What “I really messed up” Means for Leadership

I’ve been a devoted user of Zoom for a while.  I’ve spewed many curse words over the years at a variety of other video conference tools but I don’t think I’ve hurled any expletives at Zoom.  As we quarantine, work and school from home, there’s been an almost constant Zoom call going on somewhere in my house at any given time. I might be conducting an Executive Coaching session with a client, my husband might be talking with a customer in Japan, and one of my 3 kids might be pretending to do schoolwork… all by Zoom.  As Zoom’s popularity has increased globally, not just in my house, I’ve been paying close attention to the company’s privacy and security practices. Perhaps, more importantly, I’ve been paying attention to how their leadership responds, in words and action, to obvious weaknesses and very real privacy, security and encryption deficiencies.        

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan admits that he “really messed up” and has been taking swift action to address security breaches.  Using the words “I really messed up” struck me not because they’re the wrong words but because they’re the right words coming from a high profile tech CEO. From an emotional intelligence lens, Yuan is responding to a key moment for himself and his organization.  A key moment is any event or situation that presents a challenge or demands a response from us. Sometimes, key moments are areas that we constantly struggle. I’ve had some significant quarantine “key moments” with my 11 year old daughter. I digress. Whether we believe it or not, we have a choice in how we respond to key moments.  We can respond from a position of protect and survive and justify ourselves while blaming others. Or, we can respond from a position of growth and success in which we seek to understand ourselves and learn from our experiences. In the case of Zoom’s CEO, he made the choice to be accountable and respond from a position of growth. 

In a world where accountability from executives is not the norm, I commend Yuan for his response and actions.  However, the story is far from over. His response and transparency has elicited momentary respect in Zoom. He must continue to respond from a position of growth and take extensive proactive measures to transform that momentary respect into trust in his leadership and trust in the Zoom brand.    

As Yuan soldiers on, I’ll continue virtually coaching clients in the tech world on leadership and accountability while trying to respond from a position of growth to key moments in my own life.  With a home-bound circus of 3 kids, 1 husband, 2 cats and dog, conquering my key moments currently requires wine. 

What Do Your Values Look Like In Crisis?

There’s plenty of content flying around right now about leading during a crisis. I’m not going to regurgitate what’s already out there. Yes, you should show strength and communicate clearly. Yes, you should seek advice and remain positive. All great suggestions. However, I want to talk about core values in action.

The global pandemic upon us has turned our world upside down. Everyone, everywhere has felt the impact. We’re filled with deep concern and uncertainty and there’s no sign of reprieve. As the events continue to unfold, I’ve closely observed core values of companies turn into action, both good and bad. Some companies are continuing to pay employees and embracing the concept of work from home. For some companies, working from home is not possible but they’re continuing to pay their employees. Companies are going to great lengths to avoid layoffs by cutting executive salaries. Many companies are donating resources, converting operations to make new products like hand sanitizer or rapidly scaling operations to produce critical, healthcare supplies. For these companies, their core values demonstrate their commitment to people, both inside and outside of their company. In other cases, company actions are not so encouraging. I’ve heard many stories of employees forced to work despite expressing repeated concerns about worker safety and health. Some have threatened to fire staff if they’re not willing to conform. Rather than closing, companies have sought loopholes in shutdown policies to remain open. Other companies have turned to price gouging and panic marketing to buffer their bottom line. For these companies, their core values may be nonexistent or merely wall decoration for the break room.

Core values shape crisis response thus displaying a company’s true colors in full view. Companies who are truly committed to people, compassion, integrity and teamwork will shine. Even though we’re all deep in emotions right now, think about your core values and how they’re sharing your response.

HOW YOU RESPOND demonstrates your values more than WHAT YOU SAY.

What I’ve Learned in TWO Years…

This week EverRise celebrated our 2 year anniversary.  What a journey!  Somedays, it seems fresh and new and other days if feels like forever.   

Someone asked me recently what’s the most important thing I’ve learned over 2 years.  That’s a great question and I could start to blather on about all I’ve learned.  I won’t blather on.  I’ll get right to the point. The most important thing I’ve learned in 2 years is:

don’t take “no” personally

I’m not good with “no.”  Ask my mother.  For over 40 years, I’ve been hell bent on busting down walls and not taking “no” for an answer.  Needless to say, I come from a long line of women that were never good with “no.”  I’ll share some stories another time.  

