Episode: 135 |
Alisa Cohn:
Senior Executive Coaching:


Alisa Cohn

Senior Executive Coaching

Show Notes

Our guest today is Alisa Cohn, an executive coach, a writer, and a member of Marshall Goldsmith’s 100 Coaches.  Marshall Goldsmith is considered by many to be the leading executive coach in the world, and Alisa shares the story of how she got to know him and get selected to join this exclusive group.

You can learn more about Alisa through her website, www.alisacohn.com, and while you’re there you can sign up for her newsletter, which she calls a “barrel of goodness.”  You can also reach out to her on Twitter, @alisacohn.

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman:               Hello Alisa. It is great having you on the show.

Alisa Cohn:                   Will it’s so great to be here. Thanks for this.

Will Bachman:               Alisa let’s start Marshall Goldsmith. You have been selected and you’ve been working with him as Marshall Goldsmith 100 I think. Tell us a little bit about that.

Alisa Cohn:                   Oh my God, that’s like one of my favorite topics. Yes, so first let’s just say that I’ve known Marshall for quite a while. And I was fortunate enough about three years ago to be in a workshop. The workshop was called, Design The Life You Love by our friend Ayse Birsel.

Alisa Cohn:                   And at the end of the workshop I went over to Marshall and said, “Hey Marshall, how did you like that workshop?” He said, “Oh it was great.” He said, “I’m gonna adopt 100 coaches and teach them everything I know for free and ask them to pay it forward in the future.” And I said, “Oh that’s great, you should really go do that.”

Alisa Cohn:                   And then a few months later I saw that he was really doing it. And you have to apply to be in the program. And he got 16,000 applicants as a result of one video that he put on LinkedIn. And I was just really honored, beyond honored to be chosen.

Alisa Cohn:                   And the thing is that with Marshall it’s both wise, and fun, and connected, and also quite loose so you can’t really call it a program. It’s just a number of us, it’s a hundred coaches, who are coaches, and also thought leaders, and also some just leaders and senior executives. So it’s a mix of different kinds of people.

Alisa Cohn:                   And what we do is we get together periodically. And Marshall kind of calls us together and we do different kinds of learning events. And again it’s learning but like informal learning. Our group presents to each other. We have the former CEO of Ford, Alan Mulally has done a workshop for us. The CEO of the World Bank Jim Kim has done a workshop for us. So it’s that kind of thing.

Alisa Cohn:                   And the last thing I would say is that it’s just amazing to be in this group of peers along with Liz Wiseman, and Keith Ferrazzi, and Whitney Johnson, and Chester Elton, Dorie Clark. Who are just really extraordinary people to learn from as well as Marshall himself.

Will Bachman:               Yeah I think another guest on this show [inaudible 00:02:20] is also a member of that.

Alisa Cohn:                   Oh yes.

Will Bachman:               Yeah.

Alisa Cohn:                   [inaudible 00:02:23] absolutely. Yeah, he’s amazing.

Will Bachman:               Can you give us an example of an exercise that you’ve done together. I mean this is amazing. And for listeners who aren’t familiar, Marshall Goldsmith is one of the most famous executive coach in the world right?

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah.

Will Bachman:               You know a ton of books and been profiled I think in the New Yorker.

Alisa Cohn:                   The New Yorker. Yep.

Will Bachman:               So being part of that group that he’s mentoring it must be amazing. Give us some examples of things that you’ve done.

Alisa Cohn:                   Well I told you about the Design The Life You Love workshop with Ayse Birsel who’s also in the community. She then did the workshop for all of the 100 coaches. And one thing, and everyone can do this, one thing she asks us to do is to say, “Name your heroes.”

Alisa Cohn:                   And so it doesn’t have to be one hero. It doesn’t have to be 100% hero but who comes to mind to you as your heroes. So for Marshall it was the Buddha, and Peter Drucker. For me it is actually Marshall who is so extraordinary in his generosity. And then also a mentor I had early in my life. And also actually the Buddha.

Alisa Cohn:                   So then she asks you what are the qualities that come out of that? So for me that’s about kind of engagement but not attachment, generosity, inspiration and light, and joy. And then she says, “What can you do to be more like that?”

Alisa Cohn:                   And so it’s a very powerful activity, especially in a group context to think about how do I add more of that to my life? And how do I bring that more into the world? So that’s one tangible example of an exercise we’ve done.

