Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I was struck by the oft-repeated greeting of "Happy New Year" and what we intend for it to mean...what we hope for it to mean...and how we have so little control over any of it! I notice, in the face of everything we are experiencing as a country and as humans, there is a joyful hopefulness around this new year. The alternative is so depressing.
I wonder, what is it that makes the new year the milestone of milestones? That we get a new day every 24 hours is not enough. Or the new week every Sunday or the new month every first. Think about it... we get 365 "Happy New Days" and 52 "Happy New Weeks" and 12 "Happy New Months" and yet we put all of our hopes and plans and energy into one day. What is significant about this day to you? What is it about this day that enables you to pause and see a whole year? What is possible when we fail in our new year resolutions and have the rest of the year to trudge through until we can re-start, renew, re-boot? Or, what is possible when we achieve our resolutions and have the remainder of the year to do...nothing?
I work with people and teams and couples and partnerships. There is a constant need to recalibrate tasks, realign resources, and renew commitment to the goal. Nothing is ever neatly set in stone and then worked toward its achievement. Change occurs daily...often over and over in a day. If coaching is about anything, it is about change management. A marriage vow must be renegotiated, freshened, acknowledged more often than on the wedding anniversary (and certainly more often than milestone anniversaries). A strategic plan must be used daily, not only when measuring a year (or two or three) of activity. A culture of a team or organization must be reconsidered with every personnel addition or subtraction. Change happens!
This year I am going to strive to acknowledge the moment and use it to guide the next moment. I am not at all opposed to looking long term; it's just impossible right now. My commitment to myself is to bring alignment between the Happy New Minute and the Happy New Year. It is not enough to only look from year to year; to do so ignores everything in between. I will strive to build on one minute into three weeks into five months and into one year. Now. Next. Repeat.
Happy New Minute.
Happy New Day.
Happy New Week.
Happy New Month.
Happy New Year.
(And for those of us so hopeful for smart, compassionate leadership in the American government, Happy New Era... one minute at a time...)
Monday, December 22, 2008
Recently I was waiting for an appointment and flipping through a magazine when an ad for a major national clothing retailer caught my attention; it was 12 full pages long and on each page was a model wearing a clothing item being advertised and across the page was a question...each page was a similar format with a different question.
The questions were:
- Trust your own __________
- Originate your own __________
- Free your own __________
- Make up your own ________
- Perfect your own __________
- Look for your own __________
- Compose your own __________
- Name your own __________
- Invent your own __________
- Create your own __________
- Believe your own __________
- See your own __________
If you're game, answer the questions for yourself. Where do they take you? And in 2009, what are you going to do about it?
Enjoy the season!
P.S. In case you were wondering:
- Trust your own voice. Sometimes I actually do know (contrary to what my teenager wants me to believe).
- Originate your own story. The story of my life is the story of my life. I get to create it.
- Free your own creative contribution. I try to unlock what is in me and do it!
- Make up your own mind! It amazes me how much of our world is about trying to convince others how to think, spend, pray, vote. I have to do that for myself.
- Perfect your own life. No one is going to do that for me. My life and my happiness is my job.
- Look for your own wonder. I look for the wonder in my day; snow in my yard, sea glass on my beach, my son turning into a man, my hair turning gray. It's all pretty cool.
- Compose your own soundtrack. As I go about my day I try to hear music and lyrics. My life has a musical score, sometimes an opera and sometimes a country song.
- Name your own price. Asking myself "what will it cost me to/not to X" helps me to remember my values and make a better choice.
- Invent your own anything. I draw from those before me and then invent my own whatever! I make it up.
- Create your own success. Having success is an active, participatory experience. It isn't going to be given to me.
- Believe your own story. I worked hard for my story. It's mine.
- See your own future. I try to keep looking forward, out, to the horizon. Sometimes it's not too clear and I do keep looking out there.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I spent the weekend with the staff of the Center for Great Apes, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide a permanent sanctuary in a safe and enriching environment for orangutans and chimpanzees in need of lifetime care. And I left Wauchula a changed person and a changed coach. Go figure!
The apes--and the humans who care for them--reminded me of some of the bigger lessons of life and the challenges (and joy) of serving leaders of non-profit organizations. I learned valuable things about primates and what's involved in caring for them (all fascinating!) and what really stoked me was how the experience of being with the apes was also a big metaphor for how we humans are (or aren't) with one another.
Some of my (re)learning:
- Animal rights are parallel to human rights, not subordinate to. I guess it's really about the rights of living creatures. Both efforts are about peace, learning, prosperity, freedom, health, dignity, relationships, rights and responsibilities, community.
- Caring for animals (and in most cases, caring for people) is service to the voiceless. If not us, who? The staff and volunteers who work with and care for animals are driven by fierce passion.
- "sanctuary" is a pretty amazing concept, one that deserves attention and contemplation. Animals need it. People need it too.
- Demand is so much greater than the supply. All of the facilities combined could not accommodate the numbers of great apes needing sanctuary. Think of all the organizations serving humans, and there is still a great need for more.
