Stop Collaborative Dysfunction Across Product Teams

Software development today is a collaborative process across a broad range of groups (XFN), including Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, User Research, Product Management, Engineering, Product Design, Design Ops., Architecture, Program Management, Content Strategy, Product Marketing, Network Operations, Marketing Communications, and Legal, to name just a few.

In addition to the requirement of organizational collaboration, the pressure to ‘move fast’ is always present. ‘Done is better than perfect’ is the famous maxim by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Businesses need to innovate faster to keep growing their market reach.

The tension between optimal collaboration XFN and the need for speed creates various challenges for individuals, teams, and especially their leaders.

Symptoms of Dysfunction Across Product Teams

  • Individuals may experience a lack of trust and accountability and feel more significant conflict and stress when goals are unclear or change on a dime.
  • When roles, ownership, and accountability are unclear, teams can become less efficient, less coordinated, and less supportive of one another.
  • New leaders and leaders of teams that are ‘in service’ of other teams – large, influential, or revenue-driving teams – may not be at the table when critical decisions are made.
  • This can lead to the perpetuation of silos of domain expertise
  • The Arbinger Institutes’ “Leadership and Self Deception” book has shown that silos lead to individuals feeling “self-justified for bad behavior, like exaggerating other people’s faults or inflating their virtue.” This, in turn, can produce negative sentiment among teams:
    • User research takes too much time
    • Designers work independently from engineering
    • Engineers build UI’s for the designers to clean up after the fact

Creating high-quality work under these conditions becomes very difficult. According to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) study of leading corporations, 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional.

Where to Put Your Leadership Focus?

Without a doubt, the need for speed and cross-functional collaboration is challenging.

  • Should you focus on building your team and reaching your goals?
  • Or should you focus on building relationships with cross-functional partners to support better collaboration?

These goals don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

If you experience collaboration problems like those in your team, consider forming an alliance with your XFN partners and carefully craft your working relationship.

By definition, an alliance is a union or association formed for mutual benefit between partners based on an affinity, typically of shared interests. Additionally, a partnership empowers each party to declare where their boundaries lie and how to work with them optimally.

How to Build Alliances

An alliance works best when you begin the process with a conversation and ask open-ended questions:

  • What challenges do you face with your team?
  • What currently works well for your team and communications?
  • What excites you and your team about the work?
  • How was the experience when our teams last worked together? Do you have suggestions for improvement?
  • What are the optimal conditions for our teams to work together effectively?
  • What would you like to know about my team and me?
  • How will we structure mutual accountability?
  • What is the best response when a problem arises between our teams or us?
  • What is the best way to share complex information with you?
  • Will you continue to look at how we work together and give me ongoing feedback?

No one likes to feel like an item on your ‘to-do’ list. For this alliance conversation to work, you must listen without interruption, without jumping to conclusions or problem-solving. Most importantly, be genuinely curious about the person and what they say. Avoid jumping in to fill an awkward silence; give the other person time to complete their thoughts.

“No matter what we do on the outside, people respond to how we feel on the inside,” The Arbinger Institutes, “Leadership and Self Deception” book.  Creating an open and collaborative conversation to launch an alliance will allow the best of both people’s “insides” to connect with the other.

The Benefits of Building Alliances

When we join a company, we bring our skills, expertise, and expectations of how things should work. In a fast-paced, collaborative environment, it can feel rough until we acclimate to the culture and build relationships with others on whom we can depend. The value of designing an alliance with other people is time well spent and will create results that reflect well on you over time.

  • People see that you value them for who they are, not what they can do for you
  • You earn the trust of others
  • Your positive behavior contributes to a better work environment
  • You can ask for support in times of need from your powerful alliances
  • You are fully productive and engaged with clarity about the work that is informed by the work of others
  • By championing others, your perceived value increases exponentially.

How to Apply This

Try this experiment. Ask someone the three questions below, whether an employee, a peer, a cross-functional team member, your boss, a date, or a stranger in line at the airport:

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What gets you (and your team) excited about what you do?
  • What do you truly want?

Then, could you take a step back and assess where you are in the conversation?

