Having the courage

What does it take to be a winner and achieve your goals? “A combination of realistic optimism coupled with tenacity and perseverance,” says Dr. N. Elizabeth Fried, president of My Executive Coach. Recently, Elizabeth caught up with us, sharing insights about having the courage to achieve your goals, how goals should be set and the things a successful person never does.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey to My Executive Coach?

Educationally, my background is in training and development, however, my first job out of grad school was in compensation where I was responsible for designing base pay, short-term incentives and sales compensation programs as well as performance-based pay. Oddly, this positioned me well to understand the business end of the business because it is important to align the compensation strategy with the overall business strategy so I learned a lot, enabling me to ask piercing business questions. From there, I did compensation consulting for about 20 years – exposing me to many different types of businesses. My transition to coaching came about when a client requested information about 360 feedback, which is primarily a developmental tool, rather than one associated with pay. As I investigated this, I became interested in coaching, and the rest is history.

Do you think anyone has the potential to be a leader?

No. Some people are just not cut out for what it takes to make hard decisions and face conflict. A true leader must be able to manage a variety of skills and have natural attributes that are aligned with the job requirements. If a person is simply not wired to deal with some of the tougher stuff, despite the fact that they may develop the skill, ultimately they often suffer from internal conflict … or cognitive dissonance.

This happened with a client of mine. While he was a very bright and capable engineer, from a values perspective his top priority was a love of people with no interest in power or profits. He would place an individual’s needs above the company’s needs. Although we discussed the greater good that had to be addressed, he just couldn’t cope and went into a deep depression because of the job required him to be something he was not.

How do you identify potential leaders?

A leader needs to be able to have a combination of skills and values required by the job and then demonstrate executive presence. Specifically, they must have gravitas. To me, gravitas is a combination of intellectual horsepower and grit. They need to have a deep knowledge in their area of expertise and the ability to withstand conflict and questions without breaking a sweat.

Can you tell us a bit about how you help people get the courage to achieve their goals?

The first issue that needs to be addressed is whose goal is this? Theirs or a company’s imposed goal? Unless they personally are invested in achieving this goal, the likelihood of achieving it isn’t great. So the key is commitment. Commitment happens when there is juice behind it – usually some emotion attached to it to anchor in that commitment. Then the rest is easy. Break it down into small steps. If a person needs to build skill, then it’s a matter of practice, practice, practice, reinforcement, and accountability. Eventually, the new behavior because normal and natural. Success breeds success, as the old adage says. Break things into small steps that are achievable to build that confidence.

What are some of the ways that you think goals should be set?

Identify them and prioritize. One also needs to understand the “why” behind that goal. If there is no real juice or emotionality behind it, the motivation will fade.

Do you think positive thinking is an essential part of achieving one’s goals?

Absolutely, but it takes more than that. One has to be prepared for occasional setbacks and, when that happens, see it with an appreciative eye (a form of positivity). Ask, “What did I learn from this?” and “How can I do it better next time?”.

Do you have any practices that you always follow when providing feedback to others?

I always ask permission before giving feedback. From a neuroscience perspective, it gives the other person a sense of control. If they don’t feel in control, they shut down or attack and will not be receptive.

What things should a successful person never do?

Blame others, stop growing intellectually or give up. One needs to hold one’s self accountable, continue to learn and be open to opportunities.

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