All posts by ECofOC.org

What We Can Learn From Baseball

Dave Blankenhorn

A recent article, authored by Dave Blankenhorn (my son), in The Zweig Letter uses an interesting baseball story to illustrate the importance of “top down” and “ bottom up” communication in any organization.

There was much controversy in the last World Series when Dave Roberts, the Dodger manager, removed pitcher Rich Hill in the seventh inning who had at that point held the Sox to only one hit. The result was a Dodger loss which led to their eventual defeat.

What happened?

Following the game, it was revealed that the descion to remove Hill stemmed from a quick statement Hill had made in the dugout at the end of the sixth inning expressing concern to Roberts that he might not be able to hold up much longer. Roberts did not reply. So after walking the lead off hitter in the seventh Roberts walked to the mound to simply check in on Hill. He did not raise his hand signaling for a reliever. It was just a check-in. However, Hill assumed he was coming to remove him. Without a word he handed the ball to Roberts and walked off the mound. This lack of communication changed the trajectory of the game and in the end the World Series. Both said later that had either of them followed up with a question to clarify the intent of the other then Hill would have stayed in the game and the World Series would possibly have ended in a different way.

This story highlights the importance of complete and clear communication in any organization. Leadership needs to set a clear vision on the culture and strategy and let the staff know where to focus their energy. In turn staff needs to listen to staff to gain that input on how to be more effective. Any explicit or implicit message should be clarified to avoid a “7th inning” moment that could do great harm to your organization.

Author: Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Three Reasons to Hire a Coach

Karen Haren

Leaders in not-for-profit organizations frequently ask why would I hire a coach. In my own experience as a leader and in coaching executives, here are three reasons you might want to hire a coach.

It can be lonely at the top. Even though there are others who work in your organization, you can feel isolated. As a leader, you wrestle with many issues that you can’t share with your colleagues, direct reports, boss or the board. A coach could help you talk through the problem or opportunity and develop your strategies.

You are dealing with change. You are stepping into uncharted territory with a new job, project or responsibilities. You may want to make a career move or you want to retire. A new phase can be unsettling and cause insecurity. A coach can listen to you and help you chart your course. A coach can accelerate your learning through the transition.

You are up to your assets in alligators. It’s hard to remember your objective was to drain the swamp. You may be stressing over a personnel problem or worried that you can’t raise enough money to keep the organization afloat. The three most frequent subjects raised by not for profit executives are personnel, fund raising and boards of directors. A coach can let you vent and help you work through options to chart your course.

Coaching is a relationship process that can help you solve problems, manage change and/or reach goals. Being clear about your reason for hiring a coach will accelerate the process of reaching your objective.

Author:  Karen Haren, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Ghosting Is Not Just a Halloween Term Any More

Dave Blankenhorn

It’s a recent phenomenon describing the practice of of suddenly ending a relationship without explanation. While this term frequently crops up in dating circles in recent years it has spread to the workplace where employers are donning the the role of jilted lover.

Ghosting can take several forms. A job candidate may ditch an arranged interview or even be a no show to the office on Day 1. More than that it can take hold among seasoned staff members who simply leave one day and don’t return to work. One staffing agency estimates it happens with up to 20% of white-collar workers.

Experts point to low employment and a plethora of available jobs as reasons why some job seekers and seasoned employees are willing to ditch working commitments.

This is obviously troubling. What can you do to neutralize any negative effects?

For starters consider launching a top down effort to be respectful to all employees and and transparent when communicating with them. By modeling positive the organization stands a better chance of staff modeling this behavior. It is also important to monitor employee morale to ensure some are not slipping between the cracks.

Organizations should also try to view things through the eyes of prospective employees. Some employers themselves are guilty of ghosting candidates by stringing them along for a time and then ceasing all forms of contact. Job seekers should not be left hanging indefinitely recognizing that that successful hiring is a two-way street.

You might consider a more user-friendly hiring experience. Some companies have launched programs that allow job applicants to track progress through each stage of the hiring process.

If you have been a victim of ghosting know that it can happen to anyone but seek to learn why and take steps to mitigate this troublesome issue.

Author: Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Performance Reviews Made Easier

Many managers dread the performance review process because of the time and preparation needed to deliver to and support their employees. BoardSource recently posted an article with practical suggestions to make the process easier.[1] The premise of the article is that more frequent, focused, and conversational discussions are more effective than the once a year variety. The author also contends that these are more efficient and timesaving.