  • Have you created a connection with this person?
  • Do you understand them more thoroughly than you did before?
  • Did they gain insights into themselves and how you communicate with them?

Congratulations, you’re on your way to tremendous success as an XFN leader!

Let me know how this helps you connect with key people in your work and home environment. Good luck!


This article was first published at the Design and Innovation, Design Thinking conference proceedings on March 29th, 2019.

Have an Imposter Moment, Not an Imposter Life

Have you ever been promoted, taken a new job, or started a business and felt like a fraud? This is called imposter syndrome.

Anyone can have it. The comedian Tina Fey said, “The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re onto me! I’m a fraud!’”

Former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, revealed, “Very few people, whether you’ve been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe today that they are now qualified to be the CEO. They’re not going to tell you that, but it’s true.”

I experienced imposter syndrome while attending a daily stand-up meeting with an executive team from Yahoo! I felt like a fraud in front of this group of brilliant minds.

You know you have imposter syndrome when you discount or diminish your own abilities. It can feel debilitating when you doubt yourself. Under stress, your brain is trying to predict what action to take: flight or fight. You have to release your stress through exercise, relaxation, wellness practices, and sleep.

Left unchecked, stress will lead to impaired functioning, poor decision-making, black and white thinking, and isolation. Basically, you’ll stop doing all of the things you used to love.

No one likes to fail, to not have the answers, or feel unable to master something. Imposter syndrome is a productivity killer.

In her TED talk, Thinking Your Way Out of Imposter Syndrome, Valerie Young recommends reframing the negative conversations going on in our head by replacing unhelpful thoughts with more positive or adaptive ones. She encourages thinking like someone who is not feeling like an imposter; they know they can’t be brilliant at everything, and they are fine with that.

Practice reframing the negative thoughts to positive ones, and over time you begin to believe your new thoughts. It’s much better to have an imposter moment than an imposter life!

What’s on the other side of imposter syndrome?

  • Getting your confidence back and feeling great about yourself again
  • Being connected to yourself and the people around you
  • Feeling free to speak, be creative, and be the best leader you can be

Extraordinary leaders, like you, who shatter glass ceilings, don’t allow themselves to remain a hostage to imposter syndrome for very long. They recognize the pattern when it rears its head, and they use tools like reframing to work it out of their system.

Businesses depend on leaders to make decisions based on fact, not beliefs brought on by feeling like an imposter. If you’d like a free coaching session to discover if it’s a fit, please book a call below.

Illustration by Chris Do

Tips for managing personalities in a design team

Tips for managing personalities in a design team

Managing personalities in a design team becomes easier when you understand why team members behave in certain ways under stress. When you can support them in changing their emotional state, they are no longer hostage to feeling fear and their rational brain can begin working again. So what environmental factors stress out a design team most?

Design teams are the front line creators of scalable solutions for products and services that meet needs of the customers they advocate for. The more ambiguous a project, the shorter the deadline, the more stakeholders involved, the more the design process is ignored, the more stress it puts on the entire design team.

One designers response to stress

Presented with high stakes, high stress situations, associated with working in fast paced and rapid growth technology companies, it’s hard to think clearly when our mind shuts down. It does this to send blood to our legs, not our brains, so we can run away from predators faster. 

When I saw my boss walk across the bridge of 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, I wanted to run and hide in the restroom to throw up in the trash can. Why? Because I knew that if he was walking to my office, he had a project that was going to scare the crap out of me. 

“Sally, will you fly to Milan tomorrow and give a talk I was scheduled to present at the Italian Developer Conference?” or “I’ve decided to send you to India to work on a mobile data capture project in rural healthcare for a couple of years, OK?”

The evolution of our response to stress

Running away and hiding is a useful survival tool when you are running from a bear, but not useful when you need blood in your head, not your legs, to think straight. Unable to run away from bosses bearing scary projects, humans have developed new ways of covering up their fears. 

Author Dr. Valerie Young classifies five competency based personality types we’ve developed to cope with the stress of modern business life. Specifically for those times we feel we are in over our heads and don’t belong at work.  

