Michael Piperno

Chasing Success

How do you define success?

  • Attaining wealth, status, or fame? 
  • Meeting that high bar you’ve set for yourself, or that someone else has set for you?
  • Reaching a specific goal or milestone?

No matter how you define it, consider this:

If you’re pursuing success instead of what makes you feel successful, you’re on your way to burnout. 

Take a moment today to think about what makes you feel successful. 

Chase that. 

Blind Spots and Strengths Gone Awry

Oops, I did it again. I came off as arrogant. Now, I’ve been called arrogant 4 times during my professional journey.

Each time it hurt my heart. Because I don’t mean to be perceived that way. Ever. Full stop.

Arrogance is the flip side of my self-confidence strength. And when I show up as overly self-confident in the eyes of others, they can see me as arrogant. This used to be (and sometimes still is) a blind spot for me.

The missing piece is that in most cases I am using my self-confidence strength with positive intent — I want to help. I want to cheerlead. I want to make sure someone else sees their own greatness.

But that doesn’t always work. And now that I am more self-aware of the strengths I can overdo (perseverance is another one — boy can I look stubborn sometimes), I can see and feel it happening. And most of the time I can dial it back and save myself.

But not always. Ahh, still a work in progress.

What strengths do you tend to overdo? And are they limiting your effectiveness when you don’t realize how they’re affecting others?

Think about it. And if you need help uncovering your overdone strengths, reach out. I’ve got a terrific assessment that shines the light on them for you — so you can better manage perceptions in the future.

Check In On Yourself

Leaders are no good for their people if they’re exhausted, overstressed, or burned out.

One of the best things you can do for your team is to make sure you’re taking care of you — your body and your mind. You can’t be effective if you’re always running on empty.

  • Be mindful of your physical and emotional health. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, and take steps to address any areas of concern. This could include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress.
  • Set boundaries. It’s important to set boundaries between your work life and your personal life. This means saying no to requests that are unreasonable or that will take away from your personal time. It also means protecting your time for activities that you enjoy and that help you relax and de-stress.
  • Delegate tasks. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Delegate tasks to others whenever possible so that you can free up some of your time for self-care.
  • Take breaks. It’s important to take breaks throughout the day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Get up and move around, step outside for some fresh air, or close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
  • Do things you enjoy. Make time for activities that make you happy. This could be anything from reading a book to spending time with loved ones to taking a walk in nature. For me, a drive in my roadster with the top down (and lately with music by Kygo blasting into the open air) does the trick. Beep beep!
  • Seek support. If you’re struggling to take care of yourself, don’t be afraid to seek support from others. Talk to a friend, family member, therapist, or other trusted person. 

Oh, and remember that asking for help from a trusted advisor, friend, or professional is a sign of strength, not weakness. Never let anyone make you feel otherwise.

Does Public Speaking Make You Anxious?

If so, you’re not alone. In fact, a fear of public speaking affects anywhere from 40 to 75 percent of the population, depending on what studies you look at. There’s even a medical term for it: glossophobia.

Here are some tips that will help:

  • Don’t try to be perfect. The fear of public speaking often stems from a fear of imperfection. The fact is that no one ever gets it 100 percent right every time, and neither will you. And that’s okay.
  • Know your stuff. The more prepared you are when it comes to the topic of your presentation, the more confident you will feel. Don’t forget to also consider (and practice answering) the questions you’ll likely get from your audience.
  • Use your audience to your advantage. When you can get your audience involved in your presentation, it’s much easier for you to deliver and much more engaging for them. Win-win.
  • Practice until you’re sick of practicing. And do it out loud! Recruit colleagues to give you feedback on your presentation. You can also record yourself giving the presentation and watch it back. I do this with every speech or workshop I create.

And finally, remember that being nervous is actually a good thing. How so?

Well, it means you care — about your audience and about your topic.

That’s good stuff.

Want some more tips? Send me a note through Comvia Group’s contact page and ask me for my favorite breathing exercises for settling nerves and preparing to speak. I’ll send them to you.