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

The Quarterly Review: Future Outcomes

The article recommends having goal-focused reviews quarterly, keeping the focus on future outcomes. Even checking mid-quarter on progress helps. Holding positive conversations about progress makes the process far less full of tension and anxiety. Here are some questions to pursue:

  1. What has gone well in your progress toward your goals?
  2. What has blocked your progress, and what changes do you need to make?
  3. What do you plan on doing next?
  4. How can your manager help you?

As a coach, I think this model is a very good one for one important reason – it teaches all involved to think strategically. At the end of the time frame (quarterly or yearly) a team can ask:

  1. If performance went well, what can we capitalize on for next year;
  2. If the project didn’t go as planned, what changes can be made the next time, and/or what adjustments can be made.

Thinking strategically is a very important skill for being a manager. Therefore, by following this pattern, managers are also mentoring employees for more responsibility or promotion. In addition, employees receive clarity about  their manager’s expectations.


[1] 3 Ways to Lighten up Performance Management Process, Randal Vegter, NewsCred, BoardSource, February, 2019

Conducting an Effective Meeting

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

Do you dread attending the weekly staff meeting and other meetings on your calendar?? Melanie Woodword from Balance Small Business offers the following advice:

“7 Tips For Effective Meetings 

Establish the Meeting’s Objectives

Before sending out a meeting alert and putting it on your calendar, ask yourself why you want to hold a meeting and determine the objective.  Is it a meeting to bring employees up to speed on a change in management?  Are you making a decision regarding a project?  Is it a brainstorming session for a new business strategy?  Be certain that gathering employees in a room for face-to-face discussion and interaction is necessary for your objective; if the purpose of the meeting is a status update, perhaps sending out a group email is a better use of everyone’s time.

Communicate the Purpose of the Meeting

When inviting others to your meeting, be clear about the purpose of the meeting.  This will not only keep you focused but will enable employees to attend the meeting prepared either with documents or with thoughts on the matter at hand.  Communication is essential for an effective meeting.

Be Selective about Attendees

No one appreciates attending a meeting that has no connection to them or their work.  Determine who really needs to be there and why.  Whose input do you need?  Which colleagues must participate and will likely have questions on the matter?  If someone is on your list that simply needs to be informed of what was discussed, then do them a favor and take them off the list.  They can be easily updated with a follow-up email.  Time is valuable and no employer wants to negatively impact productivity by having employees sit in on meetings that are unnecessary.

You Must Create a Meeting Agenda

Holding a meeting without a set meeting agenda is akin to climbing into a sailboat and hoping the wind takes you where you want to go.  You will – quite literally – be lost at sea.  Your meeting agenda will guide you to your final destination.  Include topics to be discussed and who will be addressing each item if others are taking part.  Email the agenda to attendees ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect and comes prepared.

Stick to Your Plan

Even the best-planned meeting will go awry if the discussion gets derailed and goes off on tangential topics.  This is why most meetings fail to achieve their objective – they do not stay on track. At the outset of your meeting, establish ground rules and a specified time allotment for each item on your agenda as well as the overall meeting. For example, “Thank you for coming today.  Everyone’s time is valuable and it is my goal to keep this meeting to less than an hour.  Let’s stick to the items at hand and reserve discussion on other subjects for a later time.”  Rein in anyone who is monopolizing the discussion or introducing topics, not on the agenda.

Keep Them Engaged”

Visual aids go a long way in keeping everyone focused on the meeting and not on their phones or the clock.  Post the agenda on a Smart Board in the front of the room.  Project visuals onto a large screen using a computer; anything to keep their eyes up front.

Summarize the Meeting

Ever leave a meeting and have a totally different takeaway than your colleague?  Make sure this doesn’t happen with your meeting by emailing a follow up within 24 hours.  Include a summary, highlight key topics addressed, tasks assigned and indicate deadlines.  Sending this out in a timely fashion will ensure that attendees don’t head in the wrong direction.

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC,org

Characteristics of a Good Leader

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

When plans don’t go as we hoped they would, or we get discouraged, we may ask ourselves what went wrong. What kind of a leader have I become? I recently read a very interesting article that provided the ten most important characteristics of a good leader. The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) is known for its rigorous research on leadership styles.  Their commitment to growing good leaders is unparalleled.

Based on their research – interviews with leaders from many parts of the world – CCL found a consistent core of leadership traits. They are…

            • Honesty                                • Commitment

            • Ability to delegate                • Positive attitude

            • Communication                    • Creativity

            • Sense of humor                     • Ability to inspire

            •Confidence                            • Intuition

I have already blogged about self-awareness – a good start on knowing if we possess any of these qualities. Another test might be to focus on a good leader we know and ask, “do they have these characteristics?”

May this information help your organization select and develop strong and authentic leaders.

Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Book Review by Michael D. Kogutek

   “Extreme Ownership” Jocko Willnik and Leif Barbin, St. Martin’s Press (2017)

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

“Extreme Ownership “is written by two former Navy SEALs, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, who now head up a leadership training and  executive coaching  company.  The battlefield experiences they share in this book are intense and vivid.

The book is written in a very basic and clear way. The authors convey one main point per chapter by sharing a story from their war experiences, then highlighting the main  leadership principle of that story, and finally giving a concrete example of how this principle applies in business and organizational  settings.

The main points can be summarized as follows:

(a) The leader is always responsible and there is no blame to go around. This is the “extreme ownership” concept.

(b) The team must believe in the mission.

(c) Collaborate with other teams to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

(d) Keep plans simple, clear, and concise.

(e) Check and monitor your ego.

(f) Assess your priorities, and then act on them one at a time.

(g) Clarify your mission and plan

(h) Communicate with your leadership team

(i) Execute decisively, even when things are chaotic.

 The simplicity, clarity, and structure of this book are its greatest strength.

A weakness in the  book is that it  does not take in account how emotions factor in  leadership, management and decision making. The book is totally alpha and needs to be balanced. It is a terrific read and I highly recommend it to you and your teams!! As Jocko would say in SEAL lingo: “Get after it!”

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Book Review by Michael D. Kogutek

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

Judith Glaser’s book is a welcome treat for coaches and mentors looking to expand their professional horizons. Her thesis is that the relationship is central and key is providing change and transformation. She comes from a coaching perspective and states that conversations build trust that move us as individuals and organizations.Her definition of trust in human relations is that, “ I get that you authentically have my best interest at heart, not just your own.” Glaser states,”People trust us more when we have their best interest at heart.” She details the case of making sure that one sets up key parameters for enhancing this process. It formalizes the theory behind how conversations evolve and the position of the different speakers. What sets this book apart from others is that the author brings neuroscience and research into the equation to substantiate her assumptions. Glaser’s book can help take your leadership to the next level by showing you how to enhance the quality of your conversations. I highly recommend it!

“ Conversational Intelligence” Judith E. Glaser Bibliomotion (2014)

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Organizational Changes Require Good “Facilitation Skills”

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

When organizations go through change, good leadership skills are necessary to withstand the uncertainty. A leader with good facilitation skills can assure a smooth transition and support transparency. The skills are required for good collaboration and consensus building. A significant skill to this learning is the ability to ask good questions, which fosters meaningful group discussion. Involving the whole group provides authenticity to the discussion and helps the group think through difficult issues.

How it might work: The CEO has announced some major changes in policy or operations, and you are about to meet with your staff to clarify the changes. You are interested in modeling for them the way in which they may take their teams through the same process. You want to prepare all levels of management to explain and communicate the message. Here are some questions to help the process:

What are your questions or concerns about the changes? Your goal is here is to let the staff know that you are open to their input and are willing to listen. You might even choose to take notes so you can follow up later, or brief the CEO. Be sure to emphasize that all comments and information are confidential to only those in the room. This needs to be emphasized early on.

Who on your team will be the most affected by the changes? It is important for staff to clearly think through how the changes will affect all employees. This is your chance to help them realize the impact of change and personalize the resolution. You can assure them of your support and that of the organization’s.

Can anyone share with us how they plan to meet with their team for this? An open discussion about methods and strategies helps others to formulate their plans – providing learning for those more hesitant or less skilled. It is important to give affected people as many options and as much participation as possible.

What else can I do to make your challenges easier? It’s important for a leader to demonstrate humility and accountability, and not just authority in helping employees adapt and accept the resolutions to the changes. Patience and support are key leadership skills here – longer than one might feel is reasonable. We do not all change at the same pace. Keeping a positive attitude and being accessible also helps.

Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Don’t Forget to Plan for the Unexpected

Dave Blankenhorn

Often in our planning we forget to look at what might happen in favor what we want to happen. As we consider our goals for the coming year give some thought to what might upset your best laid plans.

What internal and external threats could disrupt your mission?

Internal risks could include unplanned expenses, disruptions in revenue, inadequate reserves, or IT crashes, internal fraud or theft, inadequate insurance coverage, hacking, or reputation risk.

External issues could be how to operate if there is a natural disaster, economic downturn, or regulation changes.

Identify the risks, measure the possible impact of each, determine the probability of the occurrence of the risk, then prepare a plan to mitigate those with the highest potential to damage your organization.

These should be then incorporated as part of your overall plan tied together with your contingency plan.

Continue to review and update your assumptions during the year. As the Boy Scouts say: “Be Prepared”.

Author:  David Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org