When directing the Principle-Centered Leadership retreats for Stephen Covey at Sundance, UT, I found my purpose – to help leaders find their natural leadership voice and bring it to life in everyday interactions.
There, in the lower Rocky Mountains, executives would come from all over the world to connect with timeless principles, strengthen their leadership voice, and become more effective. When they returned to work, they would help their teams do likewise. Thus, bringing a little more wisdom to the workplace.
As I headed down the mountain and home to New York, I’d reflect on the impact these leaders would have, and think, “That was worth a week of my life!” My wish for leaders is that they may feel the same way at the end of their work week.
"Mette is one of the most caring, insightful, and truly effective teachers I have ever known."
- Stephen R. Covey
7 Habits of Highly Effective People
TouchPoints, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best Seller, asks you to “think leadership in even the smallest of moments.” Today, the volume of interactions is going up and going up dramatically. The duration of each interaction is going down, and the impact can be exponential. That means you need to influence others in ever-shorter spurts of interactions and many more of them. And, you must do so more skillfully. The leader in the TouchPoint is not the one with the biggest title or budget, it’s the one who behaves like a leader! It’s the person who is tough-minded on the issue and tender-hearted with the people. TouchPoints offers practical advice on what you can do Monday morning and shows the path to mastery. It is available in Danish, Spanish, and many other languages. Fun resources / journal article.
The Ugly Duckling Goes to Work, an international bestseller, provides wisdom for the workplace based on the classic tales of Hans Christian Andersen. It is available in Danish, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and other languages. The stories are for people who want a high standard of living and a good quality of life; who seek to feel alive in their work and have a work LIFE. The Ugly Duckling Goes to Work brings a lighthearted touch to existential questions. Because, instead of studying Kant or Kierkegaard, you learn from an ugly duckling, a vain emperor, and a swaggering dung beetle. Even a Nightingale that promises to: “…come and sing for you, so you may be joyful – and thoughtful.” Foreword by Stephen R. Covey / Chapter 1: The Emperors New Clothes.
Getting a promotion is exciting, yet stepping into larger responsibilities comes with its own set of challenges. Particularly the transition to becoming a leader of leaders and the one to leading an enterprise. Here you need to manifest your leadership voice more fully and more skillfully.
The CEOs I’ve worked with have sought to build their team, revitalize the strategy, or shape a leadership brand. Each solution is specifically crafted to drive the company’s strategic priorities and have included: moonshots at Cape Canaveral, research at London Business School, meditation with monks in Chang Mai, and karate with a world champion. Even a safari to study the beauty and fierceness of living systems (I know, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it).
Senior level leaders are all super smart and skilled. To compete for the next level, the secret is to understand the human side of enterprise. Such work is done through intense, one-year experiences.
An early and fun assignment was with Microsoft’s Talent Xp leaders when the company was number 1 in market capitalization. Later it was the leaders at Finnish Broadcasting as they prepared to “flip the switch” to digital broadcasting, the first nation to do so. More recently the task was to build a unified leadership team and culture at Pandora Jewelry, as they prepared for what, that year, became the largest IPO in Europe.
At Campbell’s, Doug Conant, then CEO, founded his CEO Institute, and for six years we developed three cohorts of global-level leaders. The insights from this collaboration are shared in TouchPoints. Today, Doug and I continue our work together, now with leaders at The Center for Higher Ambition Leadership, a CEO membership organization.
Each year I work with a handful of leaders as they prepare for larger responsibilities. With NYC as our classroom, we explore timeless questions, craft a personal leadership model, and build a portfolio of signature practices.
One of my shortcomings is restlessness, which has led to three different degrees (a BA in physical therapy, an MBA, and a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Development) and careers. In hindsight, what connects them is a profound interest in the human potential.
I stepped into leadership roles early and have the scars to prove it. Implementing severe budget cuts made me appreciate my home region’s Stoicism and resilience. Launching a radically new product required much more than vision; it took daily vigilance. Navigating the matrix taught me that speed was a function of high-trust connections. Running a P & L required discipline. It was a full life…but not fulfilling.
Then, with principle-centered leadership, I found my foundation for leadership. And after joining the Covey Leadership Center, I found my voice – helping executives become more effective by working with human nature and the nature of change.
During the 10 years with Covey and 15 years in my own practice, I have worked with thousands of leaders from organizations such as Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo; Nucor and Lockheed Martin; Este Lauder and Victoria Secrets; Herman Miller and Microsoft; the US Marines and Canadian Mounties; as well as California wineries, Canadian cement and Columbia University.
In addition, there have been many memorable sessions, such as the summit with Jim Collins, Stephen Covey and 20 CEOs right after 9/11; the workshops with Ram Charan during the financial crisis when the anxiety was palpable; and the retreat with Hitendra Wadhwa and 48 MBAs about to graduate from Columbia Business School.
I began my career as a physical therapist, only to discover that my patients’ progress was not about the size of their muscles but the size of their spirit. This peaked my curiosity in behavioral science.
Now, after 25 years studying human dynamics, we find that physical intelligence is actually a shortcut to leadership presence and performance. Really! There is a shortcut!
Leading the way are Silicon Valley companies, as they seek to increase programmers’ flow-state percentage. Many of them drawing on Leadership Embodiment (LE), an approach based on martial arts principles and mindfulness practices. While you need a few thousand repetitions, they are so easy you can do them in a hoodie or high heels, even when standing in line or sitting in a meeting.
By practicing new physiological responses, leaders can step towards antagonism, demands, and verbal attacks, while remaining centered, uplifted, agile, and decisive.