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Laser-focused and timely distillations of what's working now in leadership.

Pursuing Passion, Not Perfection, in Life and Work

Is it possible to have passion in one’s life when circumstances are less than ideal?

In his book, Awaken the Giant Within, Anthony Robbins writes, “Everything that happens in your life – both what you’re thrilled with and what you’re challenged by – began with a decision… I believe it’s our decisions, not the conditions of our lives, that determine our destiny.”

When I think of my passions, I come up with this list: my husband and daughter, my friends, my dog, dancing, singing, performing in any sense, playing word games, getting moving, movies or better yet live theater, travel, reading, my spiritual life, and time together with fun clients who honestly want ideas about how to make more money. Those are the things that add the juice to my life.

Then there are the obligations: the have tos, the gotta dos. We all have them. But perhaps the key is to keep a balance between the passions and the obligations, and consciously, to decide to stop the obligations from consuming the entire day, week, month.

I was exposed to a notion years ago that still floats into the front of my mind from time to time: quality isn’t “the best I can do.” It’s “the best I can do in light of the requirements and the time constraints.”

Let’s think about that for a moment. If we did everything to the very best of our abilities, isn’t it true that we’d get much less done?

I was once married to a fighter pilot. Before he flew, he’d spend quite a lot of time walking around the plane, completing checklists, making sure everything was perfect.

That’s because a mistake, in his line of work, could mean death.

By contrast, I’m in business. A mistake means … we make less money today. We’ll be back tomorrow! Those are not the same stakes!

In fact, I’ve often said that, from time to time, it bothers me that I seem to be doing everything in a good way, even an above-average way, but almost never as well as I could possibly do it. (Read: “given unlimited time and resources” there!) I’d like to have a few things that I could really devote the time to perfecting – really doing as well as I possibly can.

Perhaps I should learn to sell that level of work – or learn to be content with a scope of work that matches the quality my clients feel they can afford. And when I’m done, turn my attention to my passions!

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When the Going Gets Tough…

Tough times happen. Even the most talented, successful people have down times, ballplayers have slumps, people who are fundamentally optimistic get discouraged, kids (and adults) have bad, blue days.

What’s the remedy? Or, what’s the coping mechanism that will help us to survive the bad times until the good times roll again?

I think it’s discipline. I’m always amazed when I suggest to coaching clients that we have a choice about how we react to whatever happens, good and bad.

“You may be hurt, angered, even humiliated by something that happens,” I say, “but that doesn’t mean that you have to give those emotions expression RIGHT NOW.” “But I can’t help it!” is the response I most often receive.

Let me blow that out of the water right now. You CAN help it, you’re just CHOOSING NOT TO.

The idea that emotions must be expressed immediately, and fully, is fundamentally flawed. Sure, your feelings are your feelings, you’re entitled to them, they’re not wrong. And they’re not rational, logical things. They’re all over the place, and that’s all right. And feelings need expression. If you don’t express your feelings, eventually they may eat the lining of your stomach right up!

But expressing your emotions at the moment that you feel them can lead to disastrous consequences. Cry in the workplace, and some people won’t take you seriously ever again. Shout at your spouse, and the intimacy you share may be damaged. Beat your puppy - even if he WAS about to run into the busy street - and he may cower around you for the foreseeable future.

The key is to allow ourselves to have bad feelings, but to disconnect HAVING the feeling from ACTING ON it. Express the feeling, yes, but only when it’s appropriate to do so. I like to express a lot of mine while working out. Other people beat their pillows, or talk to accepting friends who will hear them out and not be driven away by the intensity of the emotions expressed.

It’s hard sometimes to be tough minded when we’d like to collapse and have someone take care of us. In my work with companies and individuals, I see another version of this problem: people who are overwhelmed by their lack of success and get discouraged. They give in to that discouragement instead of developing strategies to dig their way out, and finding appropriate outlets for their frustration, anger, and/or sense of defeat.

I deliver essentially this message to such people: If you walk out on yourself now, things definitely won’t get better for you. If, on the other hand, you can muster the courage, focus, desire, determination, intention, or the ‘dammit, I’m just gonna do it’ quality that will allow you to GET SOMETHING POSITIVE DONE, you have at least a hope of your situation improving. Tell yourself that, assuming you’re not clinically depressed or otherwise ill, it’s your CHOICE whether to act now and hope to improve your situation, or just collapse and let it all go.

