Executive Coaching

The Motivation Conundrum

QuestionI’ve been a business leader for most of my career, managing staff ranging from 3 to more than 20.  One thing that constantly puzzles me is employee motivation.  Some folks attack their work with great gusto, others simply clock in every day and do the minimal amount to get by.  What can I do to get everyone to be motivated and driven to do their best?

Alice Waagen says:  Good question and one that I am asked with great frequency as I coach organizational leaders.  If I could discover the magic elixir of motivation, I’d be one very rich woman.  There has been much written on the subject of motivating others and the research I find most compelling focuses on some broad overarching principles while acknowledging that what motivates behavior is very much an individual set of drivers.  (more…)

Creativity Killers at Work

Question:  I am the head of Business Development for a boutique advertising firm.  We compete in a very aggressive market and need to be very creative with client solutions.  My problem?  I am surrounded by people who seem to check their creative ideas at the door.  I am so tired of seeing bland, rehashed solutions.  How can I get my staff to bring bold, innovative ideas to the table?  I’ve tried training programs, recognition awards, nothing seems to work.

Alice Waagen says:  If you hire smart, creative people who have a proven track record for a particular talent or skill and who then stop using that talent after they have been with your firm a while, you need to look for a solution by asking what are you doing to kill their creative juices.  If you or something in the organizational culture is blocking innovation, training and pats of the back won’t work.  You need to find the roadblock and barriers and remove them.  (more…)

The Perils of Analysis Paralysis

QuestionI’ve been getting a lot of feedback lately that I am too slow at making decisions.  My direct reports say that I am a bottleneck in their work flow.  My boss says the projects take too long for my team to complete because I pray over every detail.  Can you recommend a better decision making process?  Right now I start by identifying various solutions to the decision, analyze the pros and cons of each and then use a criteria chart to determine the best course of action.

Alice Waagen says:   I am not sure that you need a new decision making process.  The one you describe is a sound one to use to decide critical issues, ones with a high risk or where failure or mistakes could have huge impact.  But if you are using a criteria matrix with weights and measures for most of your decisions, I can see how you could be perceived as a rock on the road to progress. (more…)

The Downside of Workaholics

Question:  Can I force an employee to take vacation?  I know that sounds draconian but I am concerned about one of my direct reports.  Ed has been working for me for more than five years and is a really great employee.  He is an incredibly hard worker, first one at work in the morning, last one out at night.  I asked him the other day to let me know when he planned to take time off this summer and he told me that he had no plans to take vacation.  While it is great to have him cover for the others when they are out, I can’t help but think that all work and no play can’t be healthy long term, that’s why so many people decide to keep themselves healthy with exercise and by go and buy kratom online, which is the best supplement for remain healthy, although adult people also are extra careful with their health and decide to take measures, like taking medicines for their health like PhysioTru, that you can get online.

Alice Waggen says:  Sorry, you can’t play the boss card and force someone to take time off.  Vacation is an earned benefit and, as such, is up to the employee to use it or not as they wish.  That said, vacation time is a benefit with a purpose:  time off allows people to rest, recharge and recuperate both in mind and body.  With adequate planning, business leaders can cover for vacationing staff which promotes teamwork and collaboration. (more…)


When I visit my corporate clients these days I am amazed at the levels of stress and burn out that I am seeing.  People look haggard, rushing from one meeting to another, clutching bulging notebooks and beeping cell phones. When I ask why things are so out of control I hear the same answer every time:  tightened purse strings. More work does not mean more resources. If anything, the “do more with less” mantra has folks at the end of their patience and sanity. (more…)

Executive Coaching: Fad or Fantastic?

Question: I am a CEO of a mid-sized financial services firm. It seems that every time I turn around, someone is trying to sell me executive coaching. Why do I need a coach? Is this just another management fad that will go away or am I missing something I should be pursuing?

Alice Waagen says:  There are whole books that have been written to answer this question. Let me give you a summary of my point of view on executive coaching. A good coaching relationship can be a valuable learning tool in your leadership development arsenal. But the key to making it work is to realize that coaching is a solution to an identified problem. Any solution, matched to the right problem, makes sense. (more…)

Coaching Upward: Getting the Boss to be a Better Listener

Question:  My boss is a lousy listener. Every time I try to talk with her she has her mobile device in hand and one eye on it. When I ask her to please not read email when we are talking, she gets cranky and says that she is perfectly capable of “multitasking.” Yet half the stuff I tell her she later claims I did not say.

Alice Waagen says:  Ah the curse of mobile technology. You have a real challenge here because what you are really talking about is upward coaching and feedback. Some bosses welcome getting feedback from their staff, others get defensive and belligerent. Sounds like you have one of the latter. (more…)

Discretionary Time: A Critical Leadership Asset

Question:  I am the founder and CEO of a mid-sized professional services firm.  In the early, giddy start up years of building my business, I had laser focus on a single task:  business development.  I ate and slept contract negotiations and thrived on the break-neck pace of growing my own firm.

Fast-forward 10 years to today.  I am totally drowning in the daily demands on my time. Every day is booked solid with meetings and commitments.  I have little time left to think long-term strategy.  I am afraid that my hard-won business success will start to suffer if I don’t get a handle on being more strategic.

Alice Waagen says:  If it is any comfort, you are not alone.  A colleague of mine, Bob Corlett, has written about the shocking lack of discretionary time for business executives and its negative impact on hiring decisions.  Discretionary time, time that is not scheduled for a specific purpose such as attending meetings, is the mental life-blood that you are craving.  Open blocks of time, for as little as 30 minutes, allow you to drive the agenda and to lift your head up from the weeds to look to the future. (more…)

When the Boss is a Bully

Question:  I need help with the worst boss in the world.  90% of the time she is great to work for; the remaining 10% makes me want to hide under a rock.  When she is being the Good Boss, she is warm and supportive.  But the Bad Boss has screaming fits and shouts expletives at me in front of my peers and staff.  The problem is, I never know who I am dealing with minute by minute, Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.

Alice Waagen says:  Your boss is exhibiting classic bullying behavior that can be highly destructive to your self-confidence and ability to do your job.  If this is habitual behavior, it is not something you can expect to change.  My first piece of advice is to run – get away from her if possible by getting another job or internal assignment.  If that is not possible, then quickly kick off these survival techniques: (more…)

What’s Love got to Do With It?

Question:  I am the CEO of a small startup and am sick and tired of the office drama around dating.  Don’t get me started on the headaches that come when there is a break up.  I sometimes think I am running a High School, not a business.  I want to institute a policy that prohibits dating work colleagues.  Can I do that?

Alice Waagen says:  Sure, you’re the boss, you can do anything.  But good luck enforcing such a policy.  Soon you will have your HR folks turned into the Dating Police which will drive them nuts!

The whole issue of having personal relationships with coworkers is a murky minefield. (more…)