak? do you want them to “get to the point”?
    • Are you in a hurry to get somewhere or do something, and find that you don’t have time for what people are saying to you?
    • Are you not hearing the people who are closest to you? that you care most for? family?
    • While someone is speaking, are you predicting what they’ll say next or thinking that you already know what they’re saying?

These are some of the pitfalls leaders fall into regarding communication. So the first transformation a leader must go through is to realize how much they do not hear. The pathway to actually listen deeply is to first notice how much you habitually do not. This fact may be something you may not want to confront. However, true transformation always begins with great honesty and telling the truth about what is happening now.

Also, are there things you want to communicate to others, and you don’t have a sense they’re really hearing you? You cannot put water into a cup that is already full. Begin by hearing others completely—let them empty their cup. Then there is room for them to hear you. You have experienced wanting to say something to someone, and as they are speaking, you can’t wait to tell them what you have to say. And this makes it difficult for you to hear them.

Take on really listening to people and watch the miracles that will occur around you!

Want the “The Six Leadership Keys” for executives?

Click here to get yours, free, from our Edgevantage Guides series.

The Court of Public Opinion | Part 2, Outside

The Court of Public Opinion | Part 2, Outside

I was consulting a division of a company in the hospitality industry.

Before I began working with the senior executives, a major event occurred and was represented in the news.

The Warning Signs and External Signals of trouble in the Court of Public Opinion were everywhere:

I watched as the executives, and in particular the CEO, “whistled in the dark.” You know—if you’re walking down a dark and menacing road at night, if you whistle a happy tune, everything will be ok! Right?

They did not address this honestly in the public domain nor in employee meetings.

I watched the impact on stock price, revenue growth, and internal defections of valuable personnel.

CEO’s and other C-Suite Executives, BEWARE!

There is something all around you that can sink the best of intentions and plans! You must attend to it or face dire consequences for your company: the Court of Public Opinion (COPO).

At first, it may be invisible, like air to a bird, until we intentionally become aware of it.

There is  a human tendency to avoid what is unpleasant, disturbing, threatening, disruptive—what appears to be “bad news.” So it is counter-impulsive to take on COPO and have an effective and even masterful relationship with it. And, this is crucial to effectively lead and to succeed.

Four aspects of COPO and their corresponding registers/dashboards are:


    1. The internal rumor mill
    2. Marketplace reputation and perceived 
company future
    3. Customers and general public
    4. News media


    1. The company culture
    2. Stock price
    3. Sales and market share
    4. All of the above

An additional complexity is that these four aspects influence each other.

To deal with COPO powerfully, you must begin by understanding what it actually is.

What is the nature of it? What is the DNA of COPO?

Very specifically: it is what people are saying and what people are hearing.

So the key is listening. Not to the noise of our own internal dialogue, our interpretations, judgements, and opinions. The CEO needs to listen outwardly and vigorously to her/his executives. And the executives need to listen outwardly and vigorously to each other. And the entire C-suite needs to listen to the workforce, the public media, customers. How can a leader effectively respond to others in an authentic and persuasive way if that leader has not fully heard exactly what people are actually saying?

No question that there is certain information that cannot and should not be said outside the  C-suite and/or Board room.  However when an event occurs, such as a critical change of leadership, an SEC investigation, a security breach, a crisis, etc. if you do not manage The Court of Public Opinion consciously and intentionally, then it will go its own way and you will be subject to it and the victim of it.

As the leadership of the company, what guides you in your response?

Shakespeare gave us this sage advice:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

What do the executives on behalf of a company stand for?

Every company these days has mission-vision-value statements.

Are these alive and practiced in the daily life of the company?

Are they the basis for actions, for strategic choices, for dealing with breakdowns?

Or are they wall-paper: good intentions but not actionable? We all know the proverb ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’

We make sure our clients learn to listen deeply and thoroughly, and to respond effectively and powerfully to the Court of Public Opinion.


Want the “Warning Signs • External Signals” for The Court of Public Opinion?

Click here to get yours, free, from our Edgevantage Guides series.


The Court of Public Opinion | Part 1, Inside

The Court of Public Opinion | Part 1, Inside

I was asked to work with an executive team to help them cause a breakthrough in their company performance. They said they were up to transforming the company to do this.

I told them that the transformation of the company needed to begin with a transformation of themselves. Each person committed to this, though they weren’t entirely sure what “transformation” meant. 

But the “Court of Public Opinion” was in full session inside the team itself…

What I saw immediately in our first morning session together was a certain level of suppression in how they interacted with each other.

When someone spoke, it was as though they were speaking in court—in fact, it was the Court of Public Opinion. In different degrees, each person was trying to be pleasing, to be approved of, to not look foolish, to appear loyal.

The president was a veteran in their industry. His education had been in finance, so he was at home with the logic of numbers, but when it came to the “human factor” he was in unfamiliar territory. His Achilles Heel was in being judgmental in a subtle, undermining way. People didn’t operate according to the rules of finance and numbers, and when he was frustrated with someone, they knew it. Once he formed a judgement about you, you were “sentenced.” You were “wrong.”