Alisa Cohn:                   I would say another topic that we’ve looked at is what’s specifically can we do to make a difference in a micro way? So a lot of us when we get together what we do is we will be together in a circle. And the question is, what do you have to give? And what do you need? So we all help each other like that.

Alisa Cohn:                   And then we talk about how to bring that out into the world. So how do you kind of live your life by the notion of making someones day? Those are the kinds of activities that we talk about.

Alisa Cohn:                   But I would also say that Marshall is very interested in making sure that coaches I should say do a better job of raising their profiles, and being more business oriented, and commercially oriented.

Alisa Cohn:                   So he also encourages us all to do that as well. And part of what we do together is help each other by supporting each other and even doing different kinds of work activities together.

Will Bachman:               What are some of the ways that he recommends raising visibility? Because a lot of the names you mentioned have done an amazing job of that. Tell us a little bit about that.

Alisa Cohn:                   Okay well Marshall believes, and I believe that it’s important to be out there creating content. So it’s writing blogs. It’s being on podcasts. Thank you for having me on your podcast Will. It’s also doing podcasts. Good job Will. It’s about writing books for sure. And it’s about finding different ways to be distinctive in your thought leadership.

Alisa Cohn:                   And I think a lot of coaches, a lot of consultants, a lot of independents who really need to break through the noise, fail to do that because they’re too busy doing their work. Or in some ways looking for work and not knowing how to build this sort of the branding side around just creating a distinctive profile.

Alisa Cohn:                   And that’s something that I’ve definitely personally focused on over the past two or three years with great results. And Marshall is in many ways really the king of that. And he encourages everyone to do that. And he would say you can’t make an impact if nobody knows who you are. And I certainly agree with that as well.

Will Bachman:               Tell us about your efforts. What have you been doing in terms of the content creation?

Alisa Cohn:                   Well about two years ago, I met the folks at worth.com, and they asked me to start writing for them about leadership. And then from there I got tapped by forbes.com. And they asked me to write for them about leadership and startups which I do now. And then I also got approached by Inc, inc.com.

Alisa Cohn:                   So now I write for Worth, and Forbes, and Inc. And also I do a lot of work with start ups. So I write also for AlleyWatch which is a start up newsletter here in New York City. And then I also get now quoted a lot more in the media. I have a newsletter that I send out.

Alisa Cohn:                   It used to be that I’d write an original article for that newsletter but it’s a lot of work. So now what I’m able to do is to take my other content, and this is important for everybody to realize to think about how to repurpose my content so that I reach different audiences with the same content.

Will Bachman:               That is amazing. Amazing. How do you keep track of ideas for future articles that you want to write. Do you kind of have like a little Evernote list? Or jot it down on a piece of paper?

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah unfortunately not very well. I have a couple of lists in my computer, so on a Microsoft Word document. I jot things down on Evernote when I’m out, and I have only my iPhone. And I typically use those two tools. And those are helpful because I can use them as inspiration when I’m like, “Oh what am I gonna write about?”

Alisa Cohn:                   But I will also say when something pops into my head, and then I write it down, I tend to keep it with me. It’s like the writing it down is helpful because it helps it sticks with me. But my mind begins to work on the idea.

Alisa Cohn:                   And even certainly for me, fitness really helps when I’m on my run. I have really great ideas, and it they’re all like bubbling on the surface. And I can almost write an article when I’m running if I’m in the right space.

Will Bachman:               You know I find that you don’t get good ideas when you say, “Okay let me sit down at my desk and now I’m going to do an article, or do a show. It’s always if you’re on the train, or on the subway, or running, or in the shower. And having some place to kind of keep track of those.

Will Bachman:               And I imagine that you experienced that now that you have these platforms where you’re publishing and some kind of regular expectation that you’ll create content, it’s almost kind of draws it out of the universe to you because you know you have some things coming up, you get more ideas than you would have otherwise.

Alisa Cohn:                   Oh that’s definitely true. Or I’ll hear someone say something and now I’m oriented now to okay that’s an article. And I didn’t used to be. And now because I have to write articles I think a lot, oh that’s like an article. Or how can I write an article about that? Or, I wonder if that’s an important insight.

Alisa Cohn:                   And I tell other people that to. Like you should write an article about that. Now most people obviously don’t write an article about that but they should. And so what I notice is that even though there is actually a really tried and true formula for how to build your brand, and get your brand out there and cut through the noise, my experience is that most people don’t do that work. And I’m just happy that I do.