Communication Tip: Yes, and…

Workshop and Team-building Fun!

Many of my clients and friends know that I wanted to be an actor when I grew up.

I actually did a lot of theatre in my younger days, and even have a bachelor’s degree (and teaching certification) in Speech & Theatre Arts.

One of my favorite principles from my training in improvisational theater, or improv for short, is “Yes, and…”

It means saying yes to what your scene partner offers, and then building on it. 

I actually teach improv to clients to this day — in fact I do a whole workshop on it! Why?

Getting good at it helps leaders:

  • Think on their feet and respond to unexpected challenges
  • Build trust and rapport with team members and other stakeholders
  • Listen actively and respond thoughtfully
  • Be open to new ideas and unexpected twists
  • Communicate more effectively in both formal and informal settings
  • Be more creative and innovative in problem-solving

It’s a fun program that is both educational and team building in nature. No prior experience with improvisation is necessary. And participants should come ready to step outside of their comfort zones — and have fun!

Want to offer a program like this to people on your team? Let’s talk.

Before You Cancel That Meeting…

Your time is valuable. So is the time of the people you lead. That’s why it’s so important to keep your commitments. A big mistake I see leaders make often is breaking commitments with a simple act: cancelling meetings at the last minute.

What does doing so say? One clear message is that you don’t value the time of the people who were expecting to meet with you.

The result? Let’s name a few: frustration, feelings of disrespect, damage to the trust you have with them….

Not good.

Here are some tips.

  • Don’t overcommit. Be mindful of your calendar. Before agreeing to a meeting, make sure that you actually have the time available.
  • Plan time for the unexpected. Every new day brings new opportunities for the unexpected. Be sure you hold time on your calendar for those events, so you don’t need to cancel meetings to address them.
  • Communicate early if you know that you might not be able to make a meeting. This will give the other person a chance to reschedule or find a backup.
  • Be apologetic if you do have to cancel a meeting. There are times when cancelling is truly unavoidable. When that happens, explain the reason for the cancellation and apologize for any inconvenience.

Show your people that you are reliable, and that you value their time by keeping your commitments to meetings. Start and end them on time, too. Doing so will help you build stronger relationships with your team and create a more trusting and productive environment.

Persevere or Let Go?

As a business leader, entrepreneur, and human being I’ve had my share of failures.

When I think back on the massive pile of ideas that I’ve tried to turn into businesses over the years, I’m surprised I’ve only failed a few times instead of hundreds. 

The lessons I learned by failing, even though it may have stung pretty badly each time, are lessons I never would have learned if I had never tried. But the biggest lesson has been learning to understand when it’s time to pivot, or even let go.

Failure is part of the road to success: for you, for your team, and for your family. Be flexible when you need to find another path. Be open to a new perspective. And most importantly, be honest with yourself when something is simply not working.

Think about this when you lead or manage your team. How can you make a change that will increase the likelihood of success? What can you let go of that’s holding you back? What can you do to help yourself, and others, get off the path to a truly epic fail?

And remember — when failure happens, how you coach your team through the aftermath can make all the difference.

Henry Ford once said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” When you can, help your people learn from their failures. And when there is no silver lining or learning, help them put it all behind them and move on.

Some Thoughts on Career Transitions

People call me a career transition expert. It’s not a title that I’ve worn with a badge of honor until recent years. Why? 

Because of what other people thought about my journey.

Silly, I know. But it’s true.

People told me I would never be able to do it. Some said I was crazy to leave the security of XYZ job or industry. Others doubted my ability to pivot from where I was to where I wanted to go.

If people’s expectations are doing the same to you, please try to tune that noise out. If you want to make a change, you owe it to yourself to explore it. 

Today, I’m proud to be called a career transition expert and coach. 

Here are a few things I’ve learned through the years. I hope they are helpful.

