Visibility & credibility

The Fine Art of Influence


Influence has so many implications, from getting your ideas heard to getting the support and resources you need to implement them. For some, the fine art of influence comes naturally, but for most it requires concerted effort.

Let’s start by taking a look at a common definition of influence:

Influence is the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others. (Source:

Well, who wouldn’t want to be a compelling force that affects what others think or do?! You might be thinking that this sounds more like manipulating others to get what you want. However, what I’m referring to is learning how to develop win/win scenarios that allow you to get traction by being authentic, considering what is important to others, and doing what’s right for your company.

For example, I have a client who is trying to take the performance of her organization to the next level but keeps getting tangled in a web of politics. She needs help from another group to get the results she wants, but hasn’t been able to influence them to collaborate. Her focus is not self-serving. She truly has the organization’s best interest in mind.

So, we zeroed in on one critical relationship that could influence my client’s results dramatically. Below is a list of questions that I asked her in the context of influencing a specific person to take action. These questions may help you the next time you want to exert more influence.

What are you really trying to accomplish?

First, be clear about what you want and why. It will help you better understand and communicate your underlying intent. For example, you may want someone to invite you to a specific leadership team meeting. On the surface, it might seem to the other person that you just want to schmooze, but in reality you have and want to share key information with the group so that they can make better business decisions. Clarifying and sharing your intent will lead you to make the request in a way that will help the other person understand the “so what.”

How are you perceived by the other person?

Your credibility and reputation impacts whether the other person notices or really hears what you want. So, take time to reflect about what the other person thinks of you and how her “filter” might affect what she thinks of your request.

In my client’s case, the other person thinks of her as smart, direct, and focused on doing the right thing. However, they don’t know each other well, so my client may need to reinforce some of those attributes in her communication.

What is important to the other person?

Asking this question will help you zero in on what motivates the other person. It could range from looking good to his boss, to wanting to get promoted, to achieving a specific goal, to working less. If you don’t know the answer to this question, talk to others who might.

Where is the common ground for you both?

This final step brings it all together by combining your intent with what matters to the other person. People tend to be much more receptive if they view your request as aligned with their goals and objectives. Think about how you can frame your request or what you want in this context.

By taking even a couple of minutes to think through these questions, you can dramatically shift how you frame an idea or make a request — and your influence on the outcome. It can be the difference between sounding nitpicky and self- serving vs. sounding focused on something that matters to you and the other person involved, and that brings value to the organization. Give it a shot and see what happens.

Do You Provide “Strategic Snapshots” of Your Performance?


If you’re like most people, you have a sense of what you want to accomplish when each day begins—and then the day “happens.” You may get diverted by unplanned issues and be left wondering, “What the heck happened?!”

No matter what is going on in your day, I urge you to think about the countless opportunities you have to showcase what you’re doing to add value and make a difference. I like to call this providing “strategic snapshots” of your performance. In my signature presentation “Getting the Visibility You Want” (aka, “Tastefully Tooting Your Own Horn”) and in my coaching, I offer a range of strategies on how to do this in a way that works for you.

Before I dive into giving you my tips, I want you to consider the following points as important context.

  • We are all busy—usually too busy to notice how others are adding value and contributing on a day-to-day basis.

It’s not that we don’t want to notice; it’s just that our attention is divided. And your boss is probably no different from you in this respect. So, you have to help your boss notice how you’re making a difference. I’d like to say a mid-year or year-end discussion as part of your formal performance management process is enough—but it just isn’t. When I led Performance Management & Career Planning at Deloitte, I came to fully appreciate how often people are out of sync with their boss’s view of their performance.

  • This isn’t about bragging.

At the end of the day, this is about sharing important information that can add value to your company and shape the direction of your career. Remember that as someone who has a personal stake in your performance and development, your boss needs to know how and what you’re doing. And others in the company can benefit from learning about how you overcame specific challenges and what led to your success.

So, here are three suggestions on how to provide “strategic snapshots” of your performance:

1. Be clear about what you want to be known for.

Your desired brand/reputation serves as important context and a filter for what to share with others. So, take the time to get clear about the 2-3 things you want people to think of when they think of you. This isn’t about trying to be someone you’re not. It’s about helping others understand what differentiates you and why that matters.

2. Notice the opportunities in front of you.

Before you go into a meeting, have a call with someone, or write an email, ask yourself, “How can I demonstrate how I’m adding value, or reinforce my desired brand in this interaction?” Every interaction may not afford this opportunity, but asking yourself this question will lead you to provide “strategic snapshots” of your performance more often.

