You Do Not Need Charisma To Be An Effective Executive

What Makes An Effective Executive

The next time you need some leadership wisdom, but you don’t want to commit to reading a full book, check out What Makes An Effective Executive by Peter F Drucker.

It is an audio version of an article that Drucker published with the Harvard Business Review. In under 30 minutes, Drucker lays out what it takes to be effective as an executive. It is a masterpiece of concise writing. He wastes no time talking about “leadership charisma,” in fact, he only mentions it to say that it isn’t important. Drucker also spends zero time justifying his own expertise (have you noticed that every business writer spends at least one chapter talking about themselves and why you should listen them?). Instead, he gets focuses specifically on how the top-of-the-top actually get their work done each day.

“Great managers may be charismatic or dull, generous or tightfisted, visionary or numbers oriented. But every effective executive follows eight simple practices.” -Peter F. Drucker

Here are the eight practices:

  1. They ask, “What needs to be done?”
  2. They ask, “What is right for the enterprise?”
  3. They develop action plans
  4. They take responsibility for decisions
  5. They take responsibility for communicating
  6. They are focused on opportunities rather than problems
  7. They make every meeting productive
  8. They think and say “We.”

(If you aren’t familiar with Peter F. Drucker, please see the end of this post.)

Drucker works through each of the eight practices quickly, but with clear points and good examples. If you are a note taker, you will want to have your pen and paper ready before pressing play. I think what I love the most about the article is that it is so practical. There is always value in being inspired by the passion and charisma of a great leader, but that isn’t all there is to the story. Listen to this tonight on your way home from work and tomorrow you’ll be able to improve your own management technique.

Drucker Bio

Yes, he is famous, but don’t beat yourself up too badly if you haven’t heard about him recently. His first major work was published in 1939 and was praised by Winston Churchill.

Peter F. Drucker was a writer, professor, management consultant and self-described “social ecologist.” Hailed by BusinessWeek as “the man who invented management,” Drucker directly influenced a huge number of leaders from a wide range of organizations across all sectors of society. Drucker’s 39 books, along with his countless scholarly and popular articles, predicted many of the major developments of the late 20th century, including privatization and decentralization, the rise of Japan to economic world power, the decisive importance of marketing and innovation, and the emergence of the information society with its necessity of lifelong learning. In the late 1950s, Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker,” and he spent the rest of his life examining an age in which an unprecedented number of people use their brains more than their backs.

(This bio and additional information may be found at


3 Ways I was a Jerk in my 20s

Photo credit: My Insights Blog

I have been seeing a lot of posts lately about what experienced professionals would tell their 22-year-old self. It is hard to read those headlines without getting a little reflective. Unfortunately, I was a jerk in my early 20s. Maybe you were one of those “evolved” 20-somethings with perfect self-awareness, but I most certainly was not.

Looking back, my “jerkiness” mainly took three forms:

  1. I was terrible at remembering people’s names. And what is worse, I wasn’t self aware enough to even feel bad about it. I just rationalized that some people are bad at remembering names, so why try?
  2. I interrupted. A LOT. Looking back, I just didn’t have the skills to join in a conversation without blindly jumping in and cutting someone off. So I either interrupted or I kept my mouth shut entirely.
  3. I constantly told “me too” stories. Oh, you went to the beach last week? I went last summer. You have worked with a client in the medical device industry? I had one of those and I may get another one soon. A coworker, who shall remain nameless, actually said to me once, “wow – you have a story for everything, don’t you?” I don’t think they meant it as a compliment.

It is mortifying to think about how I handled myself in social situations at that age. So why bring it up now? Because I do not want to act like a jerky 22 year old anymore.

Three ways to not act like a jerky 22 year old:

Pay close attention to the details. Yes, some people are better than others at remembering names, but for most of us, it is a learned skill that can be perfected. When you forget a person’s name, however innocently, you are sending the message that the person isn’t important to you. Since my 20s, I’ve encountered a handful of people who sent me that message loud and clear. They forgot basic facts about my life or things that I had mentioned to them at our last meeting. It made me feel small and I lost respect for those people. That is not the type of professional (or human being) that I want to be. People matter and their details matter too. Whether you jump on the Dale Carnegie bandwagon or just try some name-remembering tips, strengthen this muscle.

Listen first, then speak. I did a whole blog post on why active listening is important. It is also a learned skill that you can perfect. I think breaking the habit of interrupting gets easier as you gain experience, because you also gain confidence. You learn that what you have to say is worth sharing, so you don’t feel as panicked to be heard. This is a random example, but have you ever noticed that Charlie Rose is amazing at this on CBS This Morning? Charlie, Nora, and Gale (because we’re on a first name basis like that) host the show in a round table format, and if you watch Charlie closely, you’ll see that he’ll casually raise a finger or shift his body to signal that he has something to add to the conversation. He is polite, but he gets heard. If only I had learned to do that at 22.

Practice multiple methods of connecting. Looking back, I realize that the reason I was constantly telling little random stories about myself is that I wanted a way to connect with the other person. Each story was a little “me too!” aimed making both of us comfortable and continuing the conversation. That is absolutely a legitimate tactic for handling yourself at a cocktail party… but it can’t be your only one. Business Insider recently did a fantastic infographic about becoming a master networker. Before your next work event, pick one or two new tactics to add to your arsenal, so that you aren’t only talking about yourself.

