Creative Genius Podcast

Season 5 Episode 4

Hey Coach, My Hand’s Up! (Michael Seelman)

Hey Coach, My Hand’s Up! (Michael Seelman)

Our potential is unlimited. But sometimes we need help to get beyond whatever is holding us back from expanding our potential. That’s when a coach can be a great help, providing a different perspective and guiding us onto a new path.

In this podcast, Gail talks with executive coach Michael Seelman, CEO of the Leadership Coach Group. Over two decades, Michael served in leadership roles at the White House, FBI, U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As an executive coach, his clients have included leaders at Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Sony, and many other top organizations and government agencies.

Gail asked Michael to talk about the differences between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. He said with a growth mindset, you approach challenges with a beginner’s mind, being open to learning and getting better at what you do. You see them as opportunities that allow for growth and that can accelerate your success.

A fixed mindset develops from approaches, habits and mindsets that have worked well in the past but may not be serving you well in the present circumstances. You may fear getting out of your comfort zone, and that holds you back from resolving the problem or overcoming the challenge.

Michael also talked about psychological safety and its role in leadership. Psychological safety is when reports or team members feel comfortable with asking questions of their leaders, admitting mistakes, pointing out mistakes, and suggesting innovations. Leaders can cultivate psychological safety by being inclusive, encouraging feedback, complimenting team members, and reflecting back and amplifying their comments to show they are valued.

Said Michael, “When teams have high psychological safety, they’re really good at learning. When teams are really good at learning, they’re really good at performing.”

Gail wondered what Michael saw as the differences between a manager and a leader. Managers, he said, are focused on tasks—goals, outputs and outcomes. They help to set direction for individuals and the team, to protect them from the vicissitudes of the workplace, and create a sense of order and stability. Leaders, on the other hand, can be disruptive. Their job is to set a vision and to offer challenges to grow and succeed. They also help guide the organization through change.

Asked what advice he had for new managers, Michael said to have compassion for yourself, to not be judgmental with oneself or others, to be open to learning, and to seek out a mentor. Gail added, be good about asking questions of the people on your team and inviting feedback about what you need to work on.

Michael also had suggestions for how to get team members to open up and offered that one should think in terms of “feed-forward” rather than “feed-back.” For those and other leadership tips, listen to the entire podcast.

Mentioned in This Podcast

For more information about Michael Seelman, the Leadership Coach Group and the services it offers, go to the firm’s website at

Gail referred to two books by Marshall Goldsmith that she recommends:

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be

You can find out more them and his other books, materials and podcast at his website at

Gail also mentioned in passing the book Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. It’s available from bookstores and online booksellers.

Michael cited a book by Harvard professor Ronald Heifetz, Leadership Without Easy Answers. It’s also available from bookstores and online booksellers.

Michael also spoke about the book How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion or Job by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith. You can find more about it at

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