About Me

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Dr. Lichtman is an executive and career coach, who has created behavioral, changes in the hundreds of leaders with whom she has worked. As a trained therapist, with a profit and loss business background, she has the added benefit of understanding the individual, and the interplay between emotional intelligence and success in the business environment. By building on positive attributes, Dr. Lichtman has been able to reduce the time needed to create sustainable changes.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Finding My back to Bergen Belsen

I was born in Bergen Belsen in 1948, three years after the liberation of the notorious concentration camp located in northern Germany. Last week, I went back to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the place where my parents, Bella Cyprus and Roman Lichtman, survivors of Auschwitz and Dachau, met and married. 
The rise of anti semitism in Europe and the negative feelings being verbalized against Israel made me want to do something impactful. The president of Germany would be there. Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, would be there — and I would be there, too.
I am not active in the Holocaust community. I do not tell my story at schools or give speeches about my parents and the Auschwitz number my dad had on his arm. But the death of my mom several years ago — and the births of my grandsons and what their legacy would be — made me want to go back and visit the place where everything began for my family. I needed to understand more about me without knowing exactly what I was looking for. 
If the current research on early childhood development is correct, by age 3, your brain and language are virtually formed. I had spent the first 18 months of my life in a Displaced Persons camp — the largest in Germany — surrounded by the remnants of suffering, sadness and death. Did that contribute to making me who I am? Maybe I would find an answer during my return.
Stepping onto the grounds of Bergen Belsen means setting foot onto a green lawn where tens of thousands of Jews are buried. There are berms with stone signs that read: “Here lay 2,500 dead.” There were no buildings left; they had all been destroyed to wipe out diseases like typhus; no gas chambers now or before — only small crematoria — nothing but large, open spaces.
The buildings, each of which once kept hundreds of Jews, were replaced by trees, all the same height, having grown together over the last 70 years, but nothing there said “horror” or “evil.” You had to imagine what had once been at this site. Yes, there was a new museum and a memorial, but the emotion I expected to feel at this concentration camp did not happen.
I had cried while watching the films showing emaciated bodies being bulldozed into pits and the rail-thin survivors, but walking through the grass with stone grave markers left me numb. Surreal, empty, disappointed, just not what I expected.
The next day we went to the Displaced Persons camp, which was just down the road. The prisoners’ section of the camp itself held so many sick people suffering from diseases within the wooden buildings that the British army burned everything, and instead used the German soldiers’ barracks and their hospital and buildings for the Jewish survivors.
Today it is a British NATO base. It was here that I saw the barracks my parents lived in, the hospital where I was born, the street where I played. We had lunch in the roundhouse, which had been used as a hospital to treat the thousands of survivors who were dying after liberation. As I looked up at the fixtures, which had been there since 1930, I thought of my mother, who had been on one of those cots and had no doubt regarded those very same fixtures during her time there. 
We walked through the DP camp’s cemetery, where the Jews who died after liberation were buried. My mother had delivered a stillborn baby boy who was in one of these unmarked graves. I looked and saw, but did not feel. I tend to compartmentalize my thoughts, but this lack of emotion was difficult to understand.
I am a college professor, a psychologist and an executive coach. I specialize in emotional intelligence. I speak about the need for all of us to have empathy in our work and in our lives.
Yet here I was in a place of personal tragedy for me, a place where my mother had been tortured, where my aunt had died, where thousands and thousands of Jews had been savagely slaughtered — and I could not be empathetic.
But that all changed as we began to connect with the hundreds of other survivors and children and grandchildren of survivors, who had also come back. My husband and I traveled to Bergen Belsen with the World Jewish Congress along with our friends, Menachem and Jeanie Rosensaft, whose parents also both lived at the DP camp. 
Going back to the hotel in the nearby city of Hanover, where all the visitors stayed, I began talking to people, looking for a connection to my parents. No one remembered my mother or father, but everyone had stories that were the same. What started out as small talk with strangers became the most important and heartfelt part of the trip. We all acknowledged how, growing up, we felt different from non-survivors.
We shared our innermost feelings and, most importantly, we started to feel like we were each others’ extended families. We did not have to explain what had happened to our families or what a DP camp was. To each other, we were the aunts and uncles and cousins that had perished under the Nazis.
When my mother was in her early 90s, with slight dementia, my husband and I took her to our synagogue for High Holiday services. There were hundreds of people sitting there. My mother stood up, looked around at the many faces and said in her heavily accented English, “These are all Jews?” She couldn’t believe it. This was amazing to her. 
When I went to the memorial services at Bergen Belsen, along with thousands of others, I stood up, looked around at the faces present — and started to cry. Here, too, “were all Jews,” here to remember and pay homage to my father and mother and all the Jews who came through this site. Those who died and those who survived. My mom, Bella, would have liked to have seen this. 
Bergen Belsen was my mother and father’s first home. It is where they started their new life and their new family. It is where they learned that life must go on, where you can love and laugh without forgetting what happened to you and those you loved. It is a sacred place with green hills and trees, where birds chirp and memories linger. It breaks your heart, yet soothes your soul. 
It is where I was born.
Dina Lichtman heads her own executive coaching company and is an adjunct professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Cocktail Dress as Newsworthy

