Author Archives: David Grossman

Improving Artificial Intelligence When Coaching Employees

Artificial Intelligence

When coaching employees, even artificial intelligence could benefit from a boost of individualized attention.

A recent New York Times article described a new technology firm, Humu, that is applying the power of artificial intelligence (or A.I.) to help increase employee happiness at work. The company, started by former Google employees, analyzes data from workplace surveys to discover and prioritize workplace changes that would make the largest positive impact on the most employees.

Giving Nudges.

Fueled by A.I., Humu’s trademarked “nudge engine” contacts employees by e-mails and texts, and encourages them to undertake actions, even small ones, that help raise the overall happiness level for the workplace.

According to the article, Humu uses “machine learning…[to]…tailor the timing, content and techniques of the messages it delivers based on how employees respond.” Employees at all levels could be targeted; the article included these examples:

“At a company where workers feel that the way decisions are made is opaque, Humu might nudge a manager before a meeting to ask the members of her team for input and to be prepared to change her mind. Humu might ask a different employee to come up with questions involving her team that she would like to have answered.”

The article also raises the question if coaching employees with this “nudge approach” will be considered helpful or too controlling. That answer will likely vary by specific company and individual employee. The risk of a “Big Brother” mentality certainly exists with any such technology.

Harnessing Personalized Intelligence.

At LWF, we believe the type of tailored, personalized information made possible by our DRiV&trade personality assessment tool could help this new A.I. innovation be even more beneficial when coaching employees.

Based on more than 50 years of research, the DRiV is a new look at personality, motives, and values. It was designed to measure what “drives and drains” human behavior – including what drives and drains people at work. The personalized intelligence provided by the DRiV can help with coaching employees by better predicting optimal leadership styles, determining effective team composition, and implementing more engaging work practices.

For example, a manager aware of each of her team members’ unique DRiV profile and drivers could use an A.I. tool like Humu to help nudge herself to engage in management behaviors targeted at optimizing these drivers. This is especially true if she as the manager tracked her own behavior and if employees tracked their own engagement levels, such as with a daily one-question survey.

Looking Ahead.

Over time, this complementary system of personalized intelligence and A.I. could start learning which management behaviors would be most likely to increase employee engagement and happiness. Coaching an employee high in creativity might best involve sitting down with him to riff on ideas. If you recently did that, maybe next try sending him an article that will spark his creative imagination. Or maybe another employee highly values collaboration and her engagement has been waning. As a manager, look for an opportunity to pair her with another employee.

The possibilities and potential are exciting for the workplace of tomorrow – and beyond. We’ll be watching where the future goes with A.I. and coaching employees, and look forward to positively impacting this evolution.

5 Tips for Becoming an Executive Coach to your Team

At LWF, we work with a wide range of businesspeople and organizations interested in our executive coaching services. One misperception we sometimes hear is the belief that executive coaching should primarily focus on advancing that executive’s own career. While that may be a long-term goal, we believe executives should first help nurture the careers of those around them.

While every executive coaching relationship is unique, here are 5 general tips:

1 Don’t Wait.

Resist the tendency to put off dealing with people. Have the courage to initiate difficult conversations and say what needs to be said. Remind yourself of the importance and long-term benefit of your contributions to developing people.

2 Be Genuine.

When giving feedback, don’t be brutal; combine honesty with sensitivity. Make sure you are open and forthright with feedback so the message does not get lost. Speak with facts and feelings. Remember that honest feedback is necessary for people to grow and develop.

3 Face Conflict.

Recognize any reluctance to deal with conflict within yourself and your team. Talk openly and directly about handling conflict and the benefits of reaching constructive outcomes. Facilitate collaborative discussions of challenging issues.

4 Encourage Stretching.

Provide your direct reports with the stretch assignments needed to grow and meet challenging objectives. Help them to learn from their mistakes and build in their areas of strength. There is too much to be done for you to do it alone. Deal more directly with sub-optimal performers, striving to help them learn and advance their careers.