3. Find an approach that fits your style.

As you know, some people have no problem telling others how they are adding value while others struggle because they don’t want to come across as arrogant, or self-promotion doesn’t fit with their cultural norms. So, don’t just adopt someone else’s approach. Take the time to think about what fits your personal style.

As a first step, think about a couple of accomplishments you’d like to share and how and why they have relevance and value to others. By going through this thought process you will present the information differently—less like bragging and more like information that others really need to know.

Remember that it’s up to you to consistently share and reinforce what you want others to know about your contributions (i.e., provide “strategic snapshots” of your performance) no matter how your day unfolds. And it doesn’t have to involve a huge effort or time commitment. You should know my mantra by now: “Small steps can lead to big results.”

Do You Have Strong Peer Relationships?


The importance of peer relationships keeps emerging as a theme with my clients. Strong leaders recognize that their leadership must extend beyond managing up and down; they must also manage effectively across the organization. Although it may not be on your radar screen, peers play an important role in providing perspective on your performance, no matter how far removed they may be from your do day-to-day activities.

Even if you don’t need much of your peers’ involvement to achieve your business results, most companies expect you to care about and invest in their success. An investment in your peers demonstrates your willingness to go beyond what matters in your microcosm of the world, to think about how you can make a difference in other parts of the company.

Ask yourself the following questions to quickly assess your peer relationships:

1. How well do you know your peers?

Using a scale of 1-10 (with 10 the highest), rate the strength of your relationship with each peer. Do you know what challenges your peers face, pressures they feel, or what goals are most critical to them? Based on this information and the strength of your relationship, with whom should you invest more time?

2. What do your peers think of you?

Do your peers view you as someone who is willing to give them support? To quickly assess this, think about how much time you spend listening, problem- solving, or brainstorming with your peers and the degree to which you think beyond your scope of responsibility.

3. What value can you offer to your peers?

As you consider your strengths, background, and experience, how can you leverage them for your peers? What can you offer in the context of what matters to them? If you don’t know enough about their priorities, find out.

As you contemplate your responses to the questions above, identify one peer relationship that you would like to strengthen in the next six months. Come up with a small step you will take this week to get the ball rolling, and remember that small steps can lead to big results


© 2013 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

Is Your Communication Style Undermining Your Credibility?


Every day you shape how others view your leadership, through how you communicate. You send messages directly and indirectly all the time. Although this sounds really obvious, most people don’t take time to think about how their communication style affects their credibility.

The biggest opportunities to improve how we communicate typically exist when we know exactly what we mean and are laser focused on our message, because this is when we may forget to provide important context. We can leave people confused or making incorrect assumptions about our intentions.

So, here are three important questions to ask yourself before you engage someone, or to have your team think through before they approach you:

1. What do I want the other person to do with the information?

When you approach someone with information, the first thing she typically wonders is, “Why are you telling me this?”

  • Do you want me to take action? Help you problem-solve?

  • Are you just giving me an update?

  • Are you venting? Do you just need me to listen?

Remember to Connect the Dots for others to help them understand how the information impacts them and what you expect from them.

2. How important is this?

Next, ask yourself what level of priority the topic really warrants. Remember that by having a conversation focused on a single topic you may inadvertently give it more emphasis than you intended. Even the method of communication — face-to-face vs. phone or email — can convey relative importance.

Given the level of priority (high, medium, or low) what method and timing make sense? Should this topic be bundled with others? Can it wait to be discussed at a meeting you already have scheduled on another topic? Each approach communicates a different level of priority.

3. How can I connect this to the bigger picture?

Finally, consider the strategic significance of the information you want to share. If you are like most people, you have a bigger issue or business priority in mind even when you are “in the weeds.” How consistently do you make that connection for others in how you frame your message?

If you are in a leader’s office frequently talking about what seem like minor things at a surface level, it can undermine your credibility over time. Ensure the leader understands how each item relates to a bigger picture.

This week, I want to challenge you to think about these three questions as you communicate. Where do the biggest opportunities lie for you? What one step can you take to build your credibility through your communication style? Don’t forget that small steps can lead to big results.


© 2012 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

What Are Your Top Five?


Today, I want to challenge you to put the power of self-appreciation into play. It’s something people often overlook, but it can change how you “show up” and participate in everything you do. And, as you know, it’s hard to help others see the value you bring when you don’t have this information top of mind.