  • Career transitions take work — and it starts with assessing your risk tolerance. 
  • The next critical step is doing an inventory of your skills and experience and figuring out how they can apply to your next chapter.
  • And the biggest thing you need to do eventually (and this might not come quickly so you need to be patient) is to get your story straight.

Let me underscore how important that third bullet is.

You need to know where you want to go and why and be clear about it in your head. Only then can other people help you. And if you’re mid to senior level in your career, it’s people who will help make a career transition or change happen. Period.

Think about it. If you say to me, “I think I want to make a career pivot, but I’m not sure if I should stay in a large pharma company or if I would be better off figuring out how to get into a leadership role in an early-stage company doing more innovative work.”

Can I help you? Sure, I can listen, give you advice, and coach you to help you figure it out. I can even introduce you to people I know who have made that type of transition who may be willing to talk to you. 

But I can’t introduce you to anyone else in my network who can help you actually make a move until I am clear on what you really want.

But if you say, “I’ve had a great run in big pharma, and now I’m ready to use my skills and experience to help lead an early-stage company. I’m particularly excited about companies doing innovative work in the diagnostics space.”

Now I’m clear. And what immediately comes to mind is at least 3 people I can introduce you to who can help. Actually, just thought of 2 more.

See the difference?

Bottom line — If you aren’t able to clearly tell someone what you want, they can’t easily help you. This is true for career transitions, and anything else in professional life.

Make it easy for them, and you’ll be amazed how many people are willing to jump in and help.

The Value of Attention

In today’s fast-paced world, it can be difficult to give our full attention to anything. We are constantly bombarded with stimuli, from our phones to our email to our social media feeds. It’s often challenging to focus on the task at hand, let alone on the people around us.

However, as leaders, it is essential that we are intentional about paying attention. When we give our full attention to others, we show them that we value them and their contributions. We also create a space where they feel safe to share their ideas and concerns.

A few more benefits of giving others our full attention…

  • Builds trust and rapport. When people feel like they are being heard and understood, they are more likely to trust and respect us.
  • Boosts morale. When people feel like their work is important and that they are making a difference, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged. 
  • Improves our own decision-making. When we take the time to listen to others’ perspectives, we are more likely to make decisions that are in the best interests of the entire team and organization.

Here are a few tips for paying better attention:

  1. Be present. When you are interacting with someone, give them your full attention. Put away your phone, turn off your computer, and make eye contact.
  2. Listen actively. Really listen to what the other person is saying, and ask clarifying questions.
  3. Show empathy. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Understand their perspective and why they might be feeling the way they are.

Paying attention is a skill that takes time and practice. The benefits are well worth the effort. 

Try to pay more attention to how well you pay attention today. If you’re finding that you’re distracted instead of fully committed to a conversation, identify one thing you can do to avoid that in the future.

The Pursuit of Perfection Causes All Sorts of Problems

With all the interactions we have with one another each day, it’s not realistic to think that every one of them can be perfect.

You’re not perfect, your team isn’t perfect, and you know what? That’s okay. When we put on the pressure for things to be just right or for everything to work out the way we wish it always would, we set ourselves and our people up for disappointment.

The same goes for when you are preparing for a presentation or speech. Look, most people (if not all) feel some level of nervousness when they speak in public. When I coach presenters and work to help them get to the root of their anxiousness, we often uncover that the fear of being imperfect is the main culprit. It…

  • stops them from being themselves.
  • makes them look and sound nervous.
  • puts up a wall between them and the audience.
  • adds unnecessary pressure.

I get it. Nobody likes to look silly in front of others (well, I don’t mind but that’s a story for another day). And you do need to prepare well in order to present well.

But when we let the pursuit of perfection paralyze us, nobody wins. 

Imagine if everyone — every creative person, every parent, every leader — could offer the gifts they have to share with the world without fearing they’re not good enough, smart enough, or whatever enough. 

Wow, I like that image.

I believe that good communication and leadership require intention, thought, practice, and care. Does that mean all communications must be perfect?


Don’t go for perfect. Aim to make your communication matter to someone.

Then you both win.

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