5 Reward Progress.

Frequently assess what is working and what needs to be reevaluated. Find ways to motivate your direct reports to better serve you, their team, and the organization. Recognize and respect the process, and offer appropriate rewards. Remember that your people play a vital role in making your organization great.

Resolutions & Motivations

Resolutions & Motivations | Leadership Worth Following

The latest (Nov./Dec.) issue of Harvard Business Review features an article about motivating people, specifically related to goal setting (“Why You Should Stop Setting Easy Goals”). It focuses on challenges managers face when motivating a team: balancing goals that are high enough to challenge yet low enough to not cause discouragement. The authors cite research that shows, in certain situations, people perceive higher, more challenging goals as easier to reach and more appealing than lower goals.

This article’s findings align with broader research showing that our brains are more wired to avoid pain than they are to seek pleasure. How does this link with goal setting? Setting an easy, status-quo goal is – paradoxically – a bit more threatening because there is no upside. If you fail, you have no one or nothing to blame but yourself. However, if you set a hard goal, it’s simple enough to justify your failure as being due to the goal’s difficulty.

In this season of New Year’s resolutions, we’re diving into this goal-setting topic a little deeper and offering some practical suggestions.

Multiple Goal Factors.

With our new DRiV personality assessment tool, we’ve studied the results of more than 4,000 individual assessments conducted the past three years. The DRiV helps organizations discover what drives and drains their leaders, teams, and cultures.

In the field of psychology, goal-setting research often considers two major aspects: goal difficulty (hard vs. easy) and goal source (internal vs. external). Our DRiV research shows these goal factors interact in multiple, interesting ways:

  • People with a HARD GOALS mindset are 73% more engaged on average than those with an EASY GOALS mindset.
  • The HARD GOALS mindset can be characterized as tough, sometimes unyielding in standards, unwilling to give up, and having a tendency to downplay the possibility of failure and its potential scariness.
  • People with a HARD GOALS mindset are 55% less burnt-out on average than those with an EASY GOALS mindset.
  • People with an INTERNAL GOALS mindset are 72% less burnt-out on average than those with an EXTERNAL GOALS mindset. The INTERNAL GOALS mindset embraces goals that are grounded in one’s own personal values, that push an individual to grow and stretch, and that are not related to vanquishing a competitor.

Here’s a visual representation of these DRiV findings:

Setting Your Own Goals.

If you’re considering making your own New Year’s resolutions, remember that Hard/Internal goals offer the greatest upside. Here are four suggestions:

  1. Make them challenging. Do something that scares you a little and forces you to learn something new.
  2. Keep them measurable. Track and celebrate your success in ways meaningful for you.
  3. Choose something you truly find enjoyable, aligned with your values.
  4. Avoid a competitive, “keeping-up-with-the-Joneses” approach, which invites stress and frustration.

From all of us at LWF, we wish you a happy & productive New Year!

Envisioning the Future: 9 Tips for ‘19

Envisioning the Future | Leadership Worth Following

As another year winds down, anticipation builds for the opportunities ahead in 2019. How can you fully engage your team in envisioning and goal-setting for a successful future? Here are 9 tips:

1 Communicate a Clear Vision.

Ensure it’s aligned with your organization’s mission and strategy. Clarify other people’s roles and responsibilities in attaining the vision.

2 Contribute in Small Ways.

Contribute to the conversation even before you may feel entirely comfortable or before your thoughts are fully vetted. Work in your ideas early, allow others to respond, and then incorporate their reactions into your replies.

3 Find Your Voice.

Leadership success entails more than just implementing someone else’s vision. Find your own voice, develop your plan, gain the commitment of others, and make it happen.

4 Involve Your Team.

Poll them for insights and help in generating new possibilities that can make the greatest impact next year – and beyond. Challenge each other to consider perspectives outside your organization.

5 Study Trends.

List five emerging trends likely to affect your industry in the near future. Brainstorm with your team about ways to capitalize on them, finding new opportunities to create value. What else is possible? What is restricting your options?

