David Brendel is the founder and director of Leading Minds Executive Coaching, LLC. We recently spoke with David about how corporate leaders handle change and career transitions.
Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you choose to leverage your expertise in psychiatry to focus on executive coaching?
Executive coaches leverage many of the same skills as psychiatrists. Both need to foster engaging dialogues that empower clients to deepen their self-awareness and implement action plans for success. Executive coaching allows me to put this skill set to good use in my work with a wide range of clients who are striving to develop leadership skills such as strategic thinking, effective communication, self-confidence, stress management, and work/life balance.
Finish this sentence: “Based on my experience, one of the biggest myths that people have about executives and corporate leaders is…”
…that they feel as self-confident as they appear.
When you’re coaching executives who are going through a major career transition, what are some of the biggest challenges that they usually need help with?
Whether the career transition is positive (such as a promotion) or negative (such as a layoff), executives may feel overwhelmed, fearful, and generally stressed. They often struggle to tolerate change and uncertainty about the future. Under these conditions, they may lose focus on the mindset shifts and behavioral strategies that will be required as they transition into a new job role. Executive coaching can help them to navigate these daunting challenges effectively.
What are some of the most common stressors for executives that they may not necessarily be aware of?
Common stressors of this kind are novel situations in which executives need to stretch beyond their comfort zone. Individuals transitioning from operational roles to management roles may not realize immediately that they now must prioritize their interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and strategic thinking. If they only rely upon (or overuse) their technical know-how, they can experience frustration and irritability with people on their teams. Executives can overcome this stress when they recognize the new priorities, improve their interpersonal communication, and attend to high-level strategic tasks.
How can a leader become more relatable to his/her subordinates without compromising his/her authority?
It can be challenging for a leader to balance emotional connectedness and appropriate professional boundaries. This can be especially difficult if the leader’s subordinates are of a similar age and/or if they previously worked together at the same level in the organization.
The leader should focus primarily on developing warm, supportive, and encouraging relationships within the bounds of the work role. The leader may frequently need to pause and reflect on what the role requires, rather than what would feel good in the moment. He or she then must work hard to conform his or her behaviors accordingly. Eventually, these behavioral changes will solidify as habits and set the tone for healthy professional interactions.
From a psychology standpoint, what are some of the benefits of an adventure-style team building event?
When run well, these kinds of events can enhance interpersonal bonding, trust, and emotional connectedness. They can stimulate the brain’s limbic system, which mediates these powerful social processes. Relating to colleagues outside the usual workplace has an equalizing effect and allows them to see each other’s common humanity. It may provide a context in which people can safely express vulnerability and compassion. When people see these human traits in others within a structured “adventure” venue outside the office, they are more likely to transfer these positive feelings back to the workplace, thereby enhancing trustful collaboration.
When a leader is planning and/or overseeing a team building exercise, what are some important things that he or she must keep in mind?
The most essential thing to consider is the team’s psychological safety. Before designing the event, the leader can ensure “buy-in” from team members by discussing the goals of the exercise and the nature of the activities it will include. The team is more likely to invest in (and benefit from) the exercise if they’ve had the opportunity to shape it. Individuals should be allowed to opt out of participating without negative judgment or recrimination. If one or more team members decline to participate, however, it is incumbent upon the leader to inquire discreetly as to why people are making this choice. This information might reveal problematic team dynamics that are worth addressing, both for the sake of the team building exercise itself and the healthy functioning of the team more generally.
In the future, what will be some of the most important traits and qualities that companies will look for in their executives?
Companies increasingly will look beyond “quantitative” technical skills and ensure that their executives also have “qualitative” skills including social intelligence, empathy, resilience, curiosity, and creativity. They will seek leaders who proactively manage stress, respect members of their teams, inspire others, and lead with vision and values. People innately have these human traits and qualities to varying extents and can enhance them through training, coaching, and other approaches that foster insight and self-awareness. The resulting behavioral changes can promote meaningful personal development and remarkable business growth.
Want to learn more about utilizing adventure to improve the cohesiveness of your team and company? Contact Matt Walker Adventure today!
