Executive Presence — Do You Have It?

How do you define “executive presence”?  When I was in the Marine Corps, we called it “command presence”.  One officer in particular who I worked for, Major Mary Harbac, exemplified this leadership trait to a “T”.  One of my early sales managers and mentors, Richard Giebel, also embodied this principle in an amazing, effortless fashion.


What do both Major Harbac and Richard have in common?  Did they scream, threaten, and intimidate like the crazed Marine drill instructor in the movie Full Metal Jacket or Alec Baldwin’s foul-mouthed sales “guru” in Glengarry Glen Ross?

A 20-Second Exercise to Fuel-Inject Your Leadership

Who remembers 2-Way pagers from the late 90s and early 2000s?  They became popular as a unique means of communication in corporate America and as a super-cool status symbol for rappers and entertainers. 

I should know.  I was one of the top sales executives at SkyTel then — the company that introduced and sold 2-way pagers nationwide.  I landed huge sales deals with financial services giant Fannie Mae and media conglomerate BET (Black Entertainment Television) to name a few.

What the Marine Corps Taught Me About Business Leadership

I joined the Marine Corps at age 17 and spent the next eight years proudly serving my country.  I learned many valuable lessons during my time on active-duty that helped me thrive in corporate America and succeed as a battle-hardened entrepreneur.

And here is one lesson that has repetitively helped me throughout my life as I successfully battled cancer, progressed through the C-suite ranks, and stayed present and connected in front of audiences as large as 10,000 as a business keynote speaker:

Time Management: Fact or Fiction?

This post will take 90-seconds to read and can radically transform your life.  Yet some of you won’t read it because you think you don’t have enough time.  You’re wrong.  You have all the time in the world.  And then some.  

I use to think I didn’t have enough time for this, that, or the other.  I fully embraced David Allen’s fascinating GTD™ (Getting Things Done) system to help me “manage” time.  I had every little email, to-do item, project, thought, note, VM, piece of paper, and you-name-it neatly categorized and arranged so I could get more done.  But I never had enough time to do it all and just kept creating MORE work for me to do. 

Is it Time to Reinvent Your Leadership?

I first had to reinvent my leadership when I made a big decision to leave a very successful sales career in corporate America and start my first business.  10-years later, my “new” business was thriving and I had become “successfully miserable”.   It was time to reinvent — grow, stretch, expand — my leadership again.

People — our clients, colleagues, family members — are attracted to us because of who we are as leaders:  successful, high-achieving, glass-half-full type people.  When we stop being who we are, others will notice, and our business and personal results will plummet.

Leadership Lessons Learned from Battling Cancer — Part 2

I’ve never been sick a day in my life until at age 34 I found “the lump”. I had testicular cancer. Less than 24 hours after my initial diagnosis, I had emergency surgery to remove my right testicle.  

Following three months of brutally aggressive chemotherapy, I needed one more procedure to be cancer-free: Surgery to remove half of my left lung. The surgery was successful. However, I was left confined to a wheelchair unable to do ANYTHING, including going to the bathroom by myself. 

Are You Achieving Your Goals, or Lowering Your Standards?

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how do you rate your career satisfaction?  What about your personal life — how would you rate that on a scale of 1 to 10?  Are you OK if you rank an area of your life a 7, 8, or 9 out of 10?

I recently asked this question to a high-performing C-suite executive who had signed up for my 8-week leadership coaching program, and his answer was surprising.  He scored both professional and personal satisfaction as 10 out of 10.  As I pushed him to look closer and explain more, he confessed, “You know what — I’m achieving all my business and personal goals because they are really easy to hit.  I’m not really challenging myself, or my team.  I’m not even sure if I’m setting the right goals.” 

Who Are the 5 People You Spend the Most Time With?

Tony Robbins, the famous personal development guru, was trained and mentored by leadership pioneer, Jim Rohn.  Jim has since passed away, however, he had a powerful saying that I often share with audiences during my leadership keynote speeches:

We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” 

Who are the five people you spend the most time with?  Are there some people that are “in” that should be “out”? 

Managing Complex Projects: What’s Holding You Back?

Have you ever managed or been part of a project that caused you, and everyone else on the team, unbearable frustration?  I remember managing a complex high-tech sales project worth millions of dollars where I literally wanted to grow more hair just so I could pull it out.

And if you have ever experience this level of frustration with either a business or personal project, then here is one sure way to help you make better decisions, grow as a leader, and complete your projects effectively and efficiently.  Ask yourself — and your team — the following question (its really two questions — sort of):

How to Attract and Retain Top Talent: Content vs. Context

I recently delivered a keynote speech to a very successful high-tech company.  Their senior leadership was meeting for a two-day planning session which allowed them to also spend time together bonding and building deeper team relationships.

One reoccurring challenge I often hear from elite organizations is their never-ending struggle to make the right decision to help them attract and retain top talent.  And this business was no different. 

What Would You Do if the FBI Knocked on Your Door?

My Aikido martial arts academy attracts a lot of high-powered students in Washington, D.C. I have influential business leaders learning from me, FBI agents and CIA officers, U.S. and foreign diplomats — all sorts of people who are part of the country’s (and the world’s) power structure. 

One of those students worked at the Russian embassy in Washington, DC.  And one day, some FBI agents approached me. It turned out that this Russian fellow was a signals intelligence officer — in other words, he was a spy. His job was to intercept U.S. signals and try to crack our codes. The FBI was pretty interested in getting close to him and keeping tabs on how his work was going, so they’d know if they needed to change their codes. 

Don’t Take This Personally…

In your business career, have you ever sat across from a person old enough to be your grandparent who screamed at you until they were blue in the face?  I have.  I closed a huge deal with a publicly traded commercial real estate firm where the obsessive-compulsive CFO painstakingly reviewed each and every invoice line-item by line-item.  According to his math, our six-figure invoice was over by — I kid you not — $1.27, and he wanted to know WHAT WAS GOING ON?! 

Want to Improve Your Leadership? Practice This…

I was recently interviewed about my battle with cancer on Nancy Solari’s “Living Full Out” podcast (jump to the 15:45 mark to hear the interview).  Nancy asked a very important question that went something like this, “Having won your battle against cancer, do you still worry/fear/think about it returning?”

And that question got me wondering.  How many times have you let past experiences — both negative and positive — impact your leadership, decision-making prowess, and business performance in the present?  If you are incomplete over a blown project, missed promotion, or failed business or personal relationship your leadership will suffer and you will lack the motivation necessary to create authentic business transformation.

What, Why, When?

A Russian diplomat client of mine was just kicked out of the country in retaliation for the London poisoning tragedy that happened in March.  Now my client had absolutely nothing to do with the poisoning — he was just caught up in the political “tit-for-tat” between super powers.  

This got me thinking — how many times has a business decision made way “above your pay grade” trickled down to adversely affect your career, company, or community?  I’ve seen it, and experienced it, all to often.   For example, a senior director or EVP changes a compensation plan, or closes a branch office, or kills a promising new product.  What would you do, or have you done, in those situations?

This Question Can Save Your Business (and Life)

We all know Toys “R” Us is shuttering operations after 70-years of making children smile.  And history is littered with famous companies that suffered the same fate such as Blockbuster, Border Books, Sharper Image, and Tower Records to name a few.  

What about the personal projects in your life that have also “shuttered operations”?  Ever go through a divorce, bankruptcy, or realize that the house you bought is not worth as much as you paid for it?  Although I never declared bankruptcy or made a poor real estate investment, I have gone through a divorce.  It sucks.