Will Bachman:               Yeah give a sense of the kind of stuff that you write. Give us a couple examples of posts that have been favorites of yours? What was the topic? And maybe what was the title?

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah. So a recent article I wrote for inc.com was, if we know so much about how to have good meetings, why aren’t you doing it? And my instinct there, and I’m sure everyone can relate to this. There is no secret on how to have good meetings. An agenda is really just the basics of meetings.

Alisa Cohn:                   How come people are still holding meetings without an agenda? I’m just really curious about that. Why do people suffer through boring meetings, when meetings can actually be good? And my insight was, people just don’t plan.

Alisa Cohn:                   They don’t really take it seriously, they don’t plan. They think the meetings gonna happen, and they don’t have to prepare for the meeting. And everyone has to prepare for the meeting. So that was one article that I enjoyed writing.

Alisa Cohn:                   I would say that I also I enjoy interviewing people. So I just recently interviewed Randy Komisar who’s a venture capitalist with Kleiner Perkins. He wrote a book called, “Straight Talk For Startups” with a co-author.

Alisa Cohn:                   And it was great to talk with him, not just about the book but about his sort of over 40 years of experience in what he calls the innovation industry. And that was really a lot of fun.

Alisa Cohn:                   And just one more, I talked with CEO of SendGrid, which is a Silicon Valley start up. And about how they believe that culture is their competitive advantage. And how they consider that they’re cultures a strategic imperative and what they do to continue to reinforce their culture.

Will Bachman:               Since you’ve started creating content like this regularly, what impact has that had on your business in terms of income and leads?

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah it’s actually been extraordinary. You know, I can know the formula, and I can tell you the formula. But what’s been going on with me over the past couple of years is I have seen the formula in action. So I used to get like one or two leads through my website every month, maybe not even. And now I definitely get one to two leads a week on my website. It’s been extraordinary.

Alisa Cohn:                   I used to get like 300, 400 views on my LinkedIn profile. That’s good. I thought that was good. Now I regularly get over 1200 views. And this is per week on my LinkedIn profile. People reach out to me.

Alisa Cohn:                   This year I was named by Inc. Magazine one of the top 100 leadership speakers for 2018. And that plus the work I’ve been doing in my writing, and also a little bit of speaking have now caused folks to reach out to me to be a speaker at their event.

Alisa Cohn:                   I just get more opportunities like that. And it’s just fun. And I’m a little bit more well known. People have heard of me. And that’s like fun. I like that.

Will Bachman:               That is awesome. And it must be so much more fun too going to an event when you’re the speaker and you get to hob knob with the other speakers and so forth. How do you prepare for a speaking engagement? Do you kind of practice in front of a mirror, or like videotape yourself, or get feedback, or have a coach on how to speak better?

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah.

Will Bachman:               Tell us a little bit about that.

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah, that’s a great question. So I was in a youth group starting when I was 13 years old and that is where I learned how to facilitate groups because we were like an intellectual youth group, not like a go bowling youth group. So we were into social action. And we had discussion groups. So I learned to facilitate discussions when I was 13 years old.

Alisa Cohn:                   And then also there was a good deal of public speaking involved. So I kind of had this comfort with public speaking which is good. However, the stakes are a lot higher now. I used to speak essentially in a youth group and also a couple of years ago, I’d speak to groups of 20, and 30.

Alisa Cohn:                   And often I would turn it into a facilitation and that would be comfortable for me because facilitation is kind of lik asking them questions and getting them to answer and making sure there’s a discussion around it.

Alisa Cohn:                   So now with public speaking, you know I’m talking to audiences of several hundred. One time this year about a thousand people. That’s a very different environment. Will to be honest with you, I was nervous. I was super nervous. And I had to prepare very differently.

Alisa Cohn:                   So what I did was, I made sure I was 100% memorized on my first five minutes. 100% memorized. And for me 45 minutes no interaction, again with all these people in the room, that is nerve wracking. So the way I practiced was I got my slides together. I practiced over, and over, and over so I knew what slide was coming. I knew what I was gonna say.

Alisa Cohn:                   And then I just realized if I don’t write a script, I’m not gonna really feel prepared. So I wrote a script and that was just a way to kind of get it into my head. And then I practiced it, not essentially with a script but I kind of practiced it and kept track of how well I was doing.