1. What are the Top Five things you appreciate about yourself?

For those of you high performers with a constant eye toward self- improvement, creating this Top Five list will help you simply notice what differentiates you and how you uniquely add value. For example, your list might include the following:

  • "I am a quick study."

  • "I enjoy learning and growing."

  • "I am authentic."

  • "I am tenacious."

  • "I am fun to be around."

If you have a hard time limiting your list to five, keep going!

2. How do the Top Five make a difference?

Next, write down how the Top Five allow you to do things others can’t easily do. For example, as a quick study and someone who enjoys learning, you may dive into opportunities that stretch you beyond your comfort zone. For your company, this means that they can put you in challenging situations and you will quickly figure out what you need to do and how to add value. Even if you have been doing this for years, remember that not everyone has this ability.

3. How will you put your Top Five into play even more?

So, now that you have your Top Five list and the "so what" of each item on the list, think about what's going on in your world – personally and professionally.

  • How can you leverage your Top Five to make a bigger difference?

  • Who could use your help?

  • How can you reframe your ideas to make your Top Five more obvious to others, so they can benefit from them?

This week, take 5-10 minutes to answer at least the first two questions above. It will get your wheels turning and you will start “showing up” differently as you consider what you have to offer. Remember that small steps can lead to big results – and the first step here is to simply appreciate what you bring to the table.


© 2013 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Put Your Network to Work

When people think of networking, they often think about how to expand the size of their network. But you can also harness the power of your existing network to achieve your goals.

Take the example of my client Susan. When I began coaching her, Susan was frustrated with her job and was ready to make a career change. However, she had been so focused on doing her day-to-day work that she had invested little to no time maintaining or building her network within or outside the company. Sound familiar? Read on to learn more about the process we used to help her make a change and put her network to work:

1. Brainstorm a list of five contacts who can help in the context of your specific goal.

After outlining Susan’s ideal next role in marketing, we brainstormed names of five individuals to whom she should reach out. I challenged her to think about personal and professional relationships. Just taking ten minutes to go through this exercise helped Susan think of people she had completely overlooked.

2. Determine the current and desired strength of your relationship with them.

Using a scale of 0-10, we rated the strength of Susan’s existing relationships with each of these five individuals. She rated the people she had very strong relationships with already a 10, while those she had never met were rated a 0. We used the same scale to determine what she wanted the strength of each relationship to become over the next six months to a year. These ratings helped her focus and prioritize her efforts.

3. Identify someone who can introduce you to the people you have not met.

For the individual Susan did not personally know on her list, she identified someone in her current network who knew him or could at least help identify the right next step to meet him.

4. Develop specific relationship-building strategies by person.

Next, Susan and I brainstormed at least one or two strategies to further build the relationships with each of the five individuals. Sometimes, this is where people get stuck — especially if they already feel pressed for time. But networking doesn’t have to be time-consuming. It can be as simple as sending someone an article that’s relevant to her, sharing information on an upcoming event she may want to attend, making a point to introduce yourself at a meeting, or asking her for a 15-minute meeting to get career advice or her input about something you’re working on.

Just remember that the goal is to network in a way that is authentic for you and leaves a positive impression. So, as you develop these strategies, think about what you want the other person to remember about you.

5. Set deadlines for each strategy.

Finally, to really put some accountability in place, I asked Susan to set deadlines for each of the networking strategies she identified. This helped her maintain focus and track progress.

Susan put her network to work and got her dream job (which was also a promotion for her) in three months! She moved into a very different type of role than she had held in the past. Even though this example is about career transition, the steps above can be applied to any goal. How do you want to put your network to work?


3 Ways to Build Trust With Colleagues


Authenticity often comes up as a theme with my clients. As leaders, to get anything done we have to work with and through others. That is so much harder to do if our colleagues question our intentions.

Take a look at the three questions below to better understand how you “show up” and what that might say about your authenticity.

  1. Is what you say in sync with what you do? Take this example: You and a colleague agree on a course of action. In later discussions with others, you find out more information, realize that your original plan isn’t optimal, and set a new one. The next day, your colleague is caught off guard, hearing about your new plan at a meeting. Although you had good business reasons for changing direction, she now questions your motives. To prevent this from happening to you, don’t forget to close the loop to ensure that your actions and your intent are well understood.

  2. Do you always walk in with an agenda? A drive for results can often cause this common misstep. Are you more focused on getting what you need from the other person, forgetting to assess what’s going on in his world and adjusting accordingly? Remember to be in the moment and be flexible. Is this really the right time to press forward with what you need, or does the person in front of you need something else right now?