6 Exit Your Comfort Zone.

Tackle an initiative you know little about – something that requires you to step out of your comfort zone and be innovative. Use your resources and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

7 Draw on Real Life.

Utilize specific examples drawn from real-life circumstances to make your vision tangible to your team members. Convey connections between your vision and the organization’s overall goals.

8 Share Your Energy.

Inspire action without relying solely on your authority. Challenge others to continuously improve and add value to their team and the organization.

9 Trust – and Celebrate – Others.

Recognize and reward significant achievements of others. Communicate the achievements of your team to higher levels in visible, positive ways.

Three Ways Gratitude Helps You

Gratitude | Leadership Worth Following

Around Thanksgiving, it’s natural to reflect on gratitude and its impact in our lives, including our relationships and careers. At Leadership Worth Following, our research with the DRiV personality assessment tool – including more than 4,000 assessments conducted the past three years – uncovered some interesting observations about highly grateful people:

1 Better at Connecting.

Highly grateful people tend to connect with others more easily and are easier to get along with. Their optimism helps them look for silver linings in even the cloudiest situations. Negativity – often seen in the Debbie Downers or Surly Sams of the world – can make relationship-building a bit tricky.

2 Focused on Protecting.

People who are highly grateful stand up for others more often, including bullies in the school lunchroom, neighborhood or next cubicle. Their grateful disposition inspires them to more readily see the intrinsic value of others and to protect them.

3 More Stable & Steady.

Grateful people are generally more steady and stable. They are less likely to exhibit wild emotional swings whenever things go really well – or when they go really poorly. From seeing those silver linings, they tend to respond less negatively to stressors than people who are not driven by gratitude.


Can You Be Too Grateful?

One potential downside of gratefulness or emotional stability is never getting keyed up about anything. Big emotional swings are often associated with passion, charisma and enthusiasm – all attractive traits.

This dispassionate, even-keel approach may cause some people to assume exceptionally grateful people are disinterested and maybe even complacent during difficult times. If you’re looking to fuel more passion, find a cause that excites you or a project that challenges you – and then commit to doing something about it!

To become more grateful, seek out others for socializing and relationship-building encounters.

Need More Gratefulness?

Low-gratitude people tend to be passionate and engaged in the world around them. They are more likely to respond intensely when things are going right or going wrong, letting everyone around them know how much they care. And while their high highs are enthralling and exciting for others, their low lows can become intimidating and potentially toxic.

To become more grateful, seek out others for socializing and relationship-building encounters. Embrace an attitude of mindfulness that focuses on an optimistic view of events and circumstances. Look outside yourself by finding a cause you can support, particularly involving helping people.

7 Tips for Managing Conflict Proactively

Managing Conflict | Leadership Worth Following

Conflict is inevitable in organizations. But when managed proactively, it can lead to transformative change and growth. Consider these 7 helpful tips:

1 Analyze Your Conflict Style.

Ask people you trust for feedback about how you handle conflict. Try to address conflict directly and constructively. Seek to understand any resistance you or others may have in dealing with conflict situations.

2 Consider Needs – Not Solutions.

Although people may disagree about the right solution, their agreement on the need for one helps the focus shift to creative problem-solving and seeking consensus. Guard against the tendency to override consensus-building for the “right” answer; this may only bury conflict temporarily.

3 Seek to Understand Others First.

Truly strive to comprehend others’ points of view before explaining yours. Summarize what you hear until others agree that you understand their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives.

4 Use Dialogue and Discussion Appropriately.

One logically follows the other: A dialogue is an opportunity to leverage divergent thinking – to explore, ask questions, understand, and discover – without deciding or excluding options. Then a discussion involves convergent thinking: reaching a solution through negotiations, analysis and consideration of trade-offs.

5 Depersonalize the Conflict.

View conflict as a disagreement about goals, ideas, or methods, instead of about personality or style, because these are much more difficult to resolve. Strive for a common goal on which everyone can focus and agree to work through areas of disagreement.

6 Help Others Voice Opinions Constructively.

Encourage others to share their opinions in a constructive, non-intimidating manner. Summarize what you hear and facilitate discussions until all ideas and feelings are understood.