Alisa Cohn:                   And Will to be honest with you, this is one talk I’m thinking of the first time I did it this way. Maybe three or four days, before the talk, I still had not gotten through a full section of it. It was a new talk for me. I still had not gotten through a full section. And I was like, “Oh no, I’m not gonna make it.” But I really pressed hard and made the time.

Alisa Cohn:                   And I prepared much more thoroughly than I ever prepared before. And then I was super confident when I finally pulled it all together. And I walked on stage. I was super confident. It went really well. And I discovered the way I need to prepare for these kinds of talks in the future. And I’m really proud of that.

Alisa Cohn:                   And I would say to anybody all the time, there’s a lot of setbacks on the way to getting it done. And so you’ve gotta work through that setback. And you’ve gotta work through the difficulty because that is how you finally get to a good place.

Will Bachman:               I want to talk about the executive coaching that you do. But before we get into that I want to ask a question that I don’t forget. And that is you mentioned that you’re publishing a lot, and you have a newsletter. What’s the best place for someone to find your website, or sign up for your newsletter?

Alisa Cohn:                   Oh well they should absolutely come to my website and sign up for my newsletter. My website is alisacohn.com. That’s, A-L-I-S-A C-O-H-N like Nancy .com. No E’s in either of my names.

Will Bachman:               No E’s.

Alisa Cohn:                   And they can find me on Twitter, @alisacohn.

Will Bachman:               All right. And if they go to your website you can sign up for the newsletter there?

Alisa Cohn:                   For the newsletter. And they absolutely should.

Will Bachman:               All right.

Alisa Cohn:                   It’s a barrel of goodness.

Will Bachman:               I’m gonna go on your website right after we talk and get that newsletter.

Alisa Cohn:                   Oh that’s so nice Will.

Will Bachman:               Direct to my inbox, so I don’t miss a single post on Inc, or Worth, or Forbes. Let’s talk about executive coaching. And I don’t know much about executive coaching. I haven’t been trained in it.

Will Bachman:               But someone I respect a lot who was a management consultant, in fact a director at Mackenzie went off and after leaving Mackenzie got training as an executive coach. He told me it was a very different approach.

Will Bachman:               Tell me a little bit about how you work with clients. And maybe even give us the specific scenarios of something you face. And even the script or the words that you use, or questions that you ask.

Alisa Cohn:                   Yep. So just to say a big picture as a distinction between consulting and coaching, is consultants come in as the expert and sort of solve problems for you. As a coach I come in as a partner, hopefully a wise partner and I help you solve your own problems.

Alisa Cohn:                   Now that’s not 100% true because I also work with start ups. And so start up founders very often this is their first rodeo. They’ve never run a company before. They’ve often not even been a leader before.

Alisa Cohn:                   And so helping them turn from an entrepreneur into a CEO is part of what I do. And part of what I do there is really sort of explaining to them when you need a leadership team, how to run one on one’s.

Alisa Cohn:                   So I think there’s a meshing in coaching, I think in good coaching there’s a meshing of what we call inquiry, which is question asking, and advocacy. Which in my opinion this is what I think you should do.

Alisa Cohn:                   I guess I would say there’s some normal scenarios. Like I worked with a founder a few years ago, and his company had gone from the two co-founders to eight people around a conference room table. To 20 people, to 50 people to 70 people.

Alisa Cohn:                   And he had a lot of trouble corralling all the people on the team and getting them to be moving in the right direction which means that there was a lot of confusion about what they were doing.

Alisa Cohn:                   People weren’t organized very well. They weren’t efficient what they were getting done. So the results were products not getting shipped, lots of delays, again confusion about what we were doing. And so there was not efficiency and just execution.

Alisa Cohn:                   So I helped this founder sort of step back and think about what is the right structure that he needs to implement. And if we don’t know, what should we experiment with? How he can designate leaders to communicate to smaller groups of people.

Alisa Cohn:                   How he himself needs to communicate differently to the team. And also repeatedly to the team so they understand what’s going on. And how does he set expectations and hold people accountable?

Alisa Cohn:                   So those are some of the topic areas I work on actually even with senior executives. I mean delegation for example is a constant challenge even for senior people. The balance between when do I tell you what to do? And when do I say go do it? When do I get involved? And when do I kind of let you figure it out on your own? When do I do something myself? Versus when do I have a team member do it?

