No. 20 - Tell People What You Feel

Standing outside a seaside restaurant in Malaga, Spain was an older woman dressed head to toe in a perfectly tailored aqua colored pantsuit apparently waiting for someone to join her. Sunglasses on her head and (likely) an Hermes scarf draped across one shoulder.To this awkward-feeling college girl on Spring break, she looked the epitome of grace, confidence, and comfortableness with her happy facial expression, erect posture, and poised demeanor. After patiently waiting, an equally dapper young man joined her (I’m assuming her son) and gentlemanly escorted her to their table. She listened to him earnestly, touched his arm occasionally, spoke with enthusiasm, and laughed easily. I thought to myself, "that's what I want to be like when I get older."Today, I am that older woman. Sometimes young women in my audience come up after a speech and say, "I hope I look like you when I'm your age." It makes me feel good. And then I feel regret that I did not compliment that woman I saw in Malaga those many years ago. I was seated right beside her; I could have leaned over and said, "You're a striking woman. You're what I want to look like when I get older."Today if I see someone who makes me want to compliment him or her, I do it immediately and clearly because I don't want to miss the chance to make someone feel good. It takes such little effort to maintain someone's self esteem, and the payoff is so great for both of you.- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 19 - Six Signs That Your Job May Be At Risk

You can do everything right, and things can still go splat in your career. As John Elway, two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback, says, “Not only do you have to be good, but you have to be lucky.”Keep alert for some of the warning signs your job is at risk.  This is not to be defensive but offensive in managing your career.* You sense disregard for your authority by those above, below, and around you.* The number of people who report to you is significantly reduced; budgets are cut.* You increasingly feel that your energy, enthusiasm, and smarts are getting you nowhere.* You experience notable indignities, such as being ignored in meetings, being left out of the loop on key decisions, or being omitted from the circulation lists for important e-mails.* You have frequent run-ins with peers.* You are repeatedly passed over for the most interesting, important, or prestigious assignments.It's smart to pay attention to your gut feeling on this.  Before you get panicky, ask questions to ferret out feelings vs. reality. Regardless of what you hear today, prepare for being “unlucky” someday. Keep your resume updated, and step up your efforts in expanding your network of contacts. Prepare emotionally and financially, so you regain a sense of control in your destiny.- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 18 - Seconds Make or Break a Career

The Seattle Seahawks coach's decision to pass vs. run the football from the one yard line in the final seconds of the Super Bowl game changed his legacy and the player’s lives forever. Their six-month playing season of all-out effort turned on a few seconds' decision and action at the end of the game.Rosa Parks changed history with her few seconds of refusing to go to the back of the bus.Daily we see lives ended in highway crashes by a few seconds texting.Similarly, seconds can make or break your career.You:

- answer a single question intelligently or stupidly at the right or wrong time- say hello and engage in conversation with the stranger in the elevator (or not), who turns out to be the decision maker on your proposal- speak up and ask a question vs. sitting silently like the rest of the group- walk into a meeting with a confident comportment, relaxed expression on your face, and purposeful pacing, or slink in and slouch with an unengaged demeanor- make one more phone call, send one more email, take a bit more initiative on a project before you leave work for the day

Months and years of hard effort are necessary, but seconds of doing things a little differently/a little better than the next person is the big separator.Think about it: If you take 3 seconds today to do 3 actions a little differently/a little better, that’s 9 seconds that could change your life.-Debra Benton

