No. 13 – Leadership Development — Now, Then and Beyond

Posted on December 15th, 2014 by in Best Leadership Practices, Executive Coaching

Father and son

Today a client called me to provide advice to his son who is the president of their company. Twenty-seven years ago, I coached the father in his career. All this time later, he said he still remembered things we discussed and he wanted some similar help for his son. As we caught up with each other, he told me that a lot of his plans, goals, and dreams were realized because of our discussions. One specific hope he’d had was to have a son who wanted to and could take over the helm of the successful business he’d built.

Of course, I immediately reached out to his son and we had a productive conversation around a leadership situation he wanted advice on.

Yes, I’m bragging to you with this story because:
One, I’m proud of having a bit of an impact in this important man’s life.

Two, to remind you that if we work together, you get me “for life” as your coach. Nothing makes me happier than to hear from a past client seven years or seventeen years or in this case, twenty-seven years later.

Each of my clients is important to me, and I’m here for them — and you.

— Debra

P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.


Photo: SvenWerk

No. 12 – Leadership Styles Vary, But Successful Execs Share a Common Trait

Posted on December 8th, 2014 by in Best Leadership Practices, Executive Coaching

Business or casual, leadership styles vary

The most frequent reason a CEO sends executives to me for coaching is to improve their leadership styles. The individuals are described in some fashion as “off-the-charts bright ….but needs to step-up-to-the-bat and take control of the power that could be theirs.”

When I get CEOs to explain further, I find that they mean the otherwise smart person is either too aggressive in manner (and puts people off) or too passive (and doesn’t get buy-in) when dealing with others.

It’s an over-simplification to coach the right leadership style because what’s right depends on the organization, the business environment, the company size and stage of growth, the industry, what’s best for the workers, what’s best for shareholders, and whether an entrepreneurial leader vs. administrative leader vs. salesman leader vs. an innovative leader is needed at this point in time. For effective leadership styles, context is everything.

But one element is required in all leadership styles regardless of the context: That element is confidence.

When someone is too aggressive, mean-sprited, demanding, and critical of others — it stems from their own insecurity.

When someone is too passive, risk averse, afraid to make decisions, and poor at delegating — it stems from their own insecurity.

My job is to change their confidence level through the introduction of new ways of thinking and new behavior — that they previously didn’t think possible.

Because when they become consistently confident, they:

  • Make better decisions, more quickly
  • Take careful risks
  • Refuse to be a sycophant
  • Refuse to tolerate sycophantic behavior in others
  • Express themselves better
  • Don’t lie…or need to lie to cover up their insecurity
  • Truly “step-up-to-the-bat and take control of the power that can be theirs”

Every emerging leader comes to me with a unique personality and proclivities ingrained since age six and honed until twenty-six (or so). I want to retain that individualism. (Well, frankly, it can’t be changed.) But I can provide individuals with new ways to think, act, and interact that coincide with their beliefs and make them measurably more effective at the same time.

Give me a call if you know someone who could benefit from this approach. — Debra


Photo by Sonny Abesamis.

No. 11 – CEO Whisperer…The Backstory


This month’s issue of Fortune features Tony Robbins on the cover with the bold headline “The CEO Whisperer.”  That is a domain name I’ve owned and used for many years, so I was quite proud to see it prominently featured.  Didn’t hurt that it brought some nice hits to my site,

Robbins is quite a pro.  We were on the same speaking docket for YPO (Young President’s Organization) in Mexico City some years back where I got to spend time with him and his entourage, and see the power he presents from the stage and behind the curtain.

People often ask where my domain name came from. Well, I’m married to a cowboy and he knew of the man known as the “horse whisperer” famous for calmly talking and developing trust in improving a horse’s behavior — while never breaking down the spirit of the horse.

So being around the cowboy and his horses I’ve learned that people can be like horses in that some will test you, some will teach you, and some will bring out the best in you.

– Debra Benton

No. 10 – In Every Culture, Effective Leadership is Key

Posted on November 18th, 2014 by in Best Leadership Practices, Books

Foreign translations of Debra Benton's business books

It’s always a fun email to receive from a client or friend traveling in Abu Dhabi, Sydney, Hong Kong, or other parts of the world who sends a note like, “Saw your book at the Heathrow Airport bookstore today. Pulled it out and placed it on the shelf so the cover was showing, not just the spine!” Puts a smile on my face because I can see them doing it — as I have done it in bookstores around the world.

The publishers send me a handful of copies of my books printed in different languages. If in your diverse circle of friends/colleagues you have some whose native language is German, Turkish, British, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Chinese, or Arabic and you’d like to surprise them with a book, contact me. Drop me a note, and I’ll make them available to you for the cost of shipping only.

– Debra

No. 9 – Clear Thinking Becomes Clear Writing

Posted on November 13th, 2014 by in Effective Communication, Professional Growth

How to write clearly

Whether writing an email, a proposal, an article, or a book, my writing mentors have taught me a simple 3-step test to ask myself. It’s a must after each completed piece, but equally important after each paragraph, even each sentence:

1.  What am I trying to say?

2.  Have I said it?

3.  Is it clear to someone reading it for the first time?

Following that simple test, I’ve found that my writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things I keep out that shouldn’t be there.

I’ve added one more question to the test:

4.  Why should the reader care; what’s in it for them?

This last question is to nudge the reader’s curiosity along to continue reading. The author of On Writing Well, William Zinsser, says #4 is to cajole with freshness, or novelty, or paradox, or humor, or purpose — with an unusual idea, an interesting fact, or a question — something to make the reader smile and linger on what you wrote.

So this blog is a reminder to try and write even the most mundane message in a clear and direct way without being pompous or pretentiousness. That’s where your humanity and warmth will cause people to always want to read what you wrote and be more likely to positively respond.

– Debra

P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

Photo by Mark Hunter

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