  3. Have you truly invested time to get to know your colleagues? Taking just a few minutes a week to find out what’s going on personally or professionally with colleagues or to offer help can go a long way. It will communicate a genuine interest and will increase their responsiveness when you need something.

From the questions above, choose one area to focus on in your interactions this week. You may find that minor tweaks to your approach can make a major difference in building trust. Remember small steps can lead to big results.

Top Women Leaders Share Their Advice

In honor of Women's History Month, Newberry Executive Solutions sponsored the Texas Women in Business segment which aired on WBAP/KLIF radio in Dallas. These segments featured interviews with some of the most inspiring women leaders I know. Here is just a sampling of the advice and insights.



"Women should focus on the things that give them energy and make them want to get to work every day."

"Don’t underestimate the importance of having the right people in your corner to help you."

Donna Epps

Partner, Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP

"I took on tough roles no one else wanted and then focused on demonstrating results within them."

"Be known for your unique skill set or the way you get things done."

Nancy Loewe

Senior vice president and chief strategy officer, Kimberly-Clark Corp.

"I think about my relationships as a bank account. In order to make withdrawals from that relationship account, you have to take the time to make lots of deposits. I remind myself every day I benefit from people who were willing to sponsor and mentor me along the way."

"When you make a decision, embrace it and don’t lose sleep thinking about 'what if.'"

Deborah Gibbins

Chief financial officer, Mary Kay Inc.

"The best leaders don’t necessarily have the best answers, but are highly skilled at knowing the right one when they see it."

"There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but few will capture your heart.  Pursue those."

Debbie Storey

Senior vice president talent development and chief diversity officer, AT&T

"Find the place where you can excel. Each of us has strengths and passions, so figure out what role will allow you to leverage your strengths the majority of the time."

"Don’t sacrifice anything you believe in – especially your values and family."

Lisa Amoroso

Senior director, Diversity and Inclusion, Frito-Lay North America

I want to express my gratitude to all the leaders who took part in this series. Listen to each of their 1-minute audio segments here. I hope that you'll be as inspired by their wisdom as I have been.

For more ideas on developing your leadership, take advantage of our special offer in March for the WOW! Highlight AudioSM. It gives you a sample of proven strategies and tips from all six modules of the full WOW! WomenOn theWay to Peak Performance ProgramSM and this month it's only $97 (a $100 savings).

Build Your Personal Brand by Claiming the Spotlight

You've heard me make the case for "tastefully tooting your own horn" as a way to build your personal brand. Well, recently, I got a chance to take this to a whole new level for myself – one way outside my comfort zone. At the tail end of 2014, I found out I was a finalist in four categories for the Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

Initially, I didn’t even consider going to the awards ceremony in New York, and the thought of stepping into that kind of spotlight made me really uncomfortable.

But then I had a change of heart during a conversation with my executive coach. As we talked, I realized the importance of raising the visibility of my personal brand. People who know me well know how much I care about having a bigger impact – to reach more people, give them valuable resources and make a difference. I realized that this would be an important step in that direction. So I bought a plane ticket and headed for New York.

I was surprised at how vulnerable I felt about the whole thing. After all, in a situation like this you are being evaluated by a panel of judges and compared to your peers. And not everyone goes home with an award. So, it was a big deal for me to show up at the awards ceremony, and it was an even bigger deal to take a friend along. I went into that evening figuring I had no chance at gold, and certainly no need to prepare an acceptance speech. The Stevies drew 12,000 nominations from more than 20 countries.

Early in the evening, though, things began to unfold differently than I had predicted: I won a gold award! By the time the whirlwind of an evening was over, I had two gold awards: Mentor and Coach of the Year-Business and Female Entrepreneur of the Year for businesses in my size and category. I also came away with one silver award and one bronze. Because I was seated with honorees from PepsiCo and AT&T, two of my clients, I had my own cheering section. By the end of the night, I was excited — and drained (in fact, too drained to go and celebrate that night in NYC)! When I got back to Dallas, my executive coach laughed out loud when I told her I “survived” my awards ceremony.