I am a person who loves the news. I watch news shows throughout the day. I switch from channel to channel, including cable, from left leaning to right wing. I am also an executive coach who works with individuals, (many of whom are women) on a variety of topics including executive presence, emotional intelligence, leadership and other behaviors that lead to success.

So you know what I have noticed in the last few years, it doesn’t matter what news show you are watching or what party or belief system you are affiliated with, the female anchors or newscasters or reporters all wear evening or cocktail dresses to give us newsworthy information. How odd it is to view Matt Lauer in a professional long sleeve shirt and suit jacket sitting among 3 women wearing sleeveless dresses, often low cut, mostly emphasizing their breasts and giggling. It is hard to take Natalie Morales seriously wearing an off the shoulder cocktail dress at 7:00 am talking about Ebola or ISIS. Is she a serious journalist or looking for a date?

I used to admire Andrea Mitchel and Joy Reid but they too have succumbed to the cocktail attire. Do they not trust the information on which they are reporting or the intellect of the audience? I expect this from Ann Coulter but not Andrea Mitchell.
Do they think it is mostly men who are watching, therefore sexy is better than serious, that breasts are better than brains?

When did this change? When did wearing cocktail dresses and long dangling earrings become the norm? Men are totally covered up whereas women are exposed.

It is easy to blame this on the success of Fox News and their blonde bimbo newscasters. Yes these smart women purposely accent their bodies and downplay their intellect. We know this is a strategic maneuver to woo the rightwing, male dominated audience. They have said as much and for them it has worked. But MSNBC, CNN and regular broadcast channels ----do these females (or the producers of these shows) think men will listen more if they try to be sexy and smart? If Joe Scarborough is wearing a sweater and the male quests are wearing suits, why is Mika wearing a cocktail dress? Crazy isn’t it?

Now that the colder months are here, I had hoped for more suitable clothing but that has not happened. The women MIGHT wear long sleeve dresses (but not all)  but those dresses still reveal breasts, cleveage and are often too tight for their bodies.

For women who have spent their careers fighting to be taken seriously and not have our male colleagues ogling us, this recent dress change is disheartening. Is the deep V or off the shoulder at 7 AM really necessary? 

In my coaching practice I still emphasize the professional look for all my clients especially females . Too many times their expertise is discounted because of wearing low cut, cleavage exposing clothes that are too tight or too figure revealing. I am hired to help them develop an appropriate style so they can be taken seriously. You don’t need to be dowdy or plain or even modest. You need to be professional and appropriate.

Everywhere they look, competent women are playing up their inner “Barbie” and downplaying their “Hillary”. Fat or skinny, black, white or brown, women in the news are dressing to please the lowest level of male viewers. How sad!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

“Give and Take”, and the Successful Leader

There are always new books being published about what makes people successful, how to win, how to climb the corporate ladder, how to influence, how to lead and mange and myriad other options to create wealth and success.  As an executive coach, I read many of these books to learn about the most recent research and how it can be helpful to my clients.  Since I am also an executive coach at the Wharton School’s MBA Program and heard Adam Grant, a renowned social scientist and the youngest tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania, speak to our group; I was especially intrigued to read his new book, "Give and Take". His concept of giving as a more productive way to work, was highlighted in a recent cover story in the NY Times Sunday Magazine article:

His basic premise is that the "givers" in the world are happier, have more focus and willpower, create more successful teams, are better negotiators and make more money. The ‘givers” care about others, go out of their way to develop people, are fair and honorable in what they   do, are empathetic in their interactions, and view the world as a trustworthy place. They are authentic in their "giving" behavior as opposed to being a "Matcher", (you do for me and I will do for you,) or a “Taker” who tries to fake giving in order to get what they want with little regard for others. Givers need to be able to ascertain between “takers” and matchers or else they risk landing at the bottom of the success ladder and becoming “Chumps not champs”

Many of my coaching clients are senior executives, either  CEOs, vice presidents, CIOs, CTOs, directors of risk, cyber security or IT audit. Since I teach a class at Temple University's Fox School of business to Master students in IT audit & Cyber Security. I was particularly interested in how Dr. Grant’s book would work within the specialized IT arena.