- Acting on an idea--in this case, to build a sanctuary for great apes--is a courageous act. Having ideas is one thing; having the courage to act on the idea is another.
- We have to leverage our success into more and greater success.
- People want to help animals and other people. Our job is to ask.
- Expanding the capacity of a non-profit organization is really about being able to expand the ability to care for more clients whether ape or human.
- Language barriers can be overcome with creativity and willingness. The apes are very clear about what they want and need; the human's job is to listen without the words. Doing so takes skill. What could be if we listened to animals and people with similar focus and intensity and interest?
- We are often thrown off balance when the simple and the complex collide. For example, feeding apes is simple (although managed by skilled nutritionists) while mastering the use of specialized computer software is complex.
- What would it be like if living creatures (humans included!) were able to live in the world exactly the way they were intended to live?
- "Dignity" is a very big idea! What does it mean to have dignity or to ensure dignity? To have the ability to live one's life with dignity and ease--whether ape or human--is a concept worth fighting for.
- Honoring our "stories" teaches us valuable lessons. Each of our stories shapes us and provides the context for how we live, for how we are understood. Animals have stories. Organizations have stories. People have stories. We have to honor the story as we move forward.
- It must be easy to exploit animals (many humans are exploited also) since it happens all over the world. Exploitation is quite a business where many people have become very rich. What would it be like to rebalance the equation: where no creature is exploited and they are rewarded for the contribution they can make?
In many ways, the effort was about the apes. In others, it was about the power of people working together for something bigger than themselves.
I highly recommend it!
A few thoughts: What do you notice about yourself and the impact of your contribution when you partner with like-minded people toward a common goal? What does and doesn't work? What is it to be "mission driven" in your work? What do you notice about "yes" and "no" when they are measured directly against the fulfilling of the mission? When the "client" (or the recipient of our effort) is voiceless, how do we know we are making an impact?
And if you feel moved to do so, I invite you to visit the Center for Great Apes on-line and make a financial contribution today. You will grow from the experience.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
President-elect Obama is often speaking about his idea (among others) to stimulate the American economy by implementing a massive public works improvement plan. More bridges and highways, improved schools and libraries and hospitals, enhanced parks and open space, to name a few topics. The idea is to invest money in America, in American workers, in American infrastructure and this will be good for the economy overall. I'm no economist, but okay!
And I wonder...from my perspective as a person who works with leaders of non-profit organizations, what can be more to the core of who we are as a country than how we care for one another? In terms of a massive public works improvement plan, every American non-profit organization should be first in line to receive funds!
Every public homeless shelter and animal rights organization and civil rights task force and art museum and school and healthcare institution and domestic violence shelter and hospice and hotline and soup kitchen and youth sport team and English teacher in the inner city and prison librarian and pool lifeguard and social worker and community center volunteer should be considered first for the funds that will be made available to repair our country's infrastructure.
It is pretty simple: American non-profit organizations need trained volunteer boards of directors, qualified and trained and fairly compensated staff members who also receive health and other benefits, appropriate and safe and accessible and resourced facilities, support with planning for a sustainable future, computers and other useful equipment. Non-profit organizations need support for projects and equipment and staff specialists specific to the service they deliver. These non-profits need fundraisers who are trained and who have the resources to leverage a few gifts into many gifts. They need databases and web sites and file cabinets and lead-free paint and playground equipment and gallery space and veterinarian care. Unpaid staff people (and there are too many!) need to be paid for their tireless contributions and non-profit organizations need to move out of well meaning people's living rooms and into facilities more easily accessed by clients. We need to provide the resources so they can replace "basic services" with "we can provide you with what you need or we will link you to someone who can." Non-profit organizations should not have to have "sliding scale" fee structures or waiting lists; everyone should have service if they need it. Non-profit organizations should not have to choose between providing service or keeping the facility warm in winter.
I could go on!
I know a lot about non-profit organizations and the people who love them! No one can do more good with such limited resources than people who work for non-profit organizations. A massive investment in non-profit organizations--the human infrastructure of our country--when managed by people who demonstrate daily they can do so much with so little, would be a smart investment.
Now that's change!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
I am sure taking contrary action is not as easy as it may seem, but it certainly sounds easy.
A common theme I here from coaching clients is being stuck or disempowered to act or immobilized in some feeling that inhibits action. And I wonder, what might be possible to decide to take an opposite, or contrary approach, to what you currently feel or believe? I wonder... if you feel too shy to raise funds for your organization, act outgoing and go raise funds for your organization. If you cannot bear the idea of terminating an unproductive volunteer for fear of hurting their feelings, kindly (and unapologetically) ask them to leave and trust your skills to soothe hurt feelings. If you regularly attend board meetings that bore and frustrate you then dare to attend and make them productive and useful.
There sure is somethig powerful, almost seductive or familiar, about staying in the stuck place. We know it well and when we make choice or take action from this place there is no possibility of change. Forget about contrary action. We choose to stay in inaction.