As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I’ve been told “no” a lot in the past 2 years.  I lost count.  “No, we’re not interested.”  “No, we work with someone else.”  “No, I don’t need leadership development.”  Or just “No.”  I like to think of myself as someone who has a thick skin. From military officers to C-suite execs, I’ve gone toe-to-toe with some fierce personalities over the years.  I’ve pitched countless ideas and projects and built a lot of programs from the ground up.  The difference is that now I’m pitching myself and my company and our expertise.  I’m not pitching a product.  I’m pitching myself and my team so when I hear “no,” I tend to translate that into a personal punch.  The reality is that “no” is not personal.  I’m getting better at that fact and replaced “no” with “not now.”  I think it’s a good strategy 🙂

So happy 2nd birthday to EverRise!  Looking forward to many more years and lots of learning!


John the Control Freak

Coaching Case Study 2 – John the Control Freak

John* and I met at a networking event. The conversation went something like this:

Crystal: “Hi I’m Crystal.”
John: “Hi I’m John.”
Crystal: “Hi John. What do you do?”
John: “I’m in IT. How about you?”
Crystal: “I’m a scientist by training and started my company to help nerds like myself figure out how to be leaders instead of jerks.”
John: “We need to talk.”

After a phone call and coffee meeting, I learned much about John. John owned an IT company and had been in business for over 20 years. He had a solid team and long term customers. His business was growing and posted 10-15% increases year-over-year for the past 5 years. Not too shabby.  However, John knew that he had challenges with his staff.  He had plenty to say about his team even though he recognized them as being qualified. I heard things like:

“Mike never does exactly what I ask and I find myself joining phone calls with clients.”
“I don’t understand why Jane constantly wants to do things differently and argues.”
“I’m constantly with clients and don’t have time to deal with drama.”

John and I began working together and I was curious so I asked to attend a team meeting. My suspicions were confirmed. John was a control freak, micromanaged everything and while he wanted to empower his team, he consistently cut them off at the knees. John was good-hearted and genuinely wanted his team and his business to be successful. However, he was awful at delegating or allowing his team to deviate from how he would handle things. He was also trying to work directly on projects while trying to run the operations of the business. We met after his team meeting. The conversation went something like this:

John: “So what do you think?”
Crystal: “What do I think or what do I know?”
John: “What do you know?”
Crystal: “I know that I understand the problem better.”
John: “Good! What’s the problem?”
Crystal: “You.”

John was a bit shocked that I was so direct, however, he recalled one of our first conversations. During that early chat, I explained I would tell him the things he needed to hear vs the things he wanted to hear as his coach. I told him I wouldn’t be his buddy or his therapist but I’d do everything I could to help him see the world differently so he could lead more effectively. I was quiet while John chewed on his memory. After a bit, he said, “I was afraid that’s what you were going to say.” For a long time, John feared that he was the biggest problem facing his own company, however, no one was complaining (to his face) and he didn’t really know what to do differently. Working 1-on-1 with John, we:

  • Assessed John and his team
  • Gathered 360 feedback from the team
  • Defined coaching goals and associated behavior changes
  • Dissected his roles & responsibilities
  • Identified key areas he could delegate
  • Practiced conversations with staff
  • Used matrix tool to discuss roles and responsibilities
  • Identified key areas he needs to focus on
  • Created action plan for the key areas and maintained accountability.

As a result of the 9 month coaching experience, John began to relinquish control and empower his team. He learned to trust their judgement more and realized that many of their ideas would benefit the company. John was able to focus more on new business development and implementing processes while his team focused on delivering client projects. More importantly, John’s company grew by almost 80% last year from new clients and expanded projects for existing clients.

Are you looking for a trusted sounding board, advisor and accountability partner to help you and your organization reach new levels of performance? Contact EverRise today to learn more about our 1-on-1 and peer group coaching programs.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of clients (even though they know I’m writing about them 😉

Mary’s Inherited Chaos

Coaching Case Study 1 – Mary’s Inherited Chaos

Once upon a time in a land not so far away, Mary* took a new position leading an established research and development organization in Company X*. 

Mary had considerable experience as a technical leader but was new to Company X. Company X was an amalgam formed through various acquisitions, divestitures and private equity wrangling.  Company X had offices around the world but it was clear that no one knew each other and had never worked together. Mary inherited a technical team spread across 4 countries and multiple locations within each country.  The team had seen various leaders come and go, multiple failed strategies and no clear communication from headquarters. There was no process for deciding what projects to work on and there was little collaboration between teams and no professional development.  Even crazier, the “teams” in the R&D organization had never even met each other and were unaware of capabilities and expertise.  