7 Start on Common Ground.

Build on areas of agreement before addressing areas of difference. Start by clearly stating your desire to find a solution that is workable for everyone involved. Be sure to solicit creative alternatives.

Q&A: Executive Coaching

Executive Coaching | Leadership Worth Following

At LWF, our executive coaching model incorporates practical experience, psychological research and business acumen. One of our team, Cara Wade, PhD, recently shared her insights. As a vice president and executive consultant, she also serves as lead assessor for LWF’s leadership assessments.

Q: How does an executive coaching engagement typically begin?

Cara: We follow a three-phase approach. Executive coaching usually starts from a self-focused perspective: “What impact do I want to have? What are my intentions?” If you are our coachee, we begin by helping you align your impact with your intentions, working from the fundamental premise that all people have positive intentions. We teach that behaviors are the variables that are flexible; you can choose a different behavior. The most important goal is connecting your intentions and your impact. That’s the first phase: Align.

Q: What’s next?

Cara: As the coaching engagement progresses, after you achieve alignment, your intentions and goals may grow. For example, instead of just being a good coach to your team, you may expand your intentions to become a premier developer of people across the organization. That’s the second phase: Aspire.

​The third phase – Transform – is when the focus really moves outward. As the coachee, you realize you’re just a tool to transform the world around you – helping colleagues and the business do better. This phase provides the most transformation and growth in coaching, because your entire network is positively impacted.

Q: How can executives best impact different personalities on their team?

Cara: Self-awareness is one of the first skills we teach in the Align phase: becoming observant on your impact and flexible with your behavior. One-size-fits-all rarely works because everyone comes to the interaction with their own ‘baggage’ and intentions.

​People can get stuck in this step when they’re not having the impact they want.
Let’s say your intention is to be a task master, so you focus on project lists during your one-on-one meetings with subordinates. If one of your team is still under-performing, he may need more of a relationship-oriented approach and encouragement.

Q: How does “Executive Coaching” differ from “Coaching”?

Cara: The processes are very similar, regardless of level, but the needs are certainly different. For first-time managers, coaching tends to be more programmatic and not as intensive. They are learning the skills needed to do their jobs, often with many people around them willing to give them advice.

​If you’re an executive, the adage “It’s lonely at the top” often rings true. As you rise within an organization, there are fewer and fewer people around to give you direct feedback or serve as a sounding board. The complexity, intensity and pressure also increase with each promotion – you’re juggling multiple priorities and the expectations of multiple stakeholders.

​Executives realize they are unlikely to always make the perfectly correct decision; they’re often choosing between the lesser of two possible mistakes. That realization is a big mental shift. You may not have the best options, but you always have a choice. We help coachees learn to make the best of challenging situations while moving toward increasingly better options.

Q: How long does a typical executive coaching engagement last?

Cara: Each executive coaching engagement is different; the average duration is six months. Most begin by evaluating the coachee’s current impact on the team and organization. Acquiring this “knowledge of results” is accomplished by a 360-degree feedback process, which may include interviews, observations and written assessments. This feedback influences the individualized development plan the coach and executive work through during monthly or bi-monthly meetings. The coach also stays in close touch with the coachee’s HR stakeholder or direct supervisor (if appropriate) to assess progress.


For more information about executive coaching, please contact Cara Wade, Ph.D., at 214-260-8001 or cara@worthyleadership.com.

Fostering Curiosity: 6 Tips to Buffer against Burnout

Curiosity Growth Mindset | Leadership Worth Following

“Curiosity” is in the spotlight in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) (September/October 2018), with several articles exploring aspects of this theme related to managing people, psychology, and leadership development. One key component of curiosity is a “growth mindset,” which drives engagement, resilience, and is a powerful buffer against burnout.

At Leadership Worth Following, new research with our DRiV™ personality assessment tool confirms this position, based on assessments spanning dozens of organizations. We’ve found that people are more effectively buffered against burnout if they are naturally driven to learn (high Growth driver), can cope with mistakes and embarrassment (low Caution driver), and who easily let things go (high Forgiveness driver).