Alisa Cohn:                   And then some of the questions that I would ask people, first of all I would give you a tool which is 360 degree feedback. Have you heard of that Will? I’m sure you’ve heard of that.

Will Bachman:               I have. How do you go about collecting that?

Alisa Cohn:                   So what I do is, if I’m working with a CEO for example, the notion of 360 degrees is the degrees of the circle. So I talk to folks all around the CEO, direct reports, sometimes skip levels, maybe board members. Maybe other folks who are sort of like peers, certainly like a co-founder if it’s a startup.

Alisa Cohn:                   And I ask some questions, and they’re open ended questions around what is this person best at? Like if I’m doing it for you Will, I would say, “What is Will great at? What are his strongest strengths?” And then what does Will need to get better at? What are his development opportunities?

Alisa Cohn:                   And then what specific behavioral suggestions do you have for Will to help him be a better leader? And you can frame your answers in the form of Will should start doing, or stop doing, or continue doing. And then I probe of course when someone says, “Oh Will needs to collaborate better.”

Alisa Cohn:                   I would say, “Well what do you mean by that?” Because people have a different vision in their head of what collaboration is. Right? People say, “Oh Will needs to get more strategic.” Well people have a very different opinion and sort of translation of what does it mean to be strategic.

Alisa Cohn:                   So as I probe what emerges is the story of Will, and how Will shows up for other people around him. And then I debrief the results with the executive. And what that does is it highlights the strengths that are either known or unknown.

Alisa Cohn:                   And then also illuminates blind spots where people didn’t know that they were doing that. They don’t know how they’re coming across. None of us know how we show up for other people because we’re us right? So you’re you. You don’t know what it’s like to be with you. And so 360 feedback helps really narrate intention with impact.

Will Bachman:               So it’s one thing to intellectually know about a blind spot that you have.

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah.

Will Bachman:               It’s quite another thing to actually emotionally know that and then change right?

Alisa Cohn:                   Yes.

Will Bachman:               It’s a lot harder. I mean you can tell me, “Will you procrastinate.” And I’m like, “Oh thanks for telling me, that’s super helpful.”

Alisa Cohn:                   That’s right.

Will Bachman:               And then I’ll go read the New York Times on my phone or something right? So give me an example of a time that you have helped someone identify a blind spot and then actually change to address it.

Alisa Cohn:                   Sure. Yeah, first of all you’re exactly right. If we knew how to change it, we would have changed it already right? And by the way is procrastination for you, is it actually a blind spot? Or is it something that you know you should be working on?

Will Bachman:               No, that’s probably one that I know about. But I mean I probably have so many blind spots you know I can’t count. I mean I’m sure that I can’t say what they are because they’re blind.

Alisa Cohn:                   Right. So one of my CEOs, one blind spot, which was very damaging to the team is that, again the CEO has to enable everybody around him, or her to be incredibly, enormously, effective because that’s how you go fast. So they have to do their best by themselves. And they have to work together efficiently with other people.

Alisa Cohn:                   And if that’s not happening every moment that your people are not giving you their best work. Or not working together efficiently because they’ve gotten into conflict with each other. Or they’re confused, they’re not talking to each other. You are losing time, every single moment.

Alisa Cohn:                   So what this CEO, we raised the blind spot for him people said, “He’s really smart and that’s good. And he’s really committed, and driven, and passionate about this company and that’s good too.” But when I have questions, or if I don’t know what I’m doing, I will go and ask him. And he grills me. So he grills me.

Alisa Cohn:                   He asks me like five questions and makes me feel stupid. Like, why didn’t you think of this? Or why didn’t you think of that? So I say, “What’s the impact?” The impact is, I don’t want to go bring my problems to him.

Alisa Cohn:                   So what that means is people are slowed down because they don’t know what to do. They’ve run out of ideas. They need a thought partner. You know what it’s like. Sometimes you’re just stuck by yourself and if you can just talk it out with somebody you’d be able to unstick. But he was not a thought partner, and somebody you go to with questions.

Alisa Cohn:                   And unfortunately because of that, the folks around him, his leaders developed that behavior itself. So that’s a scalable behavior. If the behavior is I grill people when they come and ask me for help, and then his leaders pick that up, and they grill people when they come and ask for help, basically you get a bunch of people who are hiding that they need help. So you can see how that would slow things down in the company.