Mary arrives and was told to “fix it.”  At first, Mary wasn’t quite sure what she was fixing because she struggled to find the locations of all the team members and labs.  True story. Company X didn’t even really know how many R&D staff they had, where they were all located and what they were working on.  Holy hot mess. Because the challenge was fairly large and very layered, Mary sought out a coach to serve as a sounding board, advisor and accountability partner.  One of Mary’s colleagues put her in contact with EverRise. Working 1-on-1 with Mary, we:

  • Created vision and mission of R&D organization at Company X
  • Reviewed business strategy of Company X
  • Reviewed future trends and forecast for markets served by Company X
  • Created 4 different focus areas for the R&D organization
  • Outlined the future state of the R&D organizational structure
  • Identified the types of talent required for various roles in the future state R&D organization
  • Assessed talent of R&D organization
  • Initiated regular video calls with the entire team
  • Initiated 1-on-1 discussions with each leader in Mary’s organization
  • Developed a detailed transformation plan and timeline with milestones and deliverables to achieve future state of R&D organization.
  • Engaged Mary’s leaders in milestones and deliverables
  • Coached Mary’s leaders in peer group sessions
  • Used 360 feedback to assess progress

As a result of the 9 month coaching experience, Mary quickly assimilated into a new team in a complex environment in her new company. Her team (after she located everyone!) rapidly realized that she was committed to building a world-class organization and became very engaged, especially in the milestones and deliverables outlined in the transformation plan. Even with organizational changes going on, the team was able to identify and eliminate duplicate projects, assign work more effectively, execute collaboratively on projects and deliver several projects and new products in record time.

Are you looking for a trusted sounding board, advisor and accountability partner to help you and your organization reach new levels of performance? Contact EverRise today at [email protected] or 412-282-3630 to learn more about our 1-on-1 and peer group coaching programs.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of clients (even though they know I’m writing about them 😉

Yes, You Need a Coach

Michael Phelps, an American swimmer, is the most decorated Olympian of all time with a total of 28 medals.  He has a coach. Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast with a total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals.  She has a coach.

As an athlete, I had coaches for every sport.  As a student, I had teachers. As a scientist, I had advisors and collaborators.  However, as I progressed in my career, I had fewer experienced and trusted advisors to give me unbiased and constructive feedback.  Afterall, the combination of accomplished scientist and excellent leader can be a rare find. Several years ago, I was paired with an executive coach.  I thought to myself, “What am I going to do with a coach?” I’d never really thought about having a coach as a professional nor did I really know the value that coaching could provide. 

There’s a myth that coaching is only for poor performers or struggling leaders.  The truth is that coaching can be an asset for professionals at all levels across an organization, independent of performance.  For many people, there’s some underlying fear and self-doubt that’s preventing them from meeting their full potential. They need someone to help them see the world differently.  They need someone to tell them what no one else will and hold them accountable. Coaching has been a powerful force in my career because I learned that a trusted advisor that’s honest and keeps me accountable is priceless.  In fact, I believe in coaching so much that I still have a coach and several mentors. As a coach, I’ve helped plenty of clients see the world differently and transform their lives.  

At EverRise, there are 3 specific ways we help our coaching clients grow:

  1. Unbiased feedback – As professionals, we want honest feedback, however, those that we’re close to in our personal and professional lives always have some bias.  Even if we ask for honest feedback, it’s probably somewhat guarded. And, even if we ask for honest feedback, we’re not always willing to actually listen. With a coach, there’s no bias.  The coach’s job is to make you better even if you don’t like what they have to say.  
  2. Trusted sounding board – Every day professionals are faced with complex scenarios and decisions.  We want to appear that we have it all figured out but inside our head is spinning with questions and doubt.  We don’t feel comfortable discussing the conundrum with a colleague or boss because they have their own opinions.  With a coach, you have an experienced professional that’s faced similar complexities. The coach can walk with you through the complexities (with complete confidentiality) and help you see all of the options, pros and cons.     
  3. No excuses accountability – We all make excuses and many times, those excuses are the biggest barriers to our own success.  There’s nothing more motivating than knowing you have a coach that sees straight through your excuses and refuses to let you use them as a crutch.  

Whether you’re part of a merry team of misfits like the Bad News Bears or a decorated Olympian, you have a coach.  Whether you’re a scientist managing a team or a seasoned executive in a tech company, you NEED a coach. At EverRise, we focus specifically on building human-centered leaders in technical organizations and helping professionals with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) backgrounds advance their careers.  