No. 17 - How Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll Ups His Game

Earlier this week, I recommended that you write your story -- where you came from, what and where you learned what you know, the experiences that caused you to be you, and so on.Korn/Ferry Briefings magazine interviewed Pete Carroll to find out how his leadership philosophy evolved after regrouping from being fired from the New England Patriots:“I wasn’t sure yet what was really at the fundamental core and essence of who I was. I needed to figure that out if I was ever going to have a chance….I picked up a notebook, and from that point forward I started writing down my thoughts about what was important to me in coaching. I was trying to get at the essence of what I was all about and what was meaningful to me.  And out of that came a clear realization that I’m a competitor and that’s the way I had spent my whole life……So competition became the central theme of our program, and I realized that everything I was doing, that I would undertake, would be with a competitor's mindset….And we needed to figure out who the guys (players) were that we were working with. We needed to understand them as well as we possibly could. We needed to uncover their unique, special qualities that made them them….” says Carroll.So that’s another reason to write your story.  To find out what you already know but kind of forgot about yourself.  It’s a good practice to learn the same about your own team players. If you help them find themselves and find their best qualities, then you’ll help them in their highest ability to perform.-DebraPhoto:  Ted S. Warren via Flickr Creative Commons

No. 16 - Why Should You Write Your Biography?

Emerson Spartz, the 27-year-old Internet media entrepreneur, recently raised $8 million in venture capital funding for his aggregate site At age 12 he created the most popular Harry Potter fan site in the world, MuggleNet.  Spartz tells The New Yorker magazine that when he was growing up, his parents made him read four short biographies of successful people every single day.Not a bad idea for your kids — or you — and is one good source.But don’t just read others' biographies; write your own too. Include: Where and how you grew up Early influences and influencers who shaped you Choices you had and decisions (good and bad) that you madeWrite your career and life progression but don’t make it obituary-like with just the facts.  Add the “color” of your life -- your loves, your losses, your dreams, and your goals going forward.Your significant other will enjoy reading it, and when the kids are old enough, give them a copy.Think about it. How many of you have lost a parent or someone important to you, and wouldn’t it be wonderful to read their life story?  In addition, it’s a great refresher/reminder when you have to talk about your background in a workplace conversation.- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 15 - Speaking Highlights and a New Video

As a professional speaker, I need to have a video demonstrating my style and sampling my content.  Videographer Ben Westdorp put together this new, 18-minute short for me.If you know someone planning an event and looking for a speaker please forward this link or direct them to my website's Speaking page. Thank you in advance!- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 14 - Four Things Your Boss Won’t Explicitly Tell You But That You Need to Understand

1.  You being trustworthy is more important than you being smart.2.  You being self-confident is often more important than intelligence, skill, or talent.3.  You can and should argue with the boss as long as you do it with respect and you have a valid point to make.4.  You being great is necessary but not sufficient; you have to make others great, too. Best is to do both.- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

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

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.— DebraP.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

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, 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

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

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.- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.Photo by Mark Hunter

No. 8 - Wise Words from One of My Mentors

Reading The Wall Street Journal in the late 80’s, I frequently saw a byline in the Manager’s Journal column “by Jack Falvey.”  Every few months I read Jack's well-documented, thought-out, and colorfully written commentary on business.  His was the column I always looked for, tore out and saved.After a couple of years reading his writing, I decided to try to contact him and talk to him in person.  Keep in mind this was pre-Internet days so I couldn’t search Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook. I had to do a little detective work, but I found him in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire.  He picked up the phone when I called. No secretary interceding. No voicemail. Just Jack.I told him I admired his writing and just wanted to tell him how much it helped me as a young career woman. He was gracious, gave me his time, gave me advice, and became a life long friend and mentor.  To this day, I still call Jack when I have a vexing problem and always get a fresh perspective on things.Daily he sends a missive through  I especially liked today's message, so I'm passing it on:"When a customer does layoffs, keep track of where everyone goes.We sell to moving targets. There are fewer gold watches given out than ever before. That dynamic means that we should have a means of tracking our industry contacts. When someone is hit between the eyes, they always appreciate a kind word. We who are in the business know how to take hits. That is not a common trait, especially among the buying versus selling fraternity. The person who would not return your phone calls, rescheduled or canceled appointments, and generally made your life miserable, will now join you for lunch on an hour’s notice. Make the call. Make their day in as positive a way as possible. Because you are professionally out and about, you have the industry knowledge that cubicle dwellers do not. Share that perspective. It will cost you nothing but a lunch to demonstrate a little humanity. The circle of life is much larger than many small people think it is. Widen their world a bit. Brightening someone’s day will do wonders for your own positive mental attitude, while at the same time being an excellent business practice."You can sign up for his missives by contacting him at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 7 - Go For the Top Job: 11 Reasons to Be CEO