  1. The Perfectionist – Sets unattainably high standards for themself
  2. The Superhero – Attempts to juggle everything and everyone
  3. The Natural Genius – Needs to get things right the first time
  4. The Soloist  – Would never ask for help or feedback
  5. The Expert – Sees any lack of knowledge as a failure

Tips for managing personalities in a design team based on their competency profile

This article describes the characteristics of each personality type, how damaging it can be, some tough love advice and 5 crucial tips for managing personalities in a design team. This will help you  to help your design team members, reframe negative thoughts with positive ones so their rational brain can return and enable them to feel safe and that their presence is welcome and contribution needed.

The perfectionist personality profile


Cartoon of a perfectionist

The perfectionist

Perfectionists set extremely high goals for themselves and will have an obsessive concern and aversion to failing to reach high performance standards. For example, achieving a score of 99 out of 100 would be deemed a failure and cause feelings of shame to a perfectionist personality type. A perfectionist will focus all their competency on “how” something is done. 

You’re being a perfectionist when you …

  • Feel your work must always be at 100%
  • Been accused of being a micromanager
  • It’s very difficult for you to delegate, and when you do, feel disappointed by the results
  • If you miss the mark on something, even by a tiny bit, you punish yourself or accuse yourself of not being cut out for the work

The pitfalls of having a perfectionist personality

Work stops being fulfilling. Workaholism leads to burnout. Anxiety leads to depression. Despite a positive outward appearance, inner self-confidence is very low.

A tough love message for perfectionist personalities

Perfectionists! It’s time you learned to take mistakes in your stride. Mistakes are a natural part of the process and everyone makes them. Remember this perfectionists “To err is human, to forgive divine” Alexander Pope. Poem. An Essay on Criticism

Perfectionist – Solutions for managing personalities in a design team 

For perfectionists, you can help them restore their self confidence by pushing them into action before they are fully prepared (there is no perfect time to start). So drop them in the deep end on a project right now!

Another way is to have them practice reframing negative thoughts into positive beliefs. For example “How can I ask for more headcount from the executive team, when I don’t feel worthy of taking up their time?” is negative. 

Have them rephrase it to be positive “Of course the leadership team wants to speak with me. I have a great team, my brand is A++, and the CEO understands that the design organization is a source of competitive advantage and a direct creator of incremental revenue to the business bottom line. 

Lastly, offer tools to help them become more self-accepting and kind to themself. Saying these affirmations out loud five times, will generate self acceptance that they are good enough just as they are. Each affirmation starts with “I” 

  • Am worthy of love
  • Live in balance with others

The Superhero Personality Profile


Cartoon of Superhero personality

The Superhero

Superheroes measure their competence by how many roles they can excel at, and juggle at the same time. If they fall short as a manager, a friend, a sibling, a parent, or any single role, they will feel tremendous shame. Superheroes believe they should be able to handle all of it and everyone perfectly. Not sure if this applies to you or someone in your design team? 

You’re being a superhero personality when you …

  • Find downtime boring
  • Let your hobbies and passions fall by the wayside to spend time on work
  • Routinely stay later than anyone else at work
  • Always say yes, even when the work doesn’t belong to you

The pitfalls of having a superhero personality

Feeling powerless. Being oversensitive to criticism. Mental health problems

A tough love message for superhero personalities

Your life is going to get worse if you continue juggling everything and everyone. Being a superhero is exhausting for you and your coworkers. Your career will stall if you don’t stop being reactive to everyone and everything that comes your way.

Superhero – Solutions for managing personalities in a design team 

For superheroes, help them learn to ease off the gas and reconsider how much work is truly reasonable. Let them discover where they can take the pressure off themself by removing meetings from their calendar. This empowers them to build self respect for their own time and talents and become more discerning about who receives their attention now they value their own time and influence.

Invite them to color code a week’s worth of meetings on their calendar to understand how they are spending their time. Use a time management framework like this one by Steven Covey.