Contact EverRise today at [email protected] or call 412-282-3630 to learn more about our 1-on-1 coaching programs and peer group coaching programs for emerging leaders and experienced leaders.  

Is Your Company a Hot Mess? 

You go to work everyday and think you’re riding the hot mess express.  Everyone seems scared of saying anything wrong for fear of losing the job they hate.  Your project direction changed 3 times this week.  New product development consists of renaming a product and calling it innovation.  The organization’s mission and vision are posted in the breakroom but the sign is so faded no one can read it.  Nor do they really care.  Unfortunately, many employees in lots of other companies are feeling the same way.  Here are 5 characteristics of an organization in chaos:

  1. Disengaged employees: John wears his lab coat to appear productive.  Mary takes short breaks from Candy Crush for the occasional meeting.  Bob down the hall calls off at least once week, sometimes twice if there’s a looming project deadline.  According to Gallup, disengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism, 18% lower productivity and 15% lower profitability.
  2. Lack of vision, strategy and shifting priorities: Vision must be more than making money.  Strategy must be more than chasing all the glittery objects that come along.  An organization that runs only on the notion of 1) make money and 2) have fun is probably not making any money or having any fun without out some vision and strategy.
  3. Working in crisis mode with short-term focus: When you’re constantly putting out fires, it’s probably because your organization is on fire… and not in the hip way of being “on fire.”  You’re constantly focused on survival for the next few months and don’t have the energy or capacity to think about the next few years.
  4. Inconsistent results, lack of growth and/or revenue loss: Growth is stagnant, innovation is a joke and there’s plenty of excuses and blame to go around.  There’s little interest, or incentive, for doing anything new or pursuing new opportunities.
  5. Negative (or even toxic) culture: Employees are considered a number and fear dominates workplace dynamics.  Communication is focused on rumors and drama.  Trust doesn’t exist.  Managers across the organization have little power and enforce status quo while decisions are made by a few that know and play by all the unwritten rules.

Do you see these characteristics in your organization?  What happens when you speak up?  You don’t have to be a hostage on the hot mess express.  The good news is that organizations can transform from a state of chaos to stability and then high performance.  Commitment and participation at the top are required.

Are you ready to move beyond chaos?

Contact our team today at [email protected] to schedule a consult.

#EverRiseWomen2019 Impact Summary

Back in October, I got a wild hair (my hair is naturally pretty wild, anyway).  I wanted to be purposeful in sharing positive content and find ways to elevate women.  The #EverRiseWomen2019 campaign was launched to share powerful, diverse examples of women in the technical world.  (The full story of how #EverRiseWomen2019 started can be found here)  In November and December of 2019, EverRise shared the LinkedIn profiles of 61 women.  I’m honored that these women are in my personal network and many of them are not just colleagues, they’re dear friends.  I’m humbled by the work they’re doing. From shock physics and emerging infectious diseases to cementitious materials and data science, these women are tackling tough problems and working on fascinating topics.  

What you don’t know is there’s a more personal driver behind #EverRiseWomen2019.  As an adoptive mom, I also wanted to give my daughter more examples of successful women who look like her.  We live in a diverse neighborhood in a diverse city but I want her to have more examples of women of color in STEM careers.  She loves science now and I want that to continue. If she doesn’t choose a STEM career, that’s OK. However, I don’t want her choice to be because she doesn’t believe she’s capable and/or there aren’t other women of color role models.

The #EverRiseWomen2019 has been a professional and personal journey and the impact has been astounding.  Here are the statistics from LinkedIn:

  • 61 LinkedIn profiles for women in technical careers
  • 61 days
  • Women working in 5 countries on 5 different continents
  • Approximately 55,000 total views (at this posting)
  • Over 1000 likes (at this posting)

That’s HUGE!  I know 55,000 views may not be impressive for all you fancy social media influencers out there, however, it’s real visibility for 61 women around the world that didn’t exist before.  This campaign was simple, nothing fancy. This campaign has lifted other women, but it’s also lifted me. The ROI for my heart has been priceless.  

If you missed the LinkedIn posts, don’t worry!  You can check out the #EverRiseWomen2019 profiles in the blog posts for weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.  

Make a point every single day to lift up someone else.  The ROI for your heart will be worth it!  

“If you invest in a girl or a woman, you are investing in everybody else.“

-Melinda Gates

The Final Week – #EverRiseWomen2019

The final week of #EverRiseWomen2019 is upon us!  To learn more about the origins of #EverRiseWomen2019, check out this post.