Business Insider: How to be a Master Networker

So let’s raise a glass to age and experience… and the knowledge that I’ll probably write another post like this in a decade or two about what an idiot I was in my 30s.

Celebrating 120 Days

Celebrating 120 days of blogging

According to the New York Times and a survey published by Technorati, blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants. Yes, you read that correctly. I would have a better shot at succeeding if I started a sandwich shop down the street. Technorati’s survey (now fairly dated) found that 95% of blogs are abandoned after 120 days.

That is the negative news. The positive news? I am the 5%.

This blog has been active since January 12, 2015. We are past the 120 days mark. I just celebrated that by eating a piece of really amazing chocolate cake. What have I learned so far?

When you are nervous about something, rip the Band-Aid off and just start. I had been brainstorming about starting a blog for several years. I messed around on Blogger for a few months, but wasn’t able to find a good rhythm. As I posted about earlier this year, when I decided to try again with WordPress I didn’t give myself time to agonize over the details. I jumped in and I will refine as I go. I was also really nervous about finally posting the link to Facebook and inviting my peers to read it. Now I know that I didn’t need to be. Which leads me to my next lesson…

Most people will be very supportive, and everyone else will keep quiet. I have been overwhelmed by the support I’ve received from friends and family. Former colleagues, high school classmates, and friends have all read posts and given me a little boost to keep going. And just as exciting, when I have reached out to other bloggers and published authors, they have very gracious in their responses. So far, the negative voices of the world have kept pretty quiet. I know that this will not always be the case, so I am saving another piece of chocolate cake for when I get my first nasty comment or mean tweet. That’s when I’ll know I’ve made it.

Authenticity garners the best results. To date, my most popular posts have been:

  1. The Benefits of Launching Imperfectly
  2. How to Makeover Your Mornings Without Adding Stress
  3. The Key to Surviving the Worst Day Ever

In the Morning Makeover and the Worst Day Ever posts, I reference published authors who were kind enough to tweet and/or retweet links to their own followers. As you can imagine, that helped to expand my reach exponentially. But I still remind myself that they wouldn’t have shared the posts if they hated them, so I must be doing something right. The Benefits of Launching Imperfectly did not have a “celebrity endorsement,” but it is still the most popular post on the blog. I like to think that means it resonated.

What does this teach me? Authenticity wins. While I absolutely want to share great resources with you, you want to hear what I have to say too. I can do that!

Without question, my personal favorite post so far is The Key to Surviving the Worst Day Ever. In case you are wondering, I did look up to see if @ballerproblems was taken on Twitter (it is) and to see if a baller problems blog already exists (it does). However, @99ballerproblems is still available… baller problems

Schedule a Crappy Stuff Day

to do list

I consider myself to be a fairly organized person. I keep a calendar and detailed to-do lists. You probably do this as well. Inevitably, there are tasks on my to-do list that never seem to get done. They are pushed back “just one more day,” or re-scheduled, or “forgotten” – even though they are right there on the list next to the other tasks. They are the crappy things. The tasks that I should do, but I really don’t want to do. The phone calls or conversations that I’m nervous about. The tasks that I’ve been avoiding for a month, but still need to be addressed.

When you have more than one of these tasks on your list, it is time to schedule a “Crappy Stuff Day.” Here is how:

  • Pick a day in the next week when you have some open time or control over your schedule. That will be your Crappy Stuff Day. Mark it on your calendar now.
  • Schedule your day – there is a technique to this. Start by planning a fun lunch break. It can be short, but ideally it is away from the location of your crappy tasks (for many people, that is outside the office). Ask a funny friend to join you, so that your conversation will be about something other than work.
  • Next, take a look at your to-do list. Which task is the most painful? Which one would benefit you the most if you could just get it done? Schedule that task for first thing in the morning on Crappy Stuff Day. Yes, it will suck. But this way it will be done as fast as possible, and studies have shown that we have more will power in the morning.
  • Then, giving yourself ample time to finish each crappy task, and still keeping your lunch date, fill-in the rest of your schedule for the day. If you need to, work a little late. Crappy Stuff Day will suck, but you want to get as much done as possible so that it doesn’t turn into Crappy Stuff Week.
  • Check your schedule for the day after Crappy Stuff Day. If possible, schedule something you like to do for first thing the next morning. Remind yourself why you like your work.

Now that you have Crappy Stuff Day scheduled, try not to think about it. Focus on all the other tasks on your to-do list. The night before Crappy Stuff Day, take a few minutes to prepare, but don’t over analyze it. The goal is to get it all done, feel relieved, and move on! When it is over, you can (and should) congratulate yourself on your self-discipline and productivity.

Another benefit of Crappy Stuff Day? Donuts. You absolutely deserve a breakfast treat and fancy coffee on Crappy Stuff Day. Also, once it is over, wine and/or steak.

What is your technique for getting crappy stuff done? Please share @RachelLColello or in the comments below!