My expertise is to help people who aspire to the CEO role to think and act like effective ones do.  But sometimes people say to me, “I’m not sure I want to be a CEO.”  My response: “What! Why not?  That’s the best job in the company!”That top job is the job where you can: Turn things around; make things happen. Make a difference. Select the people you work with. Do something about the problems you complain about. Make your own decisions. Minimize doing things that you think are stupid. Do what you think is right. Choose the chances you’re going to take. Make decisions that can make the world a better place.  (Use your influence and resources for your choice of initiative:  world hunger, malaria, humanitarian relief, global peace, fighting corruption, and so forth.) Make more money (to give away if you want). And control your own destiny.Most everyone would be happy to be the top dog, the honcho, the chief for the above reasons; but most feel it’s unrealistic.  So they turn it around and act like they don’t want it anyway. But they wouldn’t turn it down if offered!It’s going to happen to someone; it might as well be you.You don’t have to be the company’s top record producer, an alumnus of the best B-school, or have the highest IQ. You can come from any walk of life. You can be tall, short, attractive, and not so attractive.You do have to work on being CEO material before you get the job – that helps you get there, causes them to see you in the role, and increases your chance of success while in the job.If you’re going to work anyway, you might as well go for the top job. I say, “If it’s not going to happen in your company, go to another company, or start your own!”A CEO friend of mine said, “I figured I’m as smart as others running the show plus I didn’t like busting my a**  as a good soldier and corporate stooge for someone else. I decided to be the boss that I always wanted to have.”—DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.Photo by Kumar Appaiah

No. 6 - Keep On Keepin’ On In Whatever You are Doing

My book Executive Charisma (McGraw-Hill) was published in 2004.  Last week it showed up on some business bestseller lists, ten years later.  Now that’s an early Christmas present for me! Not only did it please me to see renewed interest, but it means in April and October of next year there will be another royalty check in the mail.I don’t write this to brag but to give you the back story.  After my first book Lions Don’t Need to Roar (Warner Books) I thought, “That’s it. I wrote a book. I’ve done it.” But what I didn’t know is if it sells well, the publisher wants you to write another one. I thought I was a one-book person – I put everything I knew into that one.Well, the publisher insisted, paid a nice advance, so I struggled to write another while thinking, “I can’t do this.” Until one night when I woke up at 3 AM and decided to change the words to “I can do this.”  Went back to sleep, got up and started writing How To Think Like a CEO (Warner Books) which made all the big business bestseller lists.So then I got hooked on writing and ended up publishing my tenth book this Spring, The CEO Difference (McGraw-Hill).  When cleaning out my files yesterday I ran into one titled “Book Proposals” and started going through it.  Although the publisher wants you to write another book, you still have to have a good idea so you pitch a proposal you think they might buy. In one six-month period, I presented eight different proposals to them. Each one was rejected until the last one (on the list that follows) hit the mark.To give you an idea of what was rejected: How to Present Like a CEO: The Ten Keys to Commanding Authority, Influencing Others, and Leaving a Positive Lasting Impression Do It Everyday: 365 Tips, Tricks, and Tales from a Leadership Development Expert Beyond Brilliance: 101 Ways to Ensure Your Upward Mobility Busting Out of Pink Collar Prison: Career Advice for Women on How to Break Out and Prosper Fix It!: Today’s Business Leaders Show You how to Solve Problems and Become Tomorrow’s Leaders Top Dogs Talk: What Good Leaders Do and You Should Too The Heart of the CEO: The Human Side of the Public Job What to Do From Age 22 to be CEO by 42Every pitch got rejected except the last one, which was re-titled and became my ninth book, CEO Material (McGraw-Hill).  So when I brag about a new book, remember that it came after l-o-t-s of rejection.  You and I just keep trying though, don’t we!—DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 5 - Red Flags This Job Isn’t For You

[caption id="attachment_331" align="alignnone" width="320"] Photo: Duncan RobsonWhen you are looking for a job and get an offer, your excitement can cause you to overlook some red flags. Even if you're at a time of near-desperation, slow down and honestly ask yourself (and answer) the questions below.  You want to minimize your having to look for a job, again, in the near future because this one didn’t live up to your expectations.  And, by the way, these questions are ones you can ask yourself about your current job, too.