Alisa Cohn:                   So once he realized that, first of all he felt like I’m just asking them obvious questions. I’m doing my best. Good. So how do you take language and use it to communicate and signal to other people listen I’m on your side. I want this to work out. Let me help you. Let me ask you a few questions.

Alisa Cohn:                   So literally, he would learn to say, “Yeah I hear you that’s a hard problem. Let me ask you a couple of questions if that’s okay.” Now that was just 10 seconds right? So people are like, “I don’t have time to do that.” No, it takes 10 seconds, not even to sort of give a little preamble like that.

Alisa Cohn:                   So he learned a formula to start doing that. And then people would feel a little more comfortable asking. And they would have a good conversation and people would get unstuck. And he would learn, “Oh it’s better when I do that because everyone feels more satisfied and less frustrated. And also I notice that work is getting done more smoothly.

Alisa Cohn:                   And then he would tell his leaders, his lieutenants the same thing, and they also started doing that as a formula Will. So that the starting point is to do it as a formula. And then it becomes more natural.

Alisa Cohn:                   One thing that people think about change is that, if I start changing it’ll be unnatural. Yes, of course it will. When you start new behavior absolutely it feels weird. It feels awkward. It feels unnatural. You’ve got to practice it for a little while before you’re able to integrate in a way that’s gonna work for you.

Will Bachman:               So let me see if I got this. Oh, that sounds like a challenging question. Do you mind if I ask you some questions about that?

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah, that’s pretty good. Or, yeah that’s a really challenging topic. Or I can see why that would be kind of hard.

Will Bachman:               Yeah, okay. Let’s think it through together.

Alisa Cohn:                   Right. That’s beautiful Will. Very good.

Will Bachman:               All right I’m learning. Okay, it’s good. It’s good. So okay that’s pretty cool. What are some kind of the classic questions that you as an executive coach would use. You’re sort of paradigmatic, however you say that word, questions. I can never say that word.

Will Bachman:               So you know, I guess what I’ve heard is that consultants, a client asks a question. A consultant will try to start framing it up. And you know trying to, oh well we can use a two by two to really think through this.

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah.

Will Bachman:               But as a coach, do you kind of throw it back at the person more as like a therapist? What are some ways you would respond to questions?

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah so it’s a great question. I’m gonna answer your question. I just want to say that effective coaching, masterful coaching is being able to meld what I said earlier, inquiry versus advocacy.

Alisa Cohn:                   So asking questions versus saying what I think. Because sometimes people want you to want your help and having them figure it out by themselves, even if they fight back. And sometimes people are like, “Listen I just need you to tell me what to do here.” And that’s just normal.

Will Bachman:               Just tell me the answer.

Alisa Cohn:                   What?

Will Bachman:               Just tell me the answer.

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah, totally. Just give me the answer. Exactly. Exactly. But good questions and I would invite everybody to think about this because this is for coaches. But this is also for leaders. If you get in the habit of answering every question, then what you get in your life is question answer, question answer, question answer.

Alisa Cohn:                   And you become the person whose gonna solve all their problems for them. And you become the person who is always the road block because they’re waiting to ask you questions. So what a good question is, why do you think that is?

Alisa Cohn:                   You know, people will say this happens, and this happens. And I say, “Well why do you think that is?” And that really invites them to look at the system of what’s really going on. Or what was that like for you when that was going on? Invite them to reflect on what’s going on, on the inside of them.

Alisa Cohn:                   People say, “I don’t know what to do.” Or people will say, “What should I do about this?” And I’ll say, “What do you think you should do?” Which is no question annoying. But regularly people will roll their eyes and then give me a beautiful answer to that.

Alisa Cohn:                   But if I say, “Well what do you think you should?” And they say, “I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you.” Then I will regularly say, “If you did know, what would you say?” Because like, hey man I wasn’t born yesterday. Come on. You know?

Alisa Cohn:                   And I will regularly say, “Listen I will answer your question, but I would be no kind of a coach if I didn’t ask you, what do you think?” And so like it becomes a little playful. But the truth is that, people do really benefit from taking a crack at it themselves. And it’s helpful for me to know.

Alisa Cohn:                   For example, I hope this meeting goes well tomorrow. Okay, well what are you gonna do to make sure it goes well? I don’t know what do you think I should do? Well I will answer that question. I will give you my opinion but before I do, I would be no kind of a coach if I didn’t say, “Well what do you think?”