This Marketing Tactic Gets Me Every Time

I have studied marketing in some form or another for the last 15ish years, including pricing strategy… And yet this marketing tactic works on me EVERY SINGLE TIME. On one hand, it is infuriating. And on the other hand, at least I know it is happening, right? 24hr Members Only 2-for-1 Sales

I log into to use my monthly credit. Just as I’m about to look at my wish list or start browsing the latest bestsellers, a pop-up window tells me that over the next 24hrs I can choose two books for my one available credit and asks me if I’d like to look at the list of qualifying books. Well, it’s only for the next 24hrs, so it won’t hurt to look at the list, right? Maybe one of my wish list books will be on there.

80% of the time, I don’t recognize any of the books available through the deal. Usually I see a nonfiction book that is pretty close to a book on my wish list, close enough and with good enough reviews that I decide to try it. Then at least one of the other fiction books looks interesting enough to try. Because why not… it’s basically free and I can return it if I don’t like it.

And with that one pop-up, I have used my one monthly credit to try two books I’ve never heard of, rather than working my way through my enormously long wish list of books I am actually planning to read.

The first reason it works: Reactance theory

Reactance theory is a social psychological theory developed in the 1960s by Jack Breham (read the academic definition here). Reactance theory says that when an individual’s freedom to engage in a specific behavior is threatened, the threatened behavior becomes more attractive. Applied to shopping, it goes like this: We have the freedom to make a purchase whenever we want. However, a limited time offer says that we can only make a specific purchase within a specific window of time… limiting our freedom to purchase and making the purchase that much more attractive.

Sometimes limited time offers are applied just to a sale or a special deal. Other times – e.g. the McRib, the Shamrock Shake, and the Starbucks Pumpkin Latte – they apply to products that are only available seasonally. The reactance theory can also be applied to other situations, such as scheduling meetings with difficult to reach people. Simply saying that you are only in town for a few days (vs. “my schedule is wide open”) can, in theory, make the other person more likely to snag one of your open meeting slots.

The second reason it works: The power of FREE

The other reason the deal works is because it gives away a book for “free.” Who doesn’t love a freebie?

“…Even though “50% off!” and “Buy one, get one free” have the exact same outcome in terms of price paid, a BOGO promotion seems extra appealing. Interestingly, while most of the appeal probably comes from that magic F-word and the feeling we have somehow cheated the system to obtain value, an article in The Economist posits that many consumers are just really bad at interpreting the meaning of percentage-discounts but the meaning of ‘free’ is universal.” – The TipTap Lab Blog

What kinds of deals are you a sucker for?

The Tranquility du Jour Podcast

Tranquility du Jour
Image credit:

The resource: Tranquility du Jour by Kimberly Wilson 

We all have that one female friend who is cursed by her own cuteness (I am lucky enough to have more than one). The unenlightened ignore her in meetings because she insists on taking notes with a pink sparkle pen; despite the fact that 80% of the time she’s the smartest person in the room. She brings bubbly enthusiasm to her projects, which are almost always executed flawlessly, but she is sometimes ignored by “serious professionals.” Kimberly Wilson is that friend.

I have followed Kimberly religiously since I discovered her podcast almost ten years ago. Yes, her website is very pink. Yes, she regularly uses words like “Le Beau,” “Bisous,” and “totally.” But behind all that casual cuteness is a savvy mogul who:

  • Published 6 books
  • Founded one of the top yoga studios in the country – Tranquil Space
  • Runs a successful workshop/retreat/coaching business
  • Launched her own eco-fashion line – TranquiliT
  • Co-launched the Tranquil Space Foundation
  • Earned multiple graduate degrees while keeping her other ventures in the air

I hope to someday interview her for this blog, so that we can all benefit from her experience (obviously she is very good at staying engaged), but today I just want to focus on her podcast interviews.

NOTE: Gentlemen, Kimberly is obviously a little female-focused. If she isn’t your brand of scotch, no offense taken. Check out her equally talented “beau” Tim Mooney – a lawyer turned entrepreneur who has designed his own career to fit his own interests.

The Tranquility Du Jour Podcast is particularly useful for:

  • When you need some career path inspiration – Kimberly has done a fantastic job of finding and interviewing a wide variety of female business owners who ignore “traditional” career paths to define their own. If you have any inkling that you might want to go out on your own someday, these podcasts give you an idea of what that path may look like.
  • When you are fried and you just can’t take it anymore – We’ve all been there, and sometimes we need new ideas on how to keep it together. In almost all of her podcasts, Kimberly asks her interviewees about how they cultivate tranquility in their own lives. She also gives some ideas of her own. Great commute listening after a long, hard week.
  • Practical business advice – One of my favorite podcasts is when Kimberly explains how she secured her first book deal, outlining the process for those of us who may want to try the same thing someday. I’m not ready to start on a proposal tomorrow, but at least now I understand the process!

What you’ll find: gives you access to her entire empire, from books to eco-clothing line (start here). Her podcasts are available on iTunes and also via the Tranquility Du Jour App.

Some podcasts to start with:

Happy listening!

Have another resource I should consider featuring on the blog? Please comment below or find me on twitter @RachelLColello.