• Deb Kleinman

Don't Throw your Pen at your Board of Directors



It's easy to look at people like the Prime Minister of New Zealand and just focus on what a great and effective leader they are.


We often don't hear about the humiliating public mistakes that all of us make along the way.


Like the time, maybe 10 years ago, a year or two into my tenure as an Executive Director, I threw a pen in the general direction of one of my board members and stormed out of our meeting in tears.


I spent a lot of time either avoiding or ineffectively navigating hard conversations because I was afraid I would get angry or upset, and people would lose respect for me.


At the same time, I was getting better and better at helping others do the same.


I needed to learn how to recognize, understand, and manage my own emotional reactions to hard conversations, especially when the stakes are high and times are tough - even in my usual role as an impartial third party. I also needed to develop the skills to recognize what was happening for other people and to respond effectively.


Getting better at both would help me avoid throwing more pens, literally and figuratively. It's a life long project.


I needed to learn these things, so I could model not throwing pens at others to people I collaborate with. "Modeling the way" is, of course, a central leadership practice.

This is emotional and social intelligence in a nutshell. Emotional and social intelligence is the set of skills, behaviors, and habits that together allow us to recognize and manage our own emotions, and understand and work with the emotions of others.


As a leadership coach, I work with my clients to develop and sustain these and other skills, behaviors, and habits related to their effectiveness in mobilizing teams in service of a shared purpose.


What is your big pen throwing moment and what did it teach you?


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels





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