Samurai CFO



Years ago, while I was establishing myself in a new executive coaching practice, I supported my family by working as a part-time, outsourced CFO. Here is a reminiscence of a deep learning I earned during one of those accounting gigs.



samuraiI sought help from my own executive coach with the very difficult behavior of a bookkeeper employed by my client. She had called several urgent meetings with the partners and each time threatened to quit, more or less because of me. These meetings were very exasperating as she made charges that were either too vague to dispute or clearly contrary to plain facts. For example, although we repeatedly assured her that she had her job as long as she wanted it she insisted she could not continue to work under such uncertainty and would resign immediately because we were conspiring to take her job away. The partners felt obligated to placate and mollify her because she was the only bookkeeper out of several they had tried who was able to make any progress in getting their bills out to clients.

I said to my executive coach, “I am stressed and bothered because of her unpredictable behavior, of course, but I am mostly bothered by the fact that it bothers me. I am so ‘trained’ and ‘transformed’ I ought to be able to deal with her behavior without becoming stressed, hurt, or angry. I try to remain calm, not react to her outbursts, and keep on working because I need this income. I do what is necessary just to keep getting paid, so why do I lose sleep and spend my non-billable time talking about her with my coach, family, and friends?”

By the way, is this scenario reminding you of anything in your life, right now?

My coach reminded me of the dangers of attachment, of identifying with our property or positions. We confuse preferred outcomes with necessary results. We grasp so avidly to particular bits of property or actions by others that we forget we can still be ourselves without them. We attach money or prestige to ourselves so firmly that we forget that we are not our results or our reputations.  What I want is not what I am.

I then remembered the old samurai expression (I suppose all samurai expressions are now old).


The most effective warrior dies before entering the battle. 


The bookkeeper was not damaging my body or physically invading my free time. My attachments were the only things making my life difficult.  I was attached to looking good in the eyes of my client, I was attached to (more…)

3 Rs of Dispute Resolution



DisputeDisputes are inevitable any time you are working with people to produce significant results. What is not inevitable is dreading or delaying the confrontation required to resolve the conflict. Here’s how to get it over within one conversation.

My 3 Rs of dispute resolution are:

  1. Relationship,
  2. Responsibility, and
  3. Request

RELATIONSHIP: Early in the conversation, state plainly the quality of the relationship you want to have with the person. Invite the other person to declare their intentions, too. A client once said to me, “I hope when we’re through negotiating this and we (more…)

Creative Conflict



I heard one CEO executive coaching client summarize the tremendous value of his coach’s listening and probing by saying, “This is where I come to get my answers questioned.” Top executives, especially those operating in a strong corporate culture, can find themselves in an echo chamber where everyone seems to be saying the same thing, thereby confusing their mutual agreement with reality. It is the most “obvious” assumptions that most severely constrict our thinking.

Alfred P. Sloan

Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here,” he started, and everyone nodded their heads in agreement. “Then,” he went on, “I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until the next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement, and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”

–Alfred Sloan
GM 1923-1956