  1. Urgent and important (RED) Crisis – Unless you are the boss, don’t spend all your time here.
  2. Not urgent but important (ORANGE) Planning – Spend most of your time here when you lead or work in a design team.
  3. Urgent and not important (GREEN) Interruptions – Delegate when possible or learn to say ‘no’ a lot, especially to the usual suspects (you know who they are!).
  4. Not urgent, not important (BLUE) Busy work – Eliminate. If you can’t completely get rid of these tasks, try and make it healthy or fun for yourself by turning it into a game.

Next, ask the Superhero about their plans for growth. What would help them to develop their sense of self-validation? Is there a training program, a wellness class or a coach that could help draw this inner confidence out of them?

Lastly, you could share these phrases with them. Said 5 times out-loud can have a profoundly calming effect on someone who is too busy to slow down and look within.

  • It is safe for me to be here
  • The earth supports me and meets my needs
  • I love my body and trust its wisdom

The Natural Genius Personality Profile

A Natural Genius cares about how easily and quickly their accomplishments happen. If they don’t complete their work efficiently they feel shame and alarm bells sound. They will judge themselves based on speed and getting things right on the first try. 

You’re being a Natural Genius when you …

  • Usually you excel at things without much effort
  • You avoid doing things that you’re not already good at
  • Handling things on your own is the best for you

The pitfalls of having a Natural Genius personality

Being highly self-critical. Exhibiting avoidance behavior and feeling guilty about situations and projects you ignore. You have difficulty forming lasting relationships. You feel alarmed you can’t keep up with the expectations for your job easily and quickly 

A tough love message for Natural Genius personalities

No one can be expected to have all the answers. Confident people find the best solutions knowing they alone will never have all the answers. This is particularly true in product development where the world is on a “seemingly inexorable trend toward higher levels of complexity, specialization and sociopolitical control (Joseph Tainter),” 

Natural Genius – Solutions for managing personalities in a design team 

Don’t let them beat themselves up when they don’t reach their self imposed and unattainable standards for speed and efficiency. Show them the behaviors they need to change and help them find a mentor or coach, who will let them develop the skills they’ve avoided, because they decided they “weren’t good enough.” 

Lastly, you could share these phrases with them. Said 5 times out-loud the can have a profoundly calming effect on someone who is moving too fast to slow down and hear their inner leader calling to them. 

  • I am open to new ideas
  • Information I need comes to me
  • The world is my teacher

The Soloist Personality Profile

Cartoon of Soloist personality

The Soloist

For a soloist to feel competent in their achievements, it has to be them who completes the work. Soloists never ask for help – this would be a sign of failure.

You’re being a Soloist personality when you …

  • Say to yourself, “I don’t need anyone’s help” 
  • Never make a direct request, but prefer to frame your request in terms of project, user needs, technical or business requirements
  • Dismiss the idea of having a coach or mentor as a waste of money
  • Go to extremes to figure things out on your own for them to count as an achievement

The pitfalls of having a Soloist personality

Loneliness and isolation. Hard to connect with others. Inability to express your feelings

A tough love message for Soloist personalities

You are not a phony if you don’t have all the answers, you’re human. Would you think less of someone if they asked you for your advice? No! You’d be delighted to help them. 

Soloist – Solutions for managing personalities in a design team 

Check to see if they really are soloists rather than simply shy or uncertain in their communication and collaboration skills. If they are soloists, or lone rangers, then give them the freedom to roam outside the uniformity your team operates inside. Put a soloist in charge of something and adopt a hands off management approach, but do have a scheduled check in to ensure they fulfill their responsibilities. 

Lastly, you could share these phrases with them. Said 5 times out loud it can have a positive impact on a soloist’s outlook. Each affirmation starts with “I” 

  • Deserve pleasure in my life
  • Move easily and effortlessly

The Expert Personality Profile

Cartoon of expert personality

The Expert

Experts expect themselves to know everything and any lack of knowledge is deemed to be a failure. They feel that if people found out how little they really knew, they would be exposed as a fraud.  

You’re being an Expert personality when you …

  • Read a job description but won’t apply unless you meet every single requirement
  • Constantly seeking out new certifications
  • Need proof of your skills in order to feel competitive in the job market
  • Despite being established in your career, still feel like you don’t know enough

The pitfalls of having a Expert personality

Taken too far, continually seeking out more information can be a form of procrastination where you let the unimportant minutiae eat up your time instead of focusing on producing results.