Make that choice, and live with the consequences.

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Work-Life Balance on the Professional Journey

What’s your relationship to your job? Love-hate? Complete delight? Are periods of disappointment more than balanced out by positive events? Or is your work just a big albatross around your neck, pulling you down?

As is true for many other folks, I’ve experienced all of the above at one time or another in my career. The top four contributors to my own failure, from time to time, to enjoy my professional journey are:

#1 Money: If I’m overextended, it’s hard to enjoy my work day-to-day. Work is just a thing to be done because, if I don’t, I won’t be able to cover the bills.

#2 Family: If things aren’t right in my family life, there’s no enjoying any aspect of life’s journey. Work may look like an escape, but it doesn’t bring me joy. So, for me, family always has to come first.

#3 Lack of Sleep: I’ve had many occasions when my responsibilities seemed to come in tightly compacted bunches. I have to work hard, consistently, for weeks at a time. I’m all wound up, and I don’t sleep well. And everything gets to be a burden.

#4 Burnout: Sometimes, you just can’t take it anymore!

So many people I know are in difficult circumstances - buried under their bills, fighting with their families, sleeping little, burning out - and they think they can persevere.

Consider this: Could it be that you’re running yourself so hard because you are afraid to stop and look at your life? In my years as an executive coach and management consultant, I’ve met many people who run, run, run because they cannot pause.

I think they’re afraid to look at the larger picture of their lives, and what they have become; they have no work-life balance to contemplate.

If you’d like to discuss your work-life balance, let’s talk for 30 minutes in a no-obligation coaching session. Call to set something up at 505.828.1788 or email me through the contact page!

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Fear of Rejection: Don’t Let It Stop You!

I’m convinced that people are more afraid of selling than they are of public speaking – and surveys say people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of DEATH!

As a person who both sells and coaches people who sell, I’ve looked fear in the face on many occasions, and it still amazes me that the desire to avoid rejection causes people to hide out, cower, act really busy, lie, do almost anything but the one thing that can make a difference in their businesses: namely, sell what they have to sell!

Are you living your life in fear of rejection? And, if so, what are you giving up as a result?

Most businesspeople have two choices when they go to work: do administrative or client work, OR do something about developing new business. Work for current clients and administrative work tend to expand to fill all available time, so if you’re just wanting to go home exhausted, you can do that, and not have done anything about developing new business.

But, for most of us, new business is our future! Why do we fill up our time with just about ANYTHING in order to avoid selling? Because we have the wrong standard for success.

Think of it this way: if a client has a problem, and you have enough time to devote to it, what are the chances you can solve it? 80%? 90%? And surely administrative work, if you have enough time for it, is something you can get done and experience nearly 100% success, right?

But if you devote time to selling, you’re never going to be 100% successful. In fact, some of the most successful salespeople are those who get real interest in doing business from perhaps four of every ten prospects with whom they interact.

A Major League Baseball batter who retires with a .400 lifetime batting average will be the most successful batter in the history of the game. He’s also FAILED 6 out of 10 times when he came up to bat (because batting averages are hits divided by “at bats”). Think of that! Fail 6 out of 10 times – and you’re the best batter in the history of baseball!

Yes, a 40% success rate in striking up conversations with prospects – in many industries – is superstar selling! But this requires that you face your fear and move toward it, rather than hiding out from it. Having the courage to reach out for new business is an example of facing your fear, and moving forward anyway.

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What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I just landed $300K in funding from the Department of Homeland Security's Human Factors Group – historically a very difficult customer. The customer actually gave me $75K more than what I'd asked for. Since then, I have developed a trusted advisor position with this PM. She asks my opinion on program ideas and continues to send money almost without my asking for it. I attribute this success directly … specifically to the coaching I have been getting from Lenann.”