Here are 6 tips to consider for fostering curiosity and a growth mindset:

1 Start with Authenticity: Know Yourself.

Growth-oriented people tend to be honest with themselves. They know who they are, what they want, and what helps or hinders them in achieving their goals. This self-awareness and internal honesty make growth easier, because these people clearly understand their strengths and weaknesses, and are comfortable being themselves.

2 Assess Your Knowledge: Seek New Perspectives.

As you take an authentic look at yourself, honestly evaluate what you know – and don’t know. What are your areas of expertise? What biases do you bring to the table? Relish seeking out new perspectives and adding to your breadth and depth of wisdom. It can help you grow.

3 Dial Back Your Caution: Failure is Not Final.

Growth-oriented people are not afraid of personal embarrassment or failure from time to time. Practice seeing failures not as an attack on your authentic self or self-worth. Rather, allow failure to help identify gaps between your impact and your authentic self. In other words, failures can help you grow into a more authentic version of yourself.

4 Thou Shalt Not Compare: Compete Only with Yourself.

Resist the temptation to compare yourself against others. Doing so can either cause unnecessary stress (if comparison point is too high) or demotivation (if reference point is too low). Growth-oriented people tend to gauge their status or progress primarily against themselves.

5 Question Your Assumptions: Think Outside Box.

Second-guessing your own and others’ assumptions will force you to ask new questions, see things in a new light, and learn new things. After all, growth is difficult if you never let yourself out of “the box.”

6 Practice Forgiveness: Start with Yourself.

Go easy on others and apply that mindset to yourself as well. This is not about being lazy, but about not dwelling on mistakes. Instead, congratulate yourself on learning from your failure and creatively brainstorm how to improve going forward. This solution-focused mindset and forgiveness will make failure much more productive.


More about the DRiV

Along with a unique ranking of each person’s 32 drivers, the DRiV can help identify what people believe they should do, what they want to do, and what they will do in a given situation. By evaluating what drives and drains people in their careers, the DRiV can help predict optimal leadership styles, determine effective team composition, and implement more engaging work practices. Click here to learn more about the DRiV.

“Gaining Influential Male Leaders as Change Agents” Discussed at Dallas S.H.E. Summit

S.H.E. Summit | Leadership Worth Following

Today, although American women comprise almost half the workforce, they hold less than five percent of CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies. In the U.S., full-time, year-round female workers face a 20 percent gender pay gap, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy and Research. This gap is wider for black and Hispanic women.

​A panel discussion at the recent S.H.E. Summit in Dallas in mid-August tackled questions about gender roles and biases in the workplace. It also offered recommendations for both men and women to better advance their own careers while also helping others.

SHE Summit 2018The session was titled “Gaining Influential Male Leaders as Change Agents”; the three panelists were: Cara Wade, PhD, vice president and executive consultant with Leadership Worth Following (LWF), a Dallas-based leadership consulting firm; Pete Carr, regional president, North America, with the Bacardi spirits company in Coral Gables, Florida; and Bill Munck, managing partner with Munck Wilson Mandala, LLP, a technology law firm in Dallas, Texas.

​Wade, who advises, coaches and trains company leaders across a variety of industries, shared her perspective on workplace trends and challenges LWF is seeing – for both women and men. Carr and Munck discussed their two firms’ diversity initiatives for women and motivation for implementation.

Other topics discussed included: career advice for women who need buy-in from male leaders to rise in their careers; recommendations for cultivating support – from both male and female leaders; unconscious biases people can have based on gender, age, color, etc.; raising self-awareness; and critical values or skills essential for rising as inclusive leaders.

This discussion attracted more than 150 attendees and was moderated by Claudia Chan Wagner, the founder and CEO of S.H.E. Globl Media Inc., the S.H.E. Summit organizer. This empowerment event focused on leadership and lifestyle, aimed at cultivating women and men leaders. A key summit goal is helping everyone become more “connected, educated, and activated” in their own careers.