This story might surprise you, given how often I’m in the spotlight speaking and presenting and successfully coaching others on tasteful self-promotion. But being in this kind of spotlight was really different, and stretched me in new ways. I am so glad I went, and I urge you to find opportunities to step out, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Here's why:

  • We all need to acknowledge and celebrate success. As high performers, we often push ahead to the next project without pausing to notice the impact of what we've already done and how many people we've affected. As I reflected about my company’s growth and performance, I realized how many lives we have touched and in what way. If I didn’t have to find a way to fit four awards in my luggage, I’m not sure I would have really noticed in the way I did that night.

  • Increasing your own visibility can help others. To tap into your knowledge and strengths, people have to know what you have to offer! Look for opportunities to showcase your value, impact, and skills so that others can leverage and learn from them, and you can make a bigger difference.

  • Being open to the possibilities can take you to places you never expected. I had to really stretch to put myself in a situation that might not have gone as well as I'd hoped. It has taught me lessons that will benefit me and my clients.

If you normally shy away from the spotlight, think about how you can step out more in 2015. Maybe it's applying for an award; maybe it's taking on a high-visibility role or project that scares you. Get motivated with my videos on self-promotion as a way to build your personal brand or the Leadership EDGE SeriesSM booklet "Strategically Standing Out." And remember, small steps can lead to big results.

P.S. Check out the full list of Stevie Awards for Women in Business winners.

Leading Without Authority


I often hear complaints from people having trouble getting what they need from colleagues who don’t report to them. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Demonstrating leadership is possible (and important) in your job even if a word like “executive” or “officer” is not part of your job title. It takes understanding yourself and those around you.

When you aren't in a position of authority, you can't just direct people to take action. So, what strategies can you use instead? Here are three to try.

Determine how others view you

You'll be most effective in influencing others if you first examine your own reputation. What others think of you will affect how they interpret your suggestions. If, for example, you're known for always doing the right thing for the business, it may make it easier to get traction. Also consider whether any part of your reputation could stand in the way of what you're trying to accomplish. Perhaps your directness rubs some people the wrong way, so you may need to consider that as you develop the best approach.

Leverage your advocates

Get clear on who does have power and influence to help you in the current situation, and remember to consider informal and formal leaders. Based on the messages that need to be delivered, who would be most effective in conveying them? Who would have the biggest impact? Request the involvement of these individuals by explaining the bigger picture, the key business results you are trying to achieve.

Build alignment

To more effectively lead without authority, find the alignment between your goals and what's important to others. Look for the common ground you already share with the people you want to influence, and frame your suggestions in that context. Perhaps it's a commitment to innovation or customer service.

You can then work to drive alignment in other areas. People will be more receptive to what you want when you invest in taking time to understand their needs. How will what you're asking of them affect their results, their credibility and their relationships? What data and other information can you give them to show how will they benefit?

This week, think about something you're working on and one step you can take to leverage one of these strategies to make further progress. Even if you do have formal authority, this exercise can still be useful. Remember that small steps lead to big results. For more ideas on this topic, see the modules on Getting the Right Work Done and Building a Network of Advocates in the WOW! Lite Program℠

How Well Do You Toot Your Own Horn?


In April, we’re celebrating how your uniqueness is the key to your success. And while we’re at it, we want to encourage you to “toot your own horn” more about those successes.  

We’ve talked before about how self-promotion isn’t selfish if you’re providing your boss and others valuable info about your work and why you can’t assume that your accomplishments will speak from themselves.

This week, look a little more closely at how you’re doing with self-promotion. Which of these profiles best describes you?

Active self-promoter. You regularly put yourself out there to share valuable information about your results and how you are getting them. You know the right people to connect with and you focus on staying visible to them. The challenge for you may be to do this without coming across as self-centered.

Selective self-promoter. You get that self-promotion is important, but you have difficulty doing it on a consistent basis. Like many others, your activities here may be more externally driven (i.e., by the timing of promotion and pay decisions, restructuring at your company, or other events that drive the need to communicate more about your performance).

Heads-down worker. Your mindset is “I just need to get my work done.” You value results and quality, and you believe that if you do a good job people will notice (see our previous blog on why that’s not necessarily so). You may quickly dismiss self-promotion as a “game” that you don’t want to play.

Praise deflector. Do you have a shield that redirects any compliments you receive (“Ellen was the one who really made the project work!”) or minimizes your accomplishment (“Meeting that deadline wasn’t really a big deal.”)? If so, be mindful of the messages you are indirectly sending to others about your performance.

Most people tend to fall in the middle two categories. Active self-promoters and praise deflectors are more rare. You may also find that you fall into a couple of categories. If so, pay attention to how you are showing up and with whom.