A tough love message for Expert personalities

Don’t be a hoarder! Learn to share what you already know through teaching, coaching, or mentoring others. Sharing your knowledge with others is the best way to retain information and is directly correlated with mastery of skills.

Trust that you are enough, and you don’t need more training, certificates, or schooling. Begin practicing just-in-time learning by acquiring new skills when you need them, rather than hoarding knowledge.

Expert – Solutions for managing personalities in a design team 

Managing someone who knows a lot more about their work than you do can be a humbling experience. So don’t attempt to compete with them, rather get to know them as individuals and focus on cultivating a relationship with them. Help them see the context inside their contribution lives, and don’t try to compete with an expert on the details. 

Focus yourself on cultivating your own executive presence through a relaxed body stance, a calm voice, clear sentences that are to the point and building a robust network of allies across departments. Accept that you may no longer be the specialist, but the generalist who leads other specialists.

Lastly, you could share these phrases with them. Said 5 times out loud it can have a positive impact on an experts outlook. 

  • I express myself with clear intent
  • Creativity flows in and through me
  • My voice is necessary

Case Study: Padma the Superhero 

Padma is a product designer working in the Bay Area creating software for robots. She is a wife, mother, immigrant and superhero who measures her competency by how many roles she can excel at, and juggle at the same time. 

Compared to her husband who is a high flier in product management, Padma feels ashamed that she hasn’t attained management status by this time in her life. 

Padma reached out to me for leadership coaching when her efforts to get promoted had failed and she didn’t understand why. We worked together every other week for six months. Here’s what happened. 

“I wanted to move up the ladder and become a design manager. Sally helped me look at my strengths, how I responded to the people and the self criticism I put on myself. She let me discover I had labeled lots of things as negative in my head, and these sentiments needed reframing positively. 

Sally is a design expert and executive who has been there and done that and I trust her. She created a safe space for me where I could share my innermost thoughts without the fear of being judged. 

As a result of coaching with Sally, several magical changes happened. I was promoted to design manager. My communication improved and relationships at home and work got better. I become calmer and less stressed out.

Most importantly, by learning my unique strengths and how to use them more effectively allowed me to transform and accept who I have become today.”

Finding the solution you’ve been seeking 

If you’re a superhero like Padma and being called to step into the next level of leadership, but haven’t managed to make that happen on your own yet, I’m here to help you with my one on one coaching program for design leaders. 

Acquiring the skill to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones will transform your ability to activate your innate leadership skills and manifest what you truly want. With that clarity you will step into your higher purpose as the design leader companies will compete over to have lead their teams. Ready to get started? Book a complimentary coaching session with me today.

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Further Reading

The ROI of Maintaining Professional Ties When You Leave Your Position

When your time in a leadership role comes to an end, it can be devastating to leave behind the teams you developed and who supported you.

You miss the close relationships you developed, the rapport you built, and the joy of watching people you hired advance their own careers under your guidance. After you have turned in your badge, it’s tempting to put them and the old position in the past, but that is where you are wrong.

Extraordinary leaders constantly nurture talented people and maintain connections with other skilled professionals in their network. Don’t be afraid to stay in touch with your old teams. It’s not hard to do. You can ask how they are, let them know you are thinking of them, and offer your support.

Your continued leadership and encouragement will be appreciated, and it works to your advantage when you need to find roles for great people at your next venture to invite trusted allies to join you.

In her book “Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count” Karen Wickre notes “At some point, every one of us is going to need help from someone we don’t currently know. Maybe it’s for a job, or family help; it might be about a necessary career pivot, or relocation; it could be for medical or retirement guidance.

You – and virtually everyone else – are going to want to reach out to a number of people for contacts, information or insights, or support.”

From 2001 to 2005, I worked at Yahoo! as a Product Design leader with influence over the careers of many young designers, developers, and researchers. Nineteen years later, I’m still in touch with many of my former Y! colleagues. The young designers I hired are now heads of product design at major corporations. They are in the prime of their career, doing powerful work, and I discovered that talent.

