"The program gave me a close-up view of political, business and social issues and trends, information that is invaluable to me as an entrepreneur and active participant in the success of our great state. The speakers were incredible� they inspired us and stretched our minds. The opportunity to connect with successful and dynamic California women leaders was a main highlight. Being part of Leadership California is like being part of a powerful sisterhood."

—Ursula C. Mentjes, M.S., ACC
President and Certified Business Coach
Potential Quest, Inc.
"I have enjoyed my involvement with Leadership California. Our trip to the state capitol was most enlightening. As a result I have gotten involved with the Los Angeles African American Women's Political Action Committee. Thank you, Leadership California, for sparking a genuine interest in the political process."

—Shawn Farrar
Director Corporate Diversity
Sempra Energy
"The CIT program brings together successful women from all over California, and gives them the opportunity to build a network with other successful women. It's a way to learn about the important issues in our state, and to get ready to take the next step in your professional life."

—Isela Vilchis Hoenigmann
"Leadership California has provided me a panoramic view of issues, challenges and opportunities for this lovely state that I live in. The program was my introduction to women of unbelievable talent, experience and passion who are set to make a difference. The feeling to want to be more, to accomplish more, is simply contagious. I hope to know these women for the rest of my life."

—Rosario Montes-Arena
Manager, IBM Software Executive Briefing Program
Silicon Valley & Worldwide Briefing Program
"As a young immigrant woman working in the nonprofit sector, it was inspiring to see women leaders in action, to be able to network with them, and talk about the issues that are relevant to our communities and our state. I feel honored and privileged for the opportunity to participate in such an awesome program that weaves women leaders from different sectors and geographies of California to engage in a conversation about the social, political, and economic fabric of California."

—Winnie Hui-Min Yu
Development Associate
Asian Law Caucus
San Francisco
"I've spent half of my work life in the corporate world, and the past ten years in the nonprofit world, but neither taught me how to be who I am at work�the whole pastiche of talent and spirit. I found role models who excited me, the true state of our state of California (which frustrated me), work partners continually learning like me, and friends."

—Peta G. Penson, Ed. D.
Oakland Unified School District
"Leadership California sessions feature influential speakers and lively discussion on timely issues shaping the economy and workforce. The session on work-life balance struck a chord with me, where key leaders advised us to map out a personal career plan. Networking with other women was invaluable. Leadership California is an engaging and downright fun experience."

—Roberta Tinajero-Frankel
Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Dept.
Healthy Eating, Active Living Project Manager
"Simply put, Leadership California is time well spent that will benefit me personally and professionally for years to come. I've not only kept in contact with my fellow classmates on a social level, but have had opportunities to work with some of them on business projects as our professional paths crossed. The sessions gave in-depth looks at the critical social issues that many Californians face, inspiring me to get more involved in my community�s outreach programs."

—Teena Massingill
Manager of Corporate Public Affairs
Safeway Inc.


SALLY HELGESEN left, signs copies of her book, The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work, for Leadership California class members.


Promoting Yourself: It’s Easier Than You Think—
With A Peer in Your Corner

By Sally Helgesen
August 6, 2014

I’m good at a lot of things but I’m bad at self-marketing, which is a problem because I’m self-employed. The challenge has only become more acute as technology provides an ever-bigger platform for those who enjoy sharing their achievements. Yes, I know that if I believe in the value of what I have to offer I should want to actively promote it. Yet some part of me remains haunted by my mother’s voice describing self-promotion as “unseemly,” my father’s comments about “glad-handing salesmen.”

My parents, of course, didn’t live in an era when self-marketing was the workplace equivalent of a citizenship requirement. In their world, once you landed a job you were pretty well set for life. You didn’t need to constantly update your resume, and you certainly didn’t need to invest time, effort and imagination in cultivating your social media profile.