Dr. Ann Speed
Cognitive Psychologist, Sandia National Laboratories

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Observing the positive effects of Lenann's executive coaching with a colleague, I reached out. I was impressed after our first conversation with how well she listened -- not just to the concept I was trying to convey, but also the words I chose to describe situations. As she reflected those words back to me with insightful questioning, I began to fundamentally understand myself better and what communication tools were needed to be more effective in management and leadership. What reinforced my learnings from our sessions further were the reflections and readings after our sessions. As Lenann heard about my interest in analytics she provided me with a very detailed overview of specific degree programs that were exactly what I was interested in pursuing. This again is evidence of how carefully and deliberately Lenann listens and invests in her clients. Furthermore, dedicated to her clients, Lenann was extremely responsive and always available. I have benefitted immensely from my time with Lenann and recommend her highly for anyone who finds themselves wondering how they can grow or improve themselves professionally. I use the tools and techniques I developed with Lenann's assistance regularly. My only regret is that I could have met Lenann sooner!”

Dr. Irene Krokos
Senior Regional Medical Director, Molina Healthcare (a Fortune 500 company)

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, you’ve been a GREAT help!  Thanks for reminding me of so many important points for my work introducing new, bleeding-edge technologies to senior banking officials.  During my days as Managing Director, Head Trader and Head of Structured Trading for a leading global securities firm, my challenge was introducing new technologies internally; now that I am introducing them to organizations of which I am not an employee, the challenges are different, and I am happy to let you know that, just today, I have been asked to represent to some high-level banking contacts the technology of a Canadian firm whose work is exemplary!  I appreciate your Executive Coaching, communications and meeting strategy advice, and specifically your advice on communications with my newest client that enabled me to secure this monthly-retainer-plus-success-fee arrangement.”

Gary W.
Gary W., Ph.D. and Senior Technology Professional, London, U.K.

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“My partners share my high evaluation of your program and recognition of your skills. Thank you for the excellent program to help our leaders.”

Igor Rodin
(Former) Vice Chairman, Deloitte Central Europe

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Closed 5 deals last week!! Thanks, Lenann, for your support, guidance and belief. The Game On Sales Coaching program we are doing with you keeps me sharp on the follow ups, value estimation and most importantly the closing rates!”

Jase P. Choenni
Head of Sales & Marketing, TMF GROUP BRAZIL

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Thanks so much for the quick follow-up to our meeting today.  I was extremely pleased and excited to see how well your work was received.  It was a beautiful thing!  Yes, I believe your calculations are correct as to the additional revenue my team has committed to bringing in!  I am thrilled that we did this, and feel we’re all excited about achieving our goals for growing our business.  I do think my change in how I am approaching leading our business went over well – I am glad I was able to vocalize that, so now I have to do it.  It was good for me to put that goal out there!”

Karen Cooper
Owner, MedCare Senior Insurance Solutions

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I was amazed at how perceptive Lenann is about issues (both personal and professional) that were impediments to my reaching sales goals. She helped me to understand that selling is first understanding the client's frame of reference, positioning through powerful, provocative statements, and a process of gaining agreement to next steps. Lenann demonstrated specifically how this is done in both verbal and written communications. In our consulting session, she distilled all the latest research and what's working in today's environment. What she taught me should become basic to my approach with all prospective clients. Lenann is brilliant, enthusiastic, and above all, very personable. The experience of working with Lenann was surprisingly pleasant, and gave me the confidence that I could also improve my selling abilities by following her recommendations. She is truly inspirational. I look forward to continuing my work with Lenann.”

Wealth Management Professional, Major Financial Institution

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“The Coaching I received from Lenann was invaluable to me. My takeaways included: Learning how to understand your client as opposed to 'knowing your client' – this has made me a far better listener and more empathetic to my clients' REAL needs; Being the 'trusted advisor' as opposed to a service provider – I had an interesting experience that I would like to share with you. I was asked by a potential client to assist with a matter that I knew we did not have the 'firepower' to assist them with. In the profession, it is unheard of to admit that your competitors are ahead of you but I tried it with the client and it worked. Today, he FIRST talks to me about any assistance that he may need and does not even ask for competitor bids; Handling difficult clients. Lenann has been a great help in honing my skills in this area. I have found myself more prepared to 'walk the road' during the client's time of difficulty than before. In my business, we are supposed to be transaction-oriented since we deal with clients on a project-by-project basis. However, where I have invested the time to deal with a client's unhappiness instead of handing the matter over to my colleagues, to my surprise, the client has 'come around' to even admitting that his/her organization was the place where the fault lies – that is a major 'coup' for us since it is very seldom that a client does that. We have managed to build a sustainable business (revenues and earnings is way up on last years' and, most importantly, we have built an impressive team) under fairly trying circumstances – Lenann has played a role in enabling me to do this.”