Knowing that the CIO and the IT team have many goals in the organization that require setting internal and external strategy, anticipating new and necessary technology to both internal partners and external customers, while maintaining the highest levels of security, I was curious if Dr. Grant's “Give and Take” would answer the question of how the IT organizational and it's leaders can be successful givers. When I asked Dr. Grant about this, this was his response” For IT and CIOs: "Building a culture of givers is a key step toward encouraging knowledge sharing, which in turn promotes creativity and innovation.” This is vitally important especially in the IT world.

“Give and Take” is easy to read, filled with interesting examples and convincing arguments supported by well documented, cutting edge research that looks at the world of work and how "giving" impacts all aspects of life, team success, salary, and happiness.

Some of the surprising insights in this amazing book about "Givers” include :
1) “Powerless communication makes people look more approachable, warmer, more trustworthy and humble. When givers use powerless speech, they show us that they have our best interests at heart" according to Dr. Grant.  A giver leader can use powerful speech and powerless speech as well.
Here is a link to Adam grant giving a TEDx talk on Powerless Communication

2) “Takers” typically spend more time talking and less time listening.  They also have a more difficult time accepting others ideas if they conflict with their own. Dr. Grant writes" whereas takers often strive to be the smartest people in the room, givers are more receptive to expertise from others even if it challenges their own beliefs". For the CIO and the IT team to succeed, the best ideas must be heard regardless of where they come from.

3) Givers seek advice from others by asking questions, asking for input and recommendations. Doing this type of questioning will have an influencing affect on them. "When we seek advice from others, they feel flattered, and are more inclined to take our perspectives and become our advocates "so writes Dr. Grant.

4) Offer help and seek help as well.” If you want other people to be givers, one of the easiest steps is to ask for help” writes Dr. Grant. This gives people a chance to feel valued and needed. Reunite with dormant colleagues and offer to help them or connect them with others.

People who are givers do these things naturally.  Research has shown that givers are represented at the top of organizations in the same proportion as takers. One of the major differences is that givers cared about those around them, their teams, their partners in the business, their customers, as well as those not directly related to them. Givers were other directed not self-directed, while takers care more about themselves.

As the CIO and the IT team must listen and ask questions, be influential in their impact, have teams that are valued and trusted, it is not only possible but necessary that the IT world should be filled with "other focused individuals" who are givers. After all, their job is to make the organization, both their internal intellectual capital and their external customers, secure and safe in this Internet, digital, computerized, selfless technological world. So are you a “Giver, a Matcher or a Taker”?

If you want to see if you are a giver or a taker, Dr. Grant has a free on line survey on his website.  www.giveandtake.com

He also lists 10 different websites in the last chapter of his book that offer many other ways to collect information. This becomes very useful for anyone interested in setting up a culture of giving.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What's Wrong with Introverts? Nothing

In this age of constant and continuous communication from TV commentators, it is interesting how surprised they are that people in power are introverts. They are talking about the two folks running for the highest office in the land and comparing them to Bill Clinton, a true extrovert.
The assumption is that if you are a leader, you must be extroverted. That it takes a bubbly personality who enjoys the constant interaction with people to make a leader successful.  That being aloof, internally focused and more comfortable being alone will result in failure, or at least, less success.

So what does that do for the individuals who are introverted and have some difficulty being the social butterfly.This would include many people in the technology ,finance and engineering world, as well as scientists, doctors and many people in the C suite.In fact, introverts are everywhere in every occupation, yes even sales, and they not only succeed but often become the leader of the organization.

As an executive coach, I work with many individuals who are by nature introverts. (Including CIO and CTOs) As leaders , they are very successful who lead with confidence, determination and superb business acumen. These introverted leaders know that to be even more successful, they need to understand themselves and the external world better.They need to increase their social  and interpersonal skills so that their employees feel valued and listened to. To communicate a shared vision to an organization, the introverted leader must first learn how to communicate successfully and then to get others to executive upon that strategy, leaders must make others feel listened to and valued. 