Pattern of Putting Things Off

We, however, live in a world in which even the happily employed can never assume they are secure. The endemic uncertainty that attends global competition demands that we constantly find fresh ways to keep ourselves out there. Nor can most of us afford the luxury of remaining stubbornly bad at something. We need an action plan, a way to tackle our clumsy spots.

HELGESEN with the Leadership California class in 2013.  

Knowing this is one thing but overcoming our innate resistance to doing things we don’t like is another. To me, the crush of daily work always offered a ready-made excuse for avoiding the simple tasks that self-marketing requires updating videos on my website, following up with someone I met at a conference about what services I might provide. For decades, these were the tasks that failed to get checked off of my daily to-do lists. I carried them over to the next day, and the next, until finally they disappeared.

This lifelong pattern remained in place until I got myself a peer coach. Having someone hold me accountable for acting on my intentions has made getting better at things I dislike a whole lot easier. It’s also been satisfying to serve my peer coach in the same capacity, holding her to account for addressing her challenges and watching her change and grow in the process.

The Coach has a Coach

It all started 7 years ago when I attended my annual Learning Network meeting in La Jolla California—a small group of leadership writers and consultants first convened by the executive coach Marshall Goldsmith in the mid-'90s, and which has been meeting regularly ever since. Marshall seemed particularly energized at our 2007 gathering because he’d recently begun working with a peer coach. Just as Marshall’s professional practice centers on helping senior executives achieve “clear and measurable behavioral improvements” in their daily lives, so his own regularly scheduled work with a peer was enabling him to do the same.

He enthusiastically shared his simple method, which our group practiced together. It starts with each peer partner compiling a list of no more than ten highly specific questions that reflect areas each wants to work on. For example, someone trying to get better at prioritizing tasks might include as an item: “Did you start your day by doing the one thing you most needed to do?”

This list is then shared with a peer coach and a regular time is set at which coaches ask one another the questions on the list. Answers can range from a quick yes or no to a more extended discussion that helps peers probe their reluctance to make needed changes. It’s a reciprocal process, with each peer serving as both coach and coachee for the other.

Trusted Peer in her Time Zone

Following my introduction to the technique, I invited a friend to become my peer coach. I chose someone who lives in my time zone, figuring this would be easier. I also wanted someone who had a pretty good picture of my strengths and liabilities and whom I trusted to keep our work confidential. I used the template Marshall had shared, but my PC and I quickly developed our own habits, routines and methods, including an almost daily check-in by phone.

Having someone hold me accountable for acting on my intentions has made getting better at things I dislike a whole lot easier.”

Right from the start it proved helpful, but after the first few years, it became a necessity, a way for each of us to understand what was happening around us and incrementally improve every aspect of our lives. As we got deeper into our practice, we began to notice that our mutual willingness to share information was a good barometer of whether something was a good idea or not. For example, if one of us “forgot” to tell the other details about an upcoming trip, chances are we were either hiding misgivings from ourselves or laying the groundwork to make an especially poor decision. Having one another regularly offer perspective not just on what we do but on the thought processes that inform our actions gives us a more reliable lens for seeing the challengesand the opportunitiesin our lives.

Not Doing those To-Dos? No Excuses Accepted

There’s also the lash of incentive that comes from having to report on precisely what you have and have not accomplished, which is what helped me become more diligent about self-marketing. It was hard to keep moving items forward on my daily to-do list when I knew someone was going to ask tomorrow if I made that client call. It seemed easier under these circumstances to just do what I didn’t want to do rather than think up an excuse for not having done it.

Given the profound layers of resistance that come with the territory of being human, most of us can benefit from being held to account. Peer coaching offers an efficient, potentially profound yet entirely cost-free way to make that happen.


Sally Helgesen is an author, speaker, and leadership development consultant, whose most recent book is The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work (with Julie Johnson; Berrett-Koehler, 2010). She is a popular speaker at Leadership California Sessions. Learn more at sallyhelgesen.com.



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