The response to this campaign has been great.  As we come to an end, let’s celebrate the women of week 9:

57.  Annie Wang Annie Wang is the President at Senvol and Vice Chair of the SAE Additive Manufacturing Data Management Committee. Annie is an expert in additive manufacturing helps companies understand how they can utilize data to successfully implement additive manufacturing into their business. I’ve enjoyed following Senvol since it started in 2013.

58. Dr. Julie Willouhby Dr. Julie Willoughby is an accomplished engineer, materials researcher and leader. She began her career at Dow Corning and went on to complete her graduate work at NC State University. She was a senior scientist at MeadWestvaco and went on to lead teams in materials and manufacturing innovation at Nike. She’s excellent at building and leading multi-disciplinary teams.

59. Susan Wilson Susan Wilson is the VP of Data Governance at Informatica. She’s held progressive leadership roles at Pfizer and Informatica. She has considerable experience leading global data integration, management and security. I had the pleasure of meeting Susan at the World Woman Summit.

60. Julianne Wolfe Julianne Wolfe is a highly talented program manager at PPG. She started her career as a scientist studying chemical imaging and moved into forensic toxicology. She led the Biotech and Pharmaceutical Services team at RJ Lee Group and also obtained her PMP certification. At PPG, she’s transition from technical management to program management in the Corporate IT PMO. She is also the most organized person I’ve ever met!

61. Carmen Wong Carmen Wong is the Global Head of the Coatings and Inks Market Segment at Clariant and is based in Hong Kong. Carmen has considerable experience in strategic planning, global market dynamics and project management. She’s held progressive roles in the chemical industry at AkzoNobel, Beckers, PPG and Clariant. I loved working with Carmen while we were both at PPG!

Week 8 – #EverRiseWomen2019

Week 8 of #EverRiseWomen2019 has arrived!  To learn more about the origins of #EverRiseWomen2019, check out this post.

Here are the women ruling week 8:

50. Carol Smith Carol Smith is a Senior Research Scientist in Human-Machine Interaction at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Carol has extensive experience in UX across different industries and strives to bring human values to interaction design and research. She’s also a darn cool human (and neighbor).

51. April Snyder April Snyder is the Construction Materials Laboratory Manager at RJ Lee Group. She’s an expert in cementitious materials and has extensive experience performing concrete petrographic investigations with emphasis on failure analysis. She’s also very active in the American Concrete Institute and ASTM International.

52. Nicola Stott Nicola Stott is a the co-founder and Global Managing Director of Exigent and the CEO of Bright Minds Capital Partners. The Exigent team is working at the forefront of technology and legal services. Bright Minds is the first evergreen fund specializing in early-stage investments in legal and data technology, focusing on AI, blockchain and big data management applications. Based in London, she’s a citizen of the world and a really cool human.

53. Dr. Kalena Stovall Dr. Kalena Stovall is a New Product Development Scientist and Technical Service Leader at Imerys. She focuses on filled polymer formulations for medical applications as well as caulks, sealants, adhesives and elastomers. Prior to Imerys, Dr. Stovall worked at Exponent and supported efforts such as materials characterization, failure analysis, due diligence evaluation, and patent analysis for intellectual property litigation.

54. Dr. Clair Sullivan Dr. Clair Sullivan is a Data Scientist in Machine Learning at GitHub. She holds a PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Michigan. She’s transition from studying radiation detection at LANL to academia and now leveraging her background in data analysis and signal processing as a scientist at GitHub. We go way back… all the way to grad school at the University of Michigan.

55. Dr. Christina Taylor Dr. Christina Taylor is an Associate Science Fellow and Computational Protein Design Lead at Bayer Crop Science. Following her PhD at MIT, Dr. Taylor was at Washington University in St. Louis and then Monsanto. At Bayer Crop Science, her team engineers the next generation of protein-based crop protection traits. Even cooler? We met during our undergrad days in Chemistry at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

56. Jaqueline Villalpa Arroyo Jaqueline Villalpa Arroyo is a Donaghey Scholar at the University of Arkansas Little Rock studying Computer Science and is set to graduate in 2020. Her credentials are amazing. She participated in Google’s Hispanic Student Leadership Summit, completed an internship as a Business Technology Analyst at Deloitte and is a Career Prep Fellow in the Management Leadership for Tomorrow program. She’s also a recent alum of my high school, the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and Arts.