People have careers that go on 5, 10, 15, 20 years, and the people you hired fifteen years ago may be in a position to help you today, so please make time to reach out to the teams you’ve worked with. As Karen Wickre put it, “Nurture it before you need it.”

I have a keen eye for talent; it’s one of my superpowers, and some of those design leaders are my clients today. It’s one of the many reasons I love to work as a coach.

Are you in a career transition and want to be fully confident and impactful about making your next move? Set up a call below and we’ll see if coaching is a fit for you.

Photo by Nadine Johnson


Ready to level up your relationships and expand your sphere of influence?

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not how full your calendar is that leads to your success; it’s how you level up your relationships and expand your sphere of influence that leads to your success.

During my first six months working at a new company, my executive assistant, Anna, had complete control of my calendar. In no time, my calendar was full.

My meetings began at 7:30 a.m. and continued in 30-minute increments, mostly back-to-back, until 5:00 p.m. Lunch was an apple, coffee, mozzarella sticks, and yogurt grabbed from a vending machine.

I ran from meeting to meeting, interviewing people, receiving updates, giving presentations, holding 1:1s, and running product reviews.

On the hour and every half hour, employees would emerge from meeting rooms, their faces glued to their phone screens en route to their next meeting. Ask anyone on Friday what meetings they had on Monday, and no one could tell you.

I was used to working in fast-paced, rapid-growth companies, but this was a whole new level of calendaring craziness. My perfectionist, creative spirit was unhappy. With no time in the day for reflection and thinking, I felt behind the curve and my performance suffered.

In three months, I’d gathered information about the operational and organizational status of the teams I led. Organizationally, we took a back seat to product management and engineering who made the decisions that mattered about the products my teams designed. Excluding product designers and their partners from content design and user research was an organizational oversight I needed to correct.

I knew that if I was going to get product design included early in the decision-making process, I’d need to level up my relationships with cross-functional peers and their leaders. How could I do this if my calendar was already full?

I needed to find another eight hours in my week. By taking an inventory of who I was currently meeting, Anna and I could see the bigger picture. To devote time to meeting with other executives and cross-functional partners we reworked my calendar to:

  • Reduce the frequency of meetings from weekly to monthly or from monthly to quarterly.
  • Delegated some meetings to my direct reports. This expanded their influence and leveled up their responsibilities, leaving me free to do the same.
  • Promoted two individuals to managers so they could expand their careers while reducing my time interviewing candidates.

Having found the eight hours I needed, I began having lunch or coffee with my cross-functional peers. I kept the meetings informal and used them to learn about the challenges, opportunities, and goals they were facing.

In making the focus of our conversations about them, not about me, it showed that I valued them for who they are, not what they could do for me. In time, these cross-department loose ties contributed toward more positive work behaviour. Seeing the benefit of including me in decisions about product direction early on was a win for everyone.

Very successful people’s calendars change constantly. It allows them, in real time, to level up their relationships and expand their influence. Business relies on leaders being willing to reach out, pull in, listen, and speak to the client, advisor, coach, lawyer, employee, and investor to advance the best interests of the company.

Is it time you leveled up your relationships and expanded your sphere of influence? If so, start by taking a look at your calendar and ask yourself:

Are you spending time with the right people?

What’s on your calendar that you can cancel?

Which meetings will you delegate and empower someone else to lead?

Who are you avoiding meeting with?

Are you staying busy so you can ignore a difficult conversation?

If you’d like to change your relationship to how you manage your time, please book a complimentary coaching consultation below.

Photo by Nico Jacobs for Unsplash

coaching a leader

Coaching an Extraordinary Leader

When a client reached out to me to discuss coaching, I was excited. She’d recently taken an executive role at one of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies. She is at the top of her career and an internationally recognized leader in her field. What makes her an extraordinary leader, which we uncovered through coaching, are her strengths in the following four areas.

Able to Execute on a Vision

She has the ability to turn an idea into reality, and she does this by organizing all of the pieces and resources for maximum productivity. The ability to implement a solution and get people to work tirelessly to get it done makes her invaluable as a leader.

