Be Intentional about Women’s Leadership

This post shared from guest faculty members Kristin Haffert and Jessica Grounds. See more from Kristin and Jessica here. 

We began to be exposed to the issue of gender imbalance when we were in college.  For Kristin, it was during her studies at Rutgers University where she learned that clinical trials for heart disease at the National Institutes of Health, only included men, even though heart disease is the leading killer of women.  And for Jessica, it was her junior year in college when she worked on her first political campaign in California for a woman running for the state assembly. She quickly understood the power of political office, but also the fact that few women represented the public in elected bodies throughout the country. In each instance we wondered, how is this lack of representation by women impacting the outcomes?

We were inspired to this work for different reasons and now after decades of experience working globally to advance women’s leadership and develop approaches to incorporate gender differences into business models, policy-making, and leadership strategy, we find that we are still stuck.

Women to continue to make up only 20% of U.S. Congress, 5% of Fortune 500 CEO’s, and just 38% of tenured professor positions.  We see the low representation of women in leadership as a near universal problem globally.  So why is this and what can we do?

Two years ago, we created Mine the Gap in a business climate where we continue to see that organizations do not understand the strategic advantage of bringing women into leadership roles with men. When men and women understand and respect each other more deeply in their professions, productivity flourishes and retention improves. When an organization works to build a gender inclusive environment, the organization is more innovative, nimble, and profitable.  More women leaders, working with men, open up new markets, perspectives, and approaches.  But most industries have a long way to go to put these strategies into practice.  There is a competitive advantage to advancing a culture where gender differences are seen as a benefit, not a liability.

As last year’s Scientific American cover page explains, This is Not a Women’s Issue.  This is an issue that is disrupting the workplace today.  We are limiting the potential of our workforce.  We are underutilizing our talent and we are losing ground.  The potential is there if we are aware and strategic.

We are teaching a course at the Institute for Transformational Leadership, housed at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies, because we want to equip professionals with the knowledge base and skills to better understand the challenges that women face accessing places of power, and how we can be more intentional to grow women’s leadership.  We want to equip business leaders with the knowledge to become more gender aware and see the strategic advantage gender balanced teams offer. In the climate of #MeToo and #TimesUp, there is a rich conversation about issues impacting women and men. We will be sharing strategies that we use globally with our clients.

Come learn how you can mine the gender gap and become a trailblazer on gender dynamics in your field.


How to Give Concise and Actionable Positive Feedback

This post shared from entrepreneurship faculty member Kristi Hedges’s blog at  See the full version of the post here!

There’s a significant amount of attention in leadership literature about how to provide tough feedback.

While it’s necessary to provide constructive criticism to help employees better themselves, providing too much can demoralize and create a negative spiral of disengagement. It’s the positive feedback that reminds people what they should be doing more of, and how to bring their strengths to bear.

In Entrepreneur, Scott Halford, author of Be a Shortcut: The Secret Fast Track to Business Success,says that positive feedback is crucial for motivating employees: “Positive feedback stimulates the reward centers in the brain, leaving the recipient open to taking new direction. Meanwhile, negative feedback indicates that an adjustment needs to be made and the threat response turns on and defensiveness sets in.”

Providing regular positive feedback is crucial, but many of us aren’t sure how to do so without seeming insincere or gratuitous. The following are a few strategies you can implement in order to give positive feedback that inspires and motivates.

1. If you see it, say it.

Halford says that for feedback to be productive, it must be immediate. “The adult brain learns best by being caught in action,” he writes.

If you want the employee to keep up the great work, then praise them as soon as they complete the positive action—and keep giving it as long as they are doing a great job. “Productive feedback requires giving it frequently. That way, performance reviews are just another collegial discussion,” Halford says.

2. Be specific, so the person knows what they should repeat.

When praising an employee for his or her achievement, “good job” doesn’t cut it.

Use the employee’s name as well as describe the specific actions they took to achieve the positive outcome. By describing in detail what you appreciate about the employee’s efforts, they will know exactly what they need to do in the future to keep performing.

3. Keep your positive feedback positive.

Keep your positive and negative feedback separate. The “sandwich” approach – where you say something positive, negative, then positive – has caused more confusion than is necessary. What people hear is the negative with a transparent effort to soften the blow. Or they lose the message entirely.

If you want to praise an employee’s success on a certain project, focus on the success, not what they could have done even better. If you need to discuss room for improvement, schedule another time where you can provide constructive criticism.

4. Make achievements visible.

The adage “praise in public” says it all. Don’t feel like you have to use discretion. Use all-staff emails or team meetings to recognize achievement. Not only do people benefit from the immediate praise; they’ll be rewarded with their colleague’s comments after the event.

Try creating a wall of fame in your office that features photos of achievers, printing out certificates of appreciation, or giving out medals. Be creative.

5. Frame accomplishments in the context of the bigger picture.

Inc. contributor John Brandon argues that giving positive feedback benefits not only your employee, but also you and your company. Everybody wins. “When you give feedback, you are directing an employee to find the right course of action, which in turn means the employee is doing what will help you and the company the most, which then pays you back in dividends,” he writes.