This week, take a few minutes to simply notice how often you take opportunities to share your accomplishment and results with others. Where would you like to be on the self-promotion scale above?

This article is adapted from our video “Assess How Well You Toot Your Own Horn Today.” You can find it and other videos from our “Tastefully Tooting Your Own Horn” series on the Learn page of our website.

Self-Promotion Isn’t Selfish


This month, we’ve been exploring how to be bold about your unique strengths. Part of being bold, of course, is letting others know about those strengths and your accomplishments. Self-promotion makes some of us uneasy, so I want to debunk some of the negative stereotypes about it you may have.

“Bragging is self-centered.” Sharing information about what you’ve accomplished can be relevant and useful to others. Take your boss. Her job includes both leveraging your talents for the company and helping you develop. To do those things, she needs to hear about your strengths, talents and successes.

“My accomplishments should speak for themselves.” We all have lots of lots of people and priorities clamoring for our attention. Even when your boss or a client intends to note your successes, sometimes they’ll slip by unless you share them.

“I don’t have time to self-promote.” Making others aware of your strengths and successes isn’t an “extra,” it’s essential to your job.

These points are part of our video “Change How You View Self-Promotion.” You can find it and other videos from our “Tastefully Tooting Your Own Horn” series on the Learn page of our website.

Ready to go more in-depth on this topic? You’ll find more advice on effective, tactful self-promotion in our WOW! ProgramSM and WOW! Highlight AudioSM, as well as the book “Show Up. Step Up. Step Out. Leadership Through a New Lens.”


Do You Have Executive Presence?

Everyone has his or her own ideas about what executive presence looks and sounds like. Regardless of what someone’s personal definition may be, let’s look at three areas that can affect whether others consider you to be executive material:

1. Strategic focus

I constantly hear senior leaders noticing the difference between people who think strategically and those who focus more on tactics. Your ability to consistently tie what you say and do to what matters to the business can help others see that you “get it” – that you understand the big picture and won’t get derailed by details. Ask yourself how often you intentionally make these connections for others.

2. Confidence

I’m sure you’ve come across people who can be very convincing even when they are way beyond their scope of expertise. Remember that it is often less about what they say and more about how they say it. Think about yourself for a minute. How often does your tone convey a strong sense of conviction, high energy, or confidence? How does your body language add to or detract from your message? Nuances like this can make a big difference.

3. Competence

Your ability to integrate your life experiences into your message can quickly help others understand what you bring to the table – and why it matters. Integrating short contextual phrases helps others understand your strengths and skills and their relevance to the business. Take this brief example: “I learned three key principles from my experience marketing global products and brands. One of those applies to this situation today.”

At the end of the day, you may believe that you are strategically focused, confident, and competent. But the question is whether others see you that way. So, this week I urge you to take one small step, whether it’s asking others for feedback or focusing on one of the three areas above. I have found that starting with tweaks to how and what you communicate can dramatically affect your executive presence. Remember, small steps can lead to big results.


© 2013 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

Little Things Can Say A Lot


As an executive coach working with high-performing leaders, I regularly hear candid feedback about my clients, often information that no one has shared with them. Over the years, I have noticed how managers can draw big conclusions about their direct reports based on the “little things” they do. Unfortunately, most people can’t see their own detracting behaviors unless someone points them out. Take a look at the examples below, note which ones you do, and the indirect messages those behaviors may be sending. If you’re unsure whether some of these apply to you, ask others you trust.

1. Nervous Habits

  • Fidget with or flip your hair

  • Shake your leg when sitting

  • Tap a pen or the table

  • Keep checking your phone

What these behaviors may tell others: You can’t focus, are nervous, or would rather spend your time elsewhere.

2. Presentation style

  • Casually lean against something (e.g. podium, chair, etc.) when presenting

  • Present seated instead of standing

  • Let others take over or divert a discussion you are leading

  • Focus more on detail than headlines/key messages

What these behaviors may tell others: You don’t understand the importance of the meeting, have the influence and capability to command a room, have confidence, or see the big picture.

3. Use of time

  • Consistently run over in one-on-one or group meetings

  • Spend too much time on topics outside the scope of the discussion (e.g., personal or business) before you cover the agenda items

  • Have difficulty adjusting your approach when your presentation time gets compressed

What these may tell others: You lack time management skills, can’t manage your workload effectively, are not ready to take on more responsibility, or don’t respect others’ time.