Alisa Cohn:                   And then they would say, “Well I guess I’d better have an agenda.” And I’d say, “Yeah that’s a great idea.” What do you think should be on the agenda? I don’t know. Okay, what if you did know right? I mean it’s just a question of reflecting right? So they know.

Alisa Cohn:                   So then they kind of get like what should be on the agenda, and the topics that we want to talk about, and what they realize themselves in thinking it through is, I want to focus on our goals for the 4th quarter. And I’m worried about this one executive and their performance. And also I’m not sure whose planning the company outing for this year.

Alisa Cohn:                   And I’m like, “Okay that’s fantastic. Are you going to tackle all of those in this meeting?” “No.” Okay good answer. How are you going to tackle all three of those topics which are definitely on your mind? I’m gonna send an email at the meeting. Good idea. I’ll talk to the executive separately. Fantastic.

Alisa Cohn:                   And then we need to talk about our goals for the 4th quarter. Great. So let’s focus the meeting on that shall we? So that’s like a good example of the way there’s an interplay between my clients and me.

Will Bachman:               You know I love that part about, if you knew the answer what would you say? It reminds me Steven Pressfield, one of my favorite writers, talks about how he as a writer feels like he is able to write dialogue for a character that is smarter than he is.

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah.

Will Bachman:               Which is kind of weird right?

Alisa Cohn:                   That’s super weird.

Will Bachman:               So what you’re saying is somewhat similar. Like, imagine that you are an executive who actually knew the answer. What would that person say?

Alisa Cohn:                   Yes. Totally.

Will Bachman:               All of a sudden-

Alisa Cohn:                   That is exactly right. That’s exactly right.

Will Bachman:               Draw it out of the ether.

Alisa Cohn:                   Right.

Will Bachman:               I’m gonna use that.

Alisa Cohn:                   And I would add something else. Yes and I think that there’s also a really important tool around decision making. So a pretty good decision making tool that’s been popularized I think by the Heath Brothers is, when you’re trying to make a decision, and you can’t make the decision, it’s like what would you advise your best friend to do if they were in this realm, if they had this problem? And somehow you can think about that better. When you’re putting that in that word, the notion of it’s a wise other.

Will Bachman:               Right. Right. Like it’s so hard to edit your own LinkedIn profile. But it’s easy to go give someone else advice on theirs.

Alisa Cohn:                   Exactly.

Will Bachman:               Yeah.

Alisa Cohn:                   Exactly.

Will Bachman:               So Alisa what are some of the biggest influences on you? Maybe talk about some of the two or three books that you’ve most often gifted? Some favorite source of inspiration for you.

Alisa Cohn:                   Okay, you know I should probably do this. I don’t gift books. And maybe everybody else knows how to do this better. I use the Kindle. And I think other people use the Kindle. And I’m like you should use the Kindle because its much easier to carry all your books around with you. But I think we’ll maybe rethink that.

Alisa Cohn:                   But I will just tell you sources of inspiration for me, for sure are Tim Ferriss. In particular his book, Tools Of Titans, and his podcasts. What I love about them is they’re very long conversations with really interesting, fascinating, well known people who talk about both just their inner lives.

Alisa Cohn:                   But also strategies they use that help them get ahead. Help them, I would even say help them live their lives and build their careers. I really, really love that. My friend Dorie Clark is a huge inspiration for me.

Alisa Cohn:                   She’s a three time author, and a teacher. And she teaches executive education. And she’s a career strategist really. And she’s been extremely helpful in thinking about for myself this notion of building content and promulgating work, and content, and thought leadership to break through the noise.

Will Bachman:               What’s one book of hers? You’ve mentioned she has several.

Alisa Cohn:                   Oh I would suggest her recent book called, “Entrepreneurial You.”

Will Bachman:               “Entrepreneurial You.” Okay.

Alisa Cohn:                   Yeah. And I’ll just give you two more. Of course Marshall Goldsmith. And his sort of famous breakthrough book is, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” That’s a great book. But I would add, “Triggers” is a fantastic book. And I would also say my colleague Liz Wiseman, who’s amazing. And her book, “Multipliers” is fantastic. And how do you make people around you better?

Will Bachman:               Fantastic. Alisa I think we could keep going. This is so much fun. But we’re at the top of the hour and I know you have other commitments. It’s been awesome talking to you, inspiring. And Thank-You, Thank-You for being on the show.

Alisa Cohn:                   Oh it’s so great to spend time with you too Will. And Thank-You for having me.


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