As Chief Energy Officer (CEO) of The Resiliency Group, Eileen McDargh guides leaders and organizations into developing powerful responses to change through keynotes, coaching, and facilitation. She has been called profound yet personal, pertinent yet playful. We recently sat down with Eileen to hear her thoughts on resiliency, leadership, and team building.
Tell us about your background. Why did you decide to become a motivational speaker?
I never decided to be a motivational speaker. I have always said that motivation is like dandruff: it’s in your head! My work is to offer learning points captured through stories, examples, and mnemonics so that audiences can remember and use. The audiences decided to call me “motivational,” but it is really their response!
Since you wrote a book about it, could you define the term “resiliency” and tell us why it’s so important for strong leaders to have?
Throw out the dictionary when it comes to human resilience. It is not about bouncing back. It is growing through challenge or opportunity so you become wiser and better.
Resiliency is predicated upon mental, emotional, and physical energy. In short, you need resiliency when faced not only with a crisis but also when offered a great opportunity. It is a life skill to be practiced daily rather than searched for because of an “event.” And it is needed by everyone – not just strong leaders.
What can leaders do to help increase the commitment level of their employees – especially those with a “punch in, punch out” mentality?
My first question would be to find out what the root cause is behind this mentality. No employee starts a job with a punch in, punch out mentality – something has happened! Onboarding could have been poorly done. It could be a sense that their job is meaningless in the larger picture. It could be a lack of feedback and growth opportunities. It could even be a wrong fit. Leaders who don’t explore a cause are like a doctor offering a prescription without a diagnosis.
What skills do today’s leaders need in order to effectively interact with and lead millennials?
First, stop culling them out as a separate group. Despite all the books and articles that have been written claiming that millennials are different, there is no substantial research to support that. On the contrary, a growing body of evidence suggests that employees of all ages are much more alike than different in their attitudes and values at work. Here’s a quote:
“To the extent that any gaps do exist, they amount to small differences that have always existed between younger and older workers throughout history and have little to do with the Millennial generation per se.”
Workers of all ages want to do work that makes a difference in their organization and they want that organization to be among the best in the field. They want to help solve environmental and social problems. They want a life outside of work. They want work that they are passionate about and that offers opportunities to develop skills.
Could you tell us the most “snore-worthy” thing(s) that many leaders do in their presentations – as well as what to do instead?
“Snore presentations” are done with boring slide decks of 12-point type, data dumps, and a monotone delivery. What makes presentations come alive are stories that illustrate a point, the enthusiasm of the presenter, and the simplicity of the message, Think Steve Jobs.
Finish this sentence: “When leaders are trying to change their corporate culture, the most common thing they do incorrectly is…”
…assume that a mantra to “embrace change” will work. First, build a culture of trust and then offer “why” a change is necessary. In the absence of real information, people connect the dots in the most pathological way possible. Go after the low-hanging fruit first, and then move to the more difficult challenges. Remember: an inch is a cinch. A mile takes awhile.
What are your thoughts on the efficacy of team-building activities – especially those in an outdoor setting?
I am a backpacker, a mountain climber, and a runner, so anything outside appeals to me. Where I have a problem with any team building activity is that the facilitation afterward doesn’t really tie the activity with the team’s real world. There has to be concrete learnings and actions as a result of a team building activity and not just feel-goods and high fives.
What types of leaders and leadership skills will be most in the demand in the future?
The complexity of today’s world requires leaders to have learning agility. This means a curiosity about the world, a humility to ask for help, and the flexibility to shift course. Leaders of the future will need superb communication skills and a diversity mindset.
Want more information about unique team building adventures? Contact Matt Walker today!
Recently I had the honor of speaking with John Mattone, one of the foremost thought leaders in Transformational Change and Leadership, in detail about the Five Elements of Adventure and how adventure shapes and defines our lives.
Here is a link to John’s takeaways from our interview. I highly recommend taking a closer look at his most recent book, Cultural Transformations, for a deep dive into leadership and corporate reinvention.