Each of these behaviors should be considered in the context of your working environment, the company culture and what’s expected. If you engage in some of these behaviors, ask yourself (and possibly others) how they serve you or get in your way. That will help you decide what action to take, if any.

The point is to raise your awareness and make an intentional choice that aligns with your desired leadership brand. So, this week, ask others for feedback and identify one small step you will take to convey the right message to others about your capabilities. Remember, small steps can lead to big results.


© 2013 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

Is That Meeting Really Optional?


A theme has recently emerged with several of my clients. Some have expressed frustration when one of their direct reports misses a meeting that they consider to be important. I have also heard about this from the other vantage point, from my clients who have opted out of meetings like this when a legitimate scheduling conflict arises – and they just don't understand why it is a problem. Although it may seem minor in the grand scheme of things, remember that people draw conclusions about you from the small snapshots they see. They may not have time to explore what led to your decision, or to challenge their own conclusions about your decision, because of the competing demands on their time and attention.

So when you decline a meeting that your boss considers to be important, you may inadvertently send the wrong message – one that raises questions about your level of engagement, ability to manage your time effectively, or understanding of key priorities.

Here are three tips to help others take the right messages away:

1. Reverse roles

Put yourself in your boss's shoes. Even if you don't think missing that meeting is a big deal, your boss might. What is it really about for her? Perhaps it's less about the topics to be discussed and more about you showing your support, by making time to be there or contributing your valuable ideas. There is usually something bigger at play, so challenge yourself to notice it.

2. Clarify your underlying intent

If you decline a meeting, be sure to convey your underlying intent and distill it down to a few key messages. It could be this simple: you want to be there, you understand the importance of the meeting, and you are trying to balance it with moving another competing priority forward.

If you can't attend because you are spread too thin, then it may be time to reexamine how to leverage others or explore other strategies (perhaps with your boss).

3. Take responsibility for your absence

Have a game plan ahead of time, so that someone is prepared to share your input at the meeting and to give you a debrief afterwards. Sharing this with your boss may put her at ease. In some cases, your boss may want to be the person to update you on what you missed. Just be mindful not to create more work for her to do so.

I hope this article got you thinking about what you may be inadvertently communicating. Start by using the three tips as a checklist to help you notice what you already do well or may need to do more of, to send the right messages about your leadership.


© 2013 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

Three Keys to Peak Performance

Since I just completed my new self-paced coaching program, which is all about peak performance, I can’t get the topic off my mind. As you know there are several things that come into play when you want to really step up your game and take your performance to the next level. I have chosen three to get your wheels turning.

1. Focusing on the right work

Many of us get sidetracked by all the things we need to respond to each day – even when we know not all of it is critical or impactful. Keep in mind that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort, so imagine what might be possible if you could consistently focus on what matters the most. I have a whole module dedicated to this topic in my self-paced coaching program and consistently spend time on this with every client, given its importance.

So, take a minute right now to identify the three areas where you can have the biggest impact in your role – what I like to call the “Big 3.” Having clarity about this will help you make more deliberate choices about how you invest your time and energy.

2. Managing your mindset

How you “show up” each day and respond to what’s happening around you can dramatically help or hinder your progress - and ultimately your results. This year, I will be collaborating with Dr. Paul Stoltz who is a global thought leader on resilience and works with leaders to respond to challenges and adversity in a way that elevates and sustains individual and team performance. His company has done over 25 years of research in this area and has documented the financial impact of implementing their tools and techniques. As you might suspect, it all begins with managing your mindset. If you haven’t seen Paul’s work, check out his latest book The Adversity Advantage.

3. Defining success

Finally, high performers are notorious for expecting a lot of themselves but not always recognizing what they’ve accomplished. Have you defined success for yourself so you’ll know when you’ve gotten “there?” Taking a few minutes to do this will help you notice your progress, more easily share it with key stakeholders, and celebrate your successes.

So, this week, I would encourage you to take one action step in one of the three areas above – whether it’s defining your Big 3, thinking about your mindset, or defining what success looks like for you over the next six months. Just remember that half the battle is just getting started. What small step will you take?

Tastefully Tooting Your Own Horn

Over the past three years, my most requested presentation has been Tastefully Tooting Your Own Horn. It may surprise you to know that individuals at all levels of organizations struggle with self-promotion. Many find self-promotion draining and difficult but absolutely essential - yes, a necessary evil.  I don’t like it any more than you do, but I learned how to do it over the years because I had to. At Deloitte, I worked on consulting projects all over the country, where the partners and directors who made decisions about my pay and promotion often had no direct visibility to my work. So, I had to find ways to talk about my results and accomplishments and arm others with that information – in a way that worked for me. Today, I help my clients do the same. To get you moving in the right direction, I want to share three common roadblocks to self-promotion and how to move past them.  