-Will this position broaden my experience, expose me to new areas, and teach me things I’ll need in the future?

-Is the management philosophy in sync with my own?

-Is it a stable management time for the company?

-Would I want to work here for the rest of my life – or even five years?

-What happened to my predecessor?

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No. 4 - NFL Football is Business Just Like Your Business

[caption id="attachment_327" align="alignnone" width="350"] Photo: Todd ShoemakeFor a few days I found myself staying at the same hotel as the New England Patriots football team.  Naturally, I took every opportunity possible to engage in conversation whether in the elevator, lobby, workout room, or restaurant.When they found out I was an executive coach — interested in parallels in athletic coaching —  various players were open to telling me their opinion.  Repeatedly they wanted to make clear that playing football isn't a game to them, it's their job.  In high school and college it was a game, but pro football is their profession as “money is the big motivator just like any business."They told me they don't need or look for motivation and locker room pep talks from their coach (again, that’s for high school and college).  As one player said, "So many people want to be NFL players that we're pretty self motivated.”  What they want from coaching is: Technique and skill development (with both verbal and visual explanations) Good direction that covers all contingencies and keeps them from going in unprepared Honest and loyal encouragementAnd like you, they prefer not to be yelled at.- Debra

No. 3 - Push Back With Respect

There is a new show on NBC this season called Madam Secretary starring the talented actress Teo Leoni.  My favorite line in the season opener was when the Secretary of State (e.g. Madam Secretary) was told about her boss's order (e.g. The U.S. President), "You don't have a choice."  And her response, "Here's the problem.  I've never met a situation where I don't have a choice in the matter."I like that attitude:  With respect, do not defer.-Debra

No. 2 - Pass On What You Learn

Today I browsed a used bookstore in my neighborhood, looking to add to the pile of books I hold in reserve in the corner of my office for emergency reading.As an author supporting the publishing industry, I should be shopping at a Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or 800-CEO-reads buying new books. But I read so much, I can’t afford my habit.Smack dab in the middle of the $2 hardcover shelf I spotted a very familiar book: How to Think Like a CEO. My book. It was a Businessweek and New York Times business bestseller when published in 1994.Of course I had to buy the book. I couldn't let it sit on the $2 shelf next to thirteen Nora Roberts romance novels and four Lance Armstrong It's Not About the Bike books.At the checkout counter I told the clerk with mock exasperation (but really with pride), "I found a copy of a book that I wrote," showing the book jacket photo so she could see it really was me."That's way cool," said the clerk, and I think she meant it.At first I was disappointed that the original book buyer decided to get rid of it. Then I changed my perspective and decided to rationalize that the original book owner had learned all s/he could and wanted to generously pass on to others the great wealth of knowledge.I chose the perspective I want because I remembered what one mentor told me many years ago: "Your ability to be happy is directly related to your ability to rationalize!"- Debra

No. 1 - Why I Write, Coach, and Speak

Some of the last words my mother said to me before she died were, " teach people how to be good to other people."I'm glad she saw her daughter's work that way. I'd just add, "...teach people how to be good to other people while still being a strong, strategic, decisive leader."You can do both; in fact, to lead today's diverse work force you have to do be able to do both -- or people will not trust, follow, or listen to you.That is my life's work: To help you be different and better than competitors -- in how you think, act, and interact -- in both your professional and personal worlds. It's not to have control over others, but to be in control of your own world.I constantly try to get better -- to learn new or better ways of handling myself and situations that I face in my world. Everything I know and learn I'm eager to share with you, and that is why I write, coach, and speak.- Debra