Brandon adds that you should, of course, be genuine in your praise, but also realize that your feedback is about more than guiding your employee’s actions. “Feedback should not just be ‘you did this right and you should be happy’ and that’s the end result. It should be ‘you did this right and, when you know that and keep doing that, you help the company.’”

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of  The Inspiration Code and The Power of PresenceFind her blog, tools, and more at

Make It A Habit

This post shared from Leadership Coaching faculty member Sue McLeod. See more from Sue on her blog at  

My friend and coaching buddy, Heidi Bellamente, and I have been working on our habits – We’re creating new ones, breaking old ones, and appreciating the ingrained habits that keeping us alive and on track. And we’ve learned a lot along the way.

Why focus on habits and what do they have to do with coaching?

My experiment in creating a new habit was my desire to be healthier and physically stronger. The beginning was simply saying “I need to start exercising!” Simple to say, yes, but not easy to manifest. In fact, it turned out to be pretty complex. How does that statement transform into a gym membership, four completed 5Ks, a backpack filled with the right clothes and shoes, and exercise being a part of my life, every day?

By intentionally creating a new habit, I learned my own success formula. Working with Heidi, I learned that she’s not the same as me, and has her own unique ways of creating habits.

What does this have to do with coaching?

When our clients say “I need to…” that is just the beginning of the journey. Sustained change, for individuals and groups, happens when the new behaviors become a habit. And we all have a unique success formula for creating habits.

What’s the coach’s role?

Here’s a hint – a couple of the PCC markers for the Designing Actions, Planning and Goal Setting, and Managing Progress and Accountability (D-P-M) competencies.

  • Coach assists the client to design what actions/thinking client will do after the session in order for the client to continue moving toward the client’s desired outcomes.

This seems simple enough on the face of it. But what if you knew that your client needed to put that action into the context of a big vision in order to be motivated? Or, that your client gets freaked out by the big vision, and prefers to just map out a few next steps? Would your approach change if you knew that your client will do this new thing because you’re expecting them to, or might rebel unless it’s completely their own idea?

  • Coach invites or allows client to consider her/his path forward, including, as appropriate, support mechanisms, resources and potential barriers.

This is a little more detailed than I would usually get. What needs to be considered in the “path forward?” Think of all the things that get in the way of your good intentions. If you’re like me, it can be a long list! How will your client face and conquer what will get in their way? Again, it’s personal. Do they need to schedule it, be reminded, get the right equipment, track and measure progress, get feedback, find a community of support, expect resistance and plan a way through it, or something else?

  • Coach assists the client to design the best methods of accountability for her/himself.

Ahh yes, accountability. When I was a beginner coach, my coaching move was to ask the client if I could hold them accountable. It runs out, that wasn’t a good idea. I have trouble being accountable for my own stuff, never mind my client’s stuff, too! So, the better move is to know what kind of accountability works best for them. Do they like to keep things private, share with only trusted individuals, create a group and get hurrahs when they succeed? And what happens when they get stuck? Will they hide or boldly declare a breakdown? Who, or what, will call them back to their commitment?

So you see, there’s lots to talk about with clients after they say “I need to…”

What have you noticed about what works for your clients?

Learn more from Sue McLeod on >>

The Power of Y.E.S.

This post shared from leadership coaching faculty member Maria van Hekken’s blog at  See the full version of the post here!

Have you ever believed something so much that you didn’t realize it was totally not true?

It’s amazing how quickly you can start believing the false stories you frequently tell yourself.  I told myself all kinds of stories for many years that held me back. But along the way, I managed to sort through all those negative thoughts that prevented me from sharing my gifts.

Here are the “fake” stories I believed:
I’m not a talented writer. I worked at a publishing company for over a decade in a previous life. They had amazing writers. I certainly was not one of them. They studied writing, they were highly skilled, and they were oh, so imaginative. Nah, not me.
I need to write a book that everyone will want to read. What I wanted to write was too far out there. So I’d write a book that was safe. You know, vanilla. As you might imagine, since I am anything but vanilla, that didn’t work real well.
I am never ever going to actually finish my book. When I had been writing for about six years without actually completing anything, I decided it was taking me way too long. So I would just take the loss, admit defeat, and move on.

Here’s what happened next… 
I wrote. Over time, a ritual of writing every Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. took shape and a habit was born. Magically, week after week and month after month, I somehow became a proficient writer. Because I was actually writing with purpose.
I discovered my voice. I wrote my truth. Honestly? I felt naked, raw, and vulnerable. And often pretty foolish. And still, once in a while, the muse visited, and there was flow.
I persisted and finished. I found a coach (imagine that) who said, “what do you mean you’re not going to finish your book because it is taking too long. Plenty of people have taken way longer than this to write a book.” Not all at once, but chapter by chapter, the book became complete. Something in me did, too.

Here’s my new extraordinary story that emerged:
I am a writer. There, I said it. I am a writer at my core. Truth is, at the very center of my being, I absolutely, positively love words. I am passionate about inspiring people through language, generating beautiful possibilities, and creating extraordinary leadership stories for the sake of bringing a little more light into this world.

I am so proud of the way my book has taken shape. It demonstrates that anyone can be a more positive and successful leader in all aspects of their lives.

I can’t wait for you to read it. Once you start the book, you’ll learn step by step how to ditch your old stories to create your new story filled with the positive results you really want.