From Wade’s own business and consulting experience, she believes that women actually play a larger role than men do in holding other women back from advancing to top leadership roles. In her closing comments, Wade also echoed an aspirational S.H.E. Summit slogan (“Rise to your potential. Lift other women.”) by emphasizing the importance of not just looking for your own leadership advocates, but advocating for others behind you in the organization.

To learn more about leadership development programs, LWF’s Worthy Leadership model, or other ways LWF can positively impact your organization, please contact Cara Wade at cara@worthyleadership.com or 214-260-8001.

Still Relevant, Worthy Leadership Model Marks 10 Years

Worthy Leadership Model Marks 10 Years | Leadership Worth Following

Today if you Google “leadership crisis” you’ll find more than 400 million results. Newspaper headlines and TV broadcasts detail the aftershocks of leadership crises impacting almost every aspect of society: entertainment, business, education, government, religion, etc.

Almost 20 years ago, business headlines focused on financial scandals at Enron and WorldCom. These companies collapsed from the top down, betrayed by leaders who failed in their fiduciary, ethical, and moral responsibilities to employees, customers, suppliers, and shareholders.

Looking for Answers

The crucible of these and other corporate failures in the early 2000s inspired research into a new model of executive assessment. Many of these failed leaders possessed superb skills and expertise, coupled with strong determination and work habits. So what went wrong?

The search for answers led to development of the Worthy Leadership Model (WLM), first detailed in a 2008 academic paper in the Consulting Psychology Journal. The authors were A. Dale Thompson, Myranda Grahek, Ryan E. Phillips, and Cara Fay Wade from Leadership Worth Following (LWF), a Dallas-based leadership consulting firm.

Development of the WLM was also aided by external research from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA).


3-Way Lens

This 2008 paper defines “worthy leadership” as “the ability to guide, direct, or influence people in a way that has great merit, character, and value.” The WLM is rooted in the belief that an accurate leader or executive assessment must encompass three constructs:

The Capacity to Lead:

General intelligence, technical knowledge and skills, and core personality traits. What leaders can do.

The Commitment to Lead:

Multifaceted passions and energies that propel leaders to extraordinary performance. What leaders want to do.

The Character to Lead:

What leaders will do, across a variety of leadership situations.


Character Redefined

Compared to the first two constructs (Capacity and Commitment) Character has historically received the lowest level of scholarly attention. However, this LWF research team considered Character essential to explaining the most inglorious leadership failures.

In the WLM, The Character to Lead goes well beyond the tried and true dimension of personal integrity. Importantly, it requires leaders to be willing to hold the organization accountable for what it says it is going to do, and does. And at a personal level, it requires leaders to actively manage their need for personal power, acknowledge the work and people around them, and recognize that while they may “be good,” they are not better than others!


Results to Date

The research shows that almost all leaders demonstrate qualities of “dominance” and “wanting to lead”, which in themselves are not problematic. However, those characteristics do not ensure leadership is ultimately effective or “worthy” of following. Since 2008, the study’s authors have done research that has further defined character in ways that have changed how leaders are assessed and developed. It also has important implications for executive assessment.

While Capacity and Commitment are consistently seen as the biggest contributors to past success, leaders who rate highly in Character are seen as most trustworthy and most worth following. And research would suggest they are LEAST likely to make catastrophic mistakes that could threaten the very existence of the company.

In 2010, a LWF team published subsequent research on Character in Leadership, including surveys of managers, peers, and direct reports. It also included self-ratings about employees’ perceptions of job-related outcomes. Not surprisingly, it showed what we all know – that character in leadership clearly matters.


Future Outlook

Looking ahead, the world of business will likely see continued periodic crises of leadership. While economies, industries, and technologies ebb and flow, human nature – with all its strengths and weaknesses – is stubbornly consistent.

In just 10 years, the Worthy Leadership Model has already demonstrated its timeless relevance and value. Further refinement and study, aided by hands-on experience and sophisticated personality assessment tools like the DRiV™, will only enhance its impact.