Neven Hendricks
(Former) Partner Deloitte, United Arab Emirates

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I can’t wait to start having meetings with our techs about the daily Sales Tips you’ve been creating and sending me daily. I really like today’s in particular because I think our techs might believe that sales is a nasty word. This will help me get the dialogue started and hopefully help them see it in a more positive light! Again, thank you!”

Rhonda Stewart
Rhonda Stewart, Owner, RotoRooter, Victorville, California

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Here are some key things I learned from working with Lenann: 1. I like the concept of a “Challenger Salesperson.” The more interesting, engaging and informative we can be in a useful way to the client, the better. 2. I don’t spend as much time selling as I think I do. 3. The way people do business continues to change and evolve – and I have to keep my selling skills current to keep up with those changes. 4. Treat others the way they want to be treated (not necessarily how I would want to be treated if I were them). A big company we haven’t done meaningful business with in about 5 years is about to come back in a very meaningful and multi-million dollar way…”

Russ Conser
Key Account Manager, Oberthur Technologies

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, you've been great, as always. You put me in the right direction every time we speak - you tell me to focus on the right stuff and 'build it right.' Thanks!”

Scott Price
Regional Director - Americas, Custom House Fund Services, Chicago

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann has been my coach for over 8 years now. The coaching conversations we have are worthwhile because they give me the opportunity to speak freely and honestly about the leadership challenges I am facing without fear of retaliation or negative thoughts from superiors within my organization. Her advice has often put me back on track to achieve my goals and career ambitions. The focus and accountability she provides has been extremely valuable for my success and advancement. Another unique aspect of Lenann’s coaching for me has been the female role model perspective. There are very few women throughout my career who have advanced their careers as far as Lenann has. The respect I have for her as a role model and as a professional businesswoman with a family has given me hope that I can do it all, too!”

Tina Sampson
(Former) Vice President Sales and Marketing, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I am glad that, in addition to our Sales Training, I chose to have you sit down, one-to-one, with four of our key people. The observations you sent me about each of them are perfect and helpful, especially in cases and/or aspects which I could not put in words before, but had a feeling about.

Two of the professionals with whom you spoke continue to develop well, they are thoughtful, have considered the feedback received, and learned from it. Both have sold new engagements for us, and they are going out to sell more and more. It is nice to see how their level of confidence has increased!

Thank you again for helping me in this matter.”

Julia Varga
(Former) Managing Director, TMF Group, Hungary

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“The coaching I had with Lenann is paying off in SPADES. I’m pulling in money for other people, now. Recently I spent two hours with a prospective funder (who approached me), and followed Lenann’s selling approach (i.e., we took NO slides to the meeting and let the customer talk 95% of the time, only talking to ask questions – not to tell the customer anything about what we do). At the end of that time, I said, ‘What’s the next step?’, and the customer replied, ‘How do we send you money?’ You have to know how to conduct a conversation to make that happen – it’s 95% listening (literally!), 4% asking questions, and only 1% discussion about your content and capabilities.”

Dr. Ann Speed
PMTS, Sandia National Laboratories

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann is a very accomplished and experienced Coach, who builds her advice and coaching based on her own Executive experience. She understands the daily pressure of high level executives and through her advice is an excellent catalyst for increased productivity of her client – ultimately to the benefit of the company. She provides real value for the money, and I would any day again participate in a coaching program with Lenann given the chance.”

Claus Vorreiter Jensen
Chief Commercial Officer, Svendborg Brakes, Denmark

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, your influence has been so positive for my career! I will never forget you. I keep close to my heart people that contribute to my growth, and you have definitely been part of my growth professionally. I hope we can always keep in touch.”

Elena Montiel
(Former) Executive of Global Business Development, TMF USA, Inc., Miami

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann was terrific! After her ‘Trust and Respect in the Workplace’ learning experience, we had the most absolute pleasant best day at work in a very long time!”