1. “My good work will speak for itself. I don’t have time for these games.”

I can’t tell you how often I hear this phrase. It’s usually from talented individuals who do great work but detest political games (i.e. affectionately called “the heads down” worker”).

If this sounds like you, recognize that most people are way too busy to notice all the ways you add value - even if they want to. I’m guessing that your boss has several direct reports, her own boss, and other key stakeholders who demand her time and attention. On top of that, she has her own goals to meet and distractions to manage. How much time does that really leave her to focus on you?

So, it’s up to YOU to make it happen – to take the initiative to give visibility to your work, to get recognized for your contributions and open up new possibilities for yourself. Your good work alone won’t get you there - and unfortunately you can’t win at a game that you won’t even play. Start by making a decision to get in the game.

2. “I don’t want to come across as obnoxious or full of myself.”

No one likes to listen to someone whose head can barely fit in the door. Yes, we’ve all met at least one of those people in our lives! The good news is that those negative experiences can give us clues about what NOT to do. So, if you don’t want to come across as arrogant, think about how you DO want to show up. To get started, come up with three words to describe the type of impression you’d like to leave about yourself when you are telling others about your accomplishments. If you have already defined your personal brand, use that as context as well.

Remember that having clarity about the imprint you want to leave on others will help you develop strategies that work for you.

3. “I’m bad at it. I just don’t know how to do it.”

You’re not alone if you feel ill equipped to tastefully toot your own horn. If you feel this way, think about how you can share information about your results and accomplishments in a way that is relevant and helpful to others.

I’ll give you two examples to think about. First, consider that someone else in the company may be faced with a challenge similar to what you just successfully overcame. By taking the time to share what you did and how you did it, you can help them tremendously.

Second, keep in mind that your boss has to make decisions about your performance, pay, and development (to ensure that you can continue to contribute to the company’s goals). Providing information to her on a regular basis will allow her to make those decisions easily, and will serve you and the company well. Remember that she will be held accountable for your results.

Finally, to give you more clues about how to tastefully self- promote, look for others around you who do it well. Simply notice what they do and say. You may find that you can adapt some of their strategies to fit your own style.

By recognizing what’s holding you back from self-promoting, you can determine how to move forward. Start by defining an action step you will take this week. Also, if you haven’t read it, take a look at Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn.

Executive Coaching – What’s All the Fuss About?

Executive coaching – what is it exactly, and why should you care? In this world of customization, think of coaching as a development solution tailored just for you. Today you can get personalized M&Ms, custom- made athletic shoes, and computers built to your specifications. So why not work with an executive coach who can help you design a targeted approach to achieve what’s important to YOU – whether that’s going for that next promotion, being a more effective leader, or getting more of what you want from your career? More and more companies are using coaching for high potentials and executives to help boost individual performance and productivity. So, it’s no wonder that this industry is experiencing explosive growth. Coaching may sound intriguing, but are you a good candidate for coaching? Well, here are a few questions to consider. Are you motivated to improve now? Do you have some idea of what you want to accomplish through coaching (e.g., building skills, working through a tough business situation, positioning yourself for the next level)? Are you willing to be honest and open about your strengths and development areas, and willing to hear feedback? Will you make time for coaching, and follow through on commitments? If you answered yes to many of these questions, coaching might be worth exploring.

Once you’ve determined that you are a good candidate for coaching, you need to choose a coach that “fits.” So how do you pick the right one? The AMA/Institute for Corporate Productivity Coaching Survey 2008 identified the five most common criteria by which coaches are selected:

  • business experience (with 68% saying they use this criteria frequently or a great deal)

  • recommendations from a trusted source (59%)

  • interview with the prospective coach (54%)

  • consulting experience (52%)

  • validated client results (48%).

Interviewing a prospective coach to ensure that there’s a good match in terms of personality and expertise clearly has the strongest relationship to a successful coaching program. Although professional standards for the industry are becoming more established, anyone can hang out a shingle today and claim that they are a coach. So, be sure to ask about experience, formal training, and certifications.

So, what’s the bottom line? Partnering with an executive coach could be a powerful combination. Just remember that hiring a good coach isn’t enough. The other part of the equation is YOU – what you want to get out of it and how much you’re willing to put into it.