As the leader of this team, he had created an environment of judgement when someone didn’t perform to the level expected. His team adopted this and did the same.

This was “the culture.” The old adage held true: the fish stinks from the head.

Crucial point: the more people believe something to be true (even if it is not), the more real that something seems.

Once the president/team had an opinion about a team member, it was only a matter of time before their results would gradually deteriorate and they would leave or be fired. The mood of the team was caution and fear. It was palpable.

At a strategic level, they also had opinions about what was possible and not possible regarding their future, and the future of the company. Again, these opinions were reality for them. Because they were enculturated in this and used to it, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Almost like a kind of being asleep to what was limiting them.

The Court of Public Opinion was the source of the suppression I saw that first morning.

The Warning Signs and Internal Signals of trouble ahead were everywhere; their invisible— yet noisy— gavels passing judgement. Setting all that to the side, I got them started…

Out of our work together, everyone on the team gradually “woke up.”

They increasingly discovered that their judgements of each other were not necessarily “the truth.” And they saw that their opinions about what was possible in the future were also not “the truth”. They saw that when enough people subscribe to an opinion or point of view, it becomes “solid” like an object. It appears to be “the truth” and has a self-limiting force.

A profound set of “ah-ha” moments set them free. They increasingly gave up judging each other negatively. They started to discover the unique gifts and contributions of each other, the value of each person. They saw that the future was wide open. They began to stand for each other and for what was possible.

We transformed the “Court of Public Opinion” into a Space for New Possibilities.

Over the next 2 years, the company produced miracles in critical measures of performance.


Want the “Warning Signs • Internal Signals” for The Court of Public Opinion?

Click here to get yours, free, from our Edgevantage Guides series.


Character. Another View

Character. Another View

The news is filled with violations of morality, ethics, and the law. We are left shocked, dismayed, and confused.

What is at the root of this behavior? Are some people “evil”? I suggest not.

I propose that the source of this has to do with something we all grapple with: personal Character, and these lapses are disintegrations of Character.

So what is Character?

One dimension of Character is integrity—treating our word as our bond.

Another equally crucial dimension is authenticity.

Synonyms for authentic are:

Credible, truthful, factual, real, trustworthy.

In talking, this means honesty—saying it the way it is. Straightforward. In hearing, this means getting exactly what was said as it was expressed and intended, without judging or interpreting or dismissing. Being fully present to what another says.

When we are authentic in communicating, we have a powerful relationship with other people. The basis of our relationship then is truthful, honest, genuine. Even difficult things can be discussed and addressed. Nothing is hidden. There is real connection.

Paradoxically, it seems easier sometimes to not be authentic: not being straight is a better way to get what you want. The irony is that the apparent easier path leads to the kind of headlines we see in the news.

What stops us from practicing authenticity in our daily lives? The pull to be socially accepted, to be admired, to belong, to be liked-loved-approved of. And at times we feel embarrassment and even shame over what we’ve done, or how we feel, or who we are, and want to hide.

Many of us learn beginning in childhood that we must conceal our feelings or thoughts. And so we live an inner life not shared with the world. Thoreau said people “live lives of quiet desperation.”

And so we become estranged from the world, and from our own selves.

The beginning of a quantum leap in happiness, fulfillment, and power in life is to have the courage to say it the way it is. The courage to be real with ourselves and others.

As Shakespeare counseled us in Hamlet,

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

• • •

Barry Pogorel Leadership enables you and your people to produce extraordinary results. Contact us to schedule a confidential conversation.



Each day, our news is filled with shocking revelations of corruption: in sports, entertainment, education, government, healthcare, business, and other fields. The costs are high: severe loss of credibility of institutions/individuals and damage to the personal lives of those people impacted.

What is the root cause of these failures? And what is the solution?

The Japanese speak of kokoro—character, essence, heart, spirit. The Samurai cultivated kokoro in themselves and those they mentored or trained. These breaches of morality, ethics, and law reflect a breakdown in kokoro—in character.

A search in the dictionary finds character associated with uprightness, trustworthiness, incorruptibility, honesty, a state of being whole and complete. Integrity is associated with these same antonyms.

“An individual is whole and complete when their word is whole and complete, and their word is whole and complete when they honor their word,” says Harvard Business School emeritus professor, Michael C. Jensen in an interview that appeared in The Magazine of the Rotman School of Management, Fall 2009. He draws a direct connection between integrity defined in this way and organizational effectiveness and productivity. So too for individuals and teams.

Is your word your bond? Is your team’s word their bond? That is, is it binding? In the daily practice of your work and life, is there consistency between what is said and what is done?

Common remedies are insufficient.

When a baseball player wants to hit a homerun, he doesn’t climb up in the stands where the scoreboard is and manipulate the numbers. He deals with what it takes standing in the batter’s box to powerfully and accurately hit the ball coming at him.

To resolve the root cause of our societal/business problems and to produce a home run in our performance as individuals, teams and organizations, we must deal with what is in the batter’s box of our business and life: our character, and our integrity.

• • •

Barry Pogorel Leadership deals with the root cause of great performance, enabling you and your people to produce extraordinary results. Contact us to schedule a confidential conversation.