To an extravert ,engaging a team and building consensus  seems so simple (like saying good morning or making eye contact) Yet for many introverted leaders, knowing what they should do and being comfortable doing it, are very separate and difficult things.
As a coach I work on all the aspects of Emotional intelligence. The technology individuals I coach are already successful They have a coach to help them become more outgoing. Knowing how to read a room, what it takes to engage an individual or group, and how to empathize with others, leads to better employee performance and an atmosphere of trust and success. These individuals are still introverted, it is their behavior that has changed.

To paraphrase Daniel Goleman from his seminal work on "What Makes a Leader"in the  Harvard Business Review,2004. People who can self regulate and self correct their emotional impulses are often seen as cold fish. For some reasons there is a belief that emotional outbursts and fiery temperaments are charismatic and evoke leadership. In fact, it is that exact behavior that often produces negative results. Successful leaders know who they are and have control of their emotions.

Yes you can change your behavior. You can still be who you are (authentic) and yet include behaviors that seem out of your comfort zone. You can be an introvert who ,in specific situations, behaves like an extrovert. Being self aware and learning what it takes to succeed, results in appropriate and successful behavior. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses as a leader allows you to hire in areas that compliment your style. Understanding interpersonal and social interactions, can be taught. It is the willingness to learn that is unique. The introverted leader who is eager and willing to learn how to be more socially adept, will be more successful. 
It takes self awareness and hard work but it can be done.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Innovative Instruction for IT Auditors

As an executive coach skilled in navigating the business environment, the worlds of academics and of IT are somewhat foreign territory. What do my areas of expertise – soft skill training and interpersonal communication -- have to do with highly skilled technology and finance students? Turns out, they are a perfect match.
At Temple University’s Fox School Department of Management Information Systems (MIS), administrators hold the innovative idea that increasing social awareness, the ability to self-regulate impulses and enhancing communication skills, will produce better IT auditors. As a result, I am currently teaching a class in a newly formed IT Auditing Masters program.
Typically, I work with organizations that want to increase the success of their executives, and in turn, business revenue.  This usually involves developing emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills among business leaders.

The Magic of IT
I have always admired IT departments and tech businesses that are crammed with technical geniuses who, seem to make the impossible, not only possible, but actually quite ordinary.  Achievements like tablets or smart phones that play music, show movies and act as a TV, camera, encyclopedia, classroom, radio and a video camera, are truly magical. And now I am getting a closer look at these magicians.

I have learned that the Fox School of Business’s new MS program in IT Auditing and Cyber Security -- one of only three such programs in the country -- is based on ISACA, a global association of information systems professionals. Students are trained to complete the Certified Information System Auditor (CISA) exam at the end of their studies.
Based in Philadelphia, the Fox School of Business in general, and my class specifically, is an amazing place filled with students from all over the world who come here to study and learn. One of my goals was to culturally prepare and acclimate students for the business world, including the interpersonal skills an auditor needs to be successful. The classes include individual personality assessments and real-world feedback from the head of audit of a major financial institution about what makes a successful auditor. We also practice interviewing skills, what good negotiation looks like, and discuss how emotional intelligence plays a major role in working with clients and stakeholders.

Learning Subtle Skills
Obviously, the first measure of success as an IT auditor requires excellence in the technical side of the job. But to get business constituents who are being audited to change their behavior, involves much more subtle communication and negotiation. How we say what we say, how much we listen to the verbal and the nonverbal language around us, and how comfortable we are asking and disseminating difficult information, often determines the outcome of any meeting—and any career.
Students learn that an IT audit meeting, which often involves much nuance and potentially negative consequences, is difficult under any circumstances. Therefore, knowing how and what to communicate, adding value to the conversation, and trying to be as objective as possible, will also determine the success of the IT auditors’ outcomes.

Teaching this wonderful, dedicated group of students is a unique and fulfilling experience and it proves that executive or business skills coaching is valuable in every setting.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Should You Have A Coach

Should Every Executive Have a Coach?

You are at doing well in your career. You are dedicated, skilled, technically competent, a recognized leader in your company and a valued employee. Your performance reviews are excellent, and your manager has complete confidence in your abilities. So why would you want (or need) a coach?