Ellen Diamond
Mark Diamond's Jewelers, Albuquerque

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Thank you for your Sales and Closing Skills Class and follow-up program for our global team. I appreciate your response to my request for your thoughts on the

  • Selling Strengths you observed on our team
  • Selling Weaknesses you observed on our team
  • Leadership Strengths you observed on our team
  • Leadership Weaknesses you observed on our team
  • Implications of all of the above for the future of our firm, and recommendations.

I found your 5-page analysis to be succinct and immediately useful and I’ve applied the lessons there. Very valuable input!”

Koen van Weezel
(Former) Group Director, Global Sales & Marketing, TMF Group, The Netherlands

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“My prospect chose to invest $2 million today – and I say ‘Thank YOU a million, Lenann!’ I couldn’t have done it without your good sales coaching yesterday! This was especially sweet because the client had expressed an interest in a discounted up-front fee, had access to plenty of managers who don't charge those fees, and yet when I took the approach you recommended, the fee wasn’t a problem. I could not have gotten that result without your guidance, Lenann.”

Wealth Management Professional, Major Global Financial Institution

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann is absolutely the best there is! I've heard Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, all the gurus, but I felt 'Yeah, I've heard all this before.' Lenann changes people's lives – the way they work, think and are motivated. She makes a very real, and quite incredible, difference!”

Patti Roland
(Former) Vice President Sales & Marketing, Stonebridge Homes

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“My Executive Coaching experience with Lenann has helped me considerably. My judgment of the value of Lenann’s Coaching can best be seen in the fact that I have encouraged other members of my staff to work with her, and they have. I have seen improvement in them as well! I particularly appreciate all the ‘homework’ Lenann had me complete to get me to look at my leadership behaviors, and see ways in which I can improve. I find myself sharing materials Lenann gives me with members of my senior staff, so the learning is shared in our organization. Lenann is always the first person I mention when others ask about Coaching.”

Patty Kehoe
CEO, Molina Healthcare of NM (a Fortune 500 company)

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, I am proud to say that our volume is up – this is very, very positive. And the growth is interesting; there are no signs of slowing down in the trend of huge sales increases we have seen. The key executive whom you are coaching is making strong progress! Thank you for the monthly Coaching Report you provide – it is an extremely useful, clear picture of where we are.
Looking forward to continuing to work with you”

Roberto Schianchi
Chief Executive Officer, ZOBELE HOLDING S.P.A

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I enjoyed Sales Coaching with Lenann so much! Lenann is very good at assessing the situation -- with a couple of simple questions she gets to the bottom of things. The one-on-one nature of Lenann’s Coaching means there’s no way you can hide (as can happen in a classroom). I was continually intrigued by Lenann’s questions and constant feedback on performance…”

Wouter Plantenga
Senior VP, Head of International Structuring Americas, TMF USA, Inc., New York

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“(Lenann’s) coaching activities are very thorough, and are a part of a modern approach which makes a lot of sense. Our sales team had a great performance in this month, and I am convinced that Lenann’s (coaching) had a big influence on this result.”

Thierry Montfort
(Former) President and CEO, Heel USA

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I feel very good about the coaching that you provided to a professional on our team. Your coaching made a critical difference. His performance was much improved after his session with you. In fact, it contributed substantially to our success last year. Thank you!”

Dr. Will Swearingen
Executive Director, TechLink

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I attribute, easily, $10 MILLION in sales directly to learning with, and coaching from, Lenann.”

Mark Walton
(Former) Partner and Global Head of Operations Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers, London

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I worked with Lenann about 5 years ago. Just this month, I once again applied what she taught me, and closed 4 of 5 proposals – over $300,000! Lenann Gardner is a combination of blazing intelligence and electrifying enthusiasm!”

Pat Davis
Vice President and Director of Consulting Services, Marketing Insights Practice, KantarHealth

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“The demands on consultants these days are immense and it's so easy to end up in a 'feast or famine' situation. When you're working an engagement with a client, it can become all encompassing. I am happy to serve as a reference for Lenann McGookey Gardner, who helped me with a Coaching program. Lenann has a very engaging personality, a person never to be forgotten. I consider the materials Lenann provided to be very useful. Most of all, Lenann's advice and tips are straightforward and readily implementable when you're engaged in demanding client engagements.”

John Corr
Director AlixPartners (A global firm of senior business and consulting professionals), Somerset, United Kingdom

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