Influences Others Easily

She is great at influencing people. She’s a natural storyteller who puts her team’s interests first and actively promotes them at work and in the industry. This attracts respect and creates opportunities for her team that they would not have had without her support. This inspired leadership creates superb results from her teams who love her inspired leadership.

Great Relationship Builder

She consistently creates organizations that are greater than the sum of their parts. She cultivates the potential in others, noting their strengths and giving feedback, so that individuals derive satisfaction from these improvements. By learning the unique qualities of each person and what makes them excel, she is great at creating diverse teams that work together productively.

Big Picture Strategic Thinker

She has an incredible capacity for absorbing and analyzing information that she uses to help her team make better decisions. As a result, she expands their thinking about the future. By keeping everyone focused on what “could be,” she improves the productivity of her teams, because the goals they are aiming for are inspiring and actionable.

Where is the Problem?

The problem is, she took a job that wasn’t a good fit for her. We discovered through coaching that she values working for companies that are built on modern technology platforms, focus on customer experience and agile development, and have a flat organizational structure. That the company she joined had not made these changes came as a shock to her.

At the end of her first week, she wanted to quit. She knew deep inside that she is meant for greatness, and it hurt when the reality of her new role didn’t match her vision. Fortunately, before she quit, she reached out to me and we began working together as coach and coachee.

At first we met every week to help her mitigate the extreme challenges she had brought on herself by taking the role. After a month, she was ready to stay in her new role and see what the job had to teach her. This way she wouldn’t make the same mistake at her next job. These are some of the things we worked on together over the next six months, meeting once a week or every other week depending on her schedule.

Applying My Coaching Process

Who are you today? (Discover)
This included an assessment of where she was and how she could improve. Some of these issues included: learning to detach from outcomes, making decisions without being driven by fear, finding her voice at the new company, knowing with confidence that she is enough, uplevelling her leadership team, and prioritizing who she gives and does not give her time to.

Your vision for change? (Design)
Next we discovered who she was as a leader today. This had changed over the years, becoming broad and deep, and her underlying passion for her domain had never diminished. It remained her “why.” Around her passion we refined her personal brand to reflect her current skills, mindset, strengths and business value.

Actionable steps for progress (Deploy)
Lastly, we put together an ideal job description in the most minute detail of what she wanted. It included things like location, a complementary boss, her onboarding experience, her team size and make up, the type of company and its operational style, reporting structure, and what her role and title would be, along with the impact she would have based on her ideal responsibilities.

After six months of working on herself with my support, she was offered a role that matched the ideal role we had co-created for her. This role was worthy of her skills, talents, and experience, where she would have the impact she wanted to make as the great leader that she already is.

I feel honored to work with creative thinkers and extraordinary leaders who have the willingness and humility to invite professional third party support into their life to champion them as they make the adjustments they need to remain the absolute best leaders and thinkers of their generation.

If you are a smart, driven, and successful senior executive with a lot of responsibilities like my client, changing how you do things may not be high on your list of priorities!

Know that you don’t need to overhaul your leadership style or way of managing to work with me.

Invest in an outsider’s perspective on how to successfully support yourself and your unique challenges. I will show you best practices that are honed from years of leadership and operational experience gained at Facebook, Apple, and Yahoo!.

I support you in learning effective strategies for bettering your company, your teams, and yourself. Contact me for a complimentary discovery call.

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the Leading by Design Newsletter

What Is the Leading by Design Newsletter? Great question.

Leading by Design is a blog for creative leaders working in tech. It’s not a “Why You Should Use AI in Design Thinking” or “How to Hire and Retain Product Design Teams with Impact” type of blog. There are enough of those.

I write about the challenges you can’t safely discuss as creative leaders working in tech. The stories come directly from my experience leading teams at Apple, Meta, Yahoo!, and some start-ups and from the executive design leaders I coach today.

I have written about the stressful magpie boss, hateful cross-functional peers, creative burnout, the shame of job loss and survivor guilt, and the fear of becoming irrelevant in the marketplace.

I publish once a week and offer strategies to reframe your challenge so you can return to being the creative leader your team loves you to be.

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