In a recent article in the New Yorker Magazine, (Oct 27, 2011) a renowned surgeon talked about getting a (surgeon) coach who could give him feedback on how he performed in the surgical suite. Although his outcomes were good, his reputation was impeccable and his interpersonal skills were excellent, he felt himself too comfortable, and wondered how he really did in all aspects of his work  and what he could improve.
Knowing that he could not be objective about his own behavior, he decided that an outside set of eyes and ears, would provide a mirror to his actual behavior. He wanted to improve how he worked, so he hired a coach who in fact did help become a better physician.

The Yale Center for Parenting looks at different aspects of parenting. One aspect of their research is how parental behavior contributes to the continuation of tantrums in children. By changing behavior in the parents, and coaching them in new behaviors, both verbal and non-verbal, the behavior of their children changed, and the tantrums were diminished or eliminated. Even a different way of offering praise to already well behaved and smart children, produced better results in the kids. Parental coaching changes behavior, in both the adults and the child’s, resulting in better behaved children and more relaxed parents.

In his book "Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives", Nicholas Christakisn writes about how changes in medicine, technology or finance will not work effectively without the appropriate behavioral change in the user. You can give out millions of mosquito nets to prevent malaria, but if people do not use them, they are useless. Vaccines prevent illnesses, as long as people get vaccinated. He calls this phenomenon "bio social science" and thinks that in the 21st century, it will be bio social science that is key to changing behavior.

Behavioral change requires a change in how we perceive the world and a trusted way to learn the new behaviors. Coaching can do this. Having a coach to reflect and build on what you do well, is part of how extremely successful people stay at that uppermost level. Having a coach, who can assess your skills and work on nuanced behavior, may result in better outcomes for you and your team.

We become complacent in what we do, we stop striving for better outcomes when we are already successful, we assume we cannot change others behaviors and we think executive coaching is for the  new, problematic or dysfunctional individual.  Many organizations hire coaches for new employees to insure a successful transition into a new culture. Other organizations hire coaches for  the top employees to maintain the level of success already achieved does not diminish. In fact all of us could benefit from that outside perspective of our behavior that coaching provides.

If the best singers have singing coaches, if the most celebrated athletes continue working with coaches, even when they are regarded as the best in their sport, if the top CEOs have coaches to use as sounding boards and offer unique perspectives, shouldn't you have an executive coach as well?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Self Assurance and Listening - The Need for Balance

This wonderful article was written by my good friend, Bob Gillmett.

It is doubtful that anyone in their personal or professional lives will dispute that there comes a time when they need a little (or a lot) of guidance and advice.  In many cases it is not a matter of “if you do”, but rather one of “acceptance”.  Acceptance on two levels:  1) accepting the fact that someone else’s opinion or advice might be valuable and, 2) accepting the advice given.  To some extent we are all guided by what we see and hear and how we assimilate that information into our actions.  However the outcome of that assimilation can vary greatly by the degree to which we are willing to change based on what we see and hear and the extent to which we may seek further direction from others.
These dynamics shape our personalities, our actions and how we grow – ourselves and/or our business.  To become individuals and develop individual style, we need to listen to ourselves and act upon our instincts and intuition.  But from time to time we also need to listen to what others are telling us and adjust our actions accordingly.  This is a delicate balance – too much of either one can result in dysfunction that impacts the individual and those around him/her.
With the recent passing of Steve Jobs we’ve heard a lot about the fact that he trusted his gut and very rarely listened to others. To some extent that is true, to be sure, but in point of fact he was an ardent supporter of customer satisfaction feedback and he monitored customer experience in stores and on-line on a daily basis.  A key to garnering more customers is to get current customers to talk favorably about your product. Customer satisfaction and the attention paid to maintain and grow that satisfaction is critical to developing a successful business.  Jobs definitely listened.
Ira Waldbaum grew his family grocery store business from a “mom & pop” operation selling produce and grocery staples in a street corner location in Brooklyn, NY to a 2 billion dollar company with 140 stores employing over 7500 people in three states in 1986, when the company was sold to A&P.  He was known as a man who adhered to strict ideas of store management and worked on instinct.  But a brief excerpt from his obituary in 2002 paints a slightly different picture:  “When Brooklyn customers asked for cartons for moving, he asked where they were going. ‘When they mentioned Kew Gardens’, he said, ‘I decided to open a store there.’ “  Ira listened too.
Neither man gave up on their strong adherence to instinct and intuition.  However both men realized the needed to listen to others as well.
Achieving the proper balance of self assurance and guidance from others will equip you well for success.  Whether it’s in the digital world or the produce aisle, you will sell a lot of apples.