Think about it: If you want something you don't have, you may have to do something you haven't done or you may have to be something you haven't been before. It may be an act of contrary action to take contrary action.
Now go try it!
Friday, December 5, 2008
I have a friend at the pool where I swim three days a week. I really like her and we have a good time chatting as we work out. We are very different and we are close. This morning's workout was pretty typical for us--a little chat, some sweat, a little more chat-- and a topic that came up was how she and her husband (they just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary!) are leaving for Florida where they snowbird from the New England cold. Sadly, he is not at all well. I asked my friend when they will return and she shrugged her shoulders and said "I don't know and it is just fine. We'll be together."
I was struck by how being together, where ever that is, is more important than plans and schedules that typically dominate our way of life. She had a look on her face that reflected an excitement for the adventure and for what will be rather than having a well planned trip that would likely result in disappointment because her husband's health is failing and their lives are quite unpredictable. They are throwing themselves, with enthusiasm and joy, into the unknown. I wish them love and peace on their adventure of no plans and doing what ever comes their way.
I love planning. I love plans and the process and how plans organize my life. My business is often about plans and strategic planning and fundraising plans. And I wonder, how do we plan when things are so unknown, unpredictable, fluid? In times of crisis (my friend's husband's cancer) or rapid change (massive economic downturns in our country), how do we plan when we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow much less in three to five years? What would it be like to really go with the flow...be in the moment? I have found the external reality of my world is forcing me to adjust my plans daily. It's all I can do. So I plan to be flexible. I plan to make adjustments. Does this count?
Okay, so I am having a visual image...driving in a storm. Driving in a storm is hard work. The rain, the wind, wet and slippery roads. Windows beginning to fog up. Other drivers navigating their own cars to safety (or not). Our lazy, reflexive driving skills become sharp and we become alert because the external reality forces us to. And miles down the road the storm passes and things become normal again. There really is no planning that can happen; the storm is on you! And it will pass one way or another.
I have no plans for the weekend. We'll see how that goes.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
My blog is not about politics but I often find inspiration for my work with non-profit organizations by what I see in the political arena. They are very similar in scope and structure and in many ways connected. Yesterday there was an article in the Boston Globe newspaper about the ongoing U.S. Senate race in Georgia and President-Elect Obama's ability to influence the outcome there and helping to get the Democrat elected. Two paragraphs of the article caught my attention:
Today's runoff election between Martin and Chambliss will offer the first test of whether Obama is able to bequeath more to local allies than merely the trappings of a presidential campaign. The results may offer a tentative answer to questions that will ghost American politics for at least the next four years: Is there a sustainable Obama coalition, and is the Obama machine durable? Has Obama created anything greater than himself?
"He has a political army that is truly impressive, but that kind of loyalty to a person rather than to an institution is not as transferable," said Donald Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chairman. "Yet this is a new day and this is a new kind of organization: it is highly electronic and it might work."
What struck me was the parallel between Barack Obama's presidential campaign and the experience of founders of non-profit organizations, particularly those founders who are trying to move their organizations into long-term sustainability. Consider this modified snippet of the quotation above:
Is there a sustainable [insert Founder's name here] organization, and is the [insert Founder's name here] vision durable? Has [insert Founder's name here] created anything greater than him/herself?
"[insert Founder's name here] has a program/organization that is truly impressive, but that kind of loyalty to a person rather than to an institution is not as transferable."
Get the idea? I notice founders of non-profits incubate great ideas and give birth to powerful programs. They often do so because big needs are going unmet, they are committed and passionate, and they can (and if they can't, they find a way to). And what happens in the years of building and growing and struggling is that an over reliance on the founder is created to hold the fledgling organization together while there is also an under reliance by the founder to generate support in the organization by others. Unintentionally, founders create loyalty to themselves and not to the institutions they have created therefore destabilizing the very institutions they have created. Loyalty has not been transferred.
New organizations survive primarily because people are dedicated to the founder and secondarily because they are moved by the mission. And this is also why organizations fail! Founders need to let go; stewards need to receive. Founders need to share and collaborate in service to the mission. Founders need to enroll others who love the work first and care for the founder second. Stewards need to care for the organization by asserting themselves and their skills in the process. Stewards and founders alike need to remind themselves their service is bigger than any individual and that together they will be successful creating an organization built to be sustainable. There is an intentionality that comes with building an institution that exists to serve a greater public.
In today's politics, many are asking themselves if there is a hope for change without Obama...is he the only one who can deliver change? Or is the message for change so great and people have been inspired that others can lead them to it? In non-profit organizations all over this country people are asking, is there a hope for [insert your non-profit organization mission statement here] only if [insert name of founder here] does the work or do we have the capacity to fulfill the mission ourselves? Is the loyalty we have for the leader transferable to the cause?
I like to think of it that hope or change or curing a disease or securing a civil right is in each of us. We each have the capacity to care for something bigger than ourselves. And naturally, it seems, we join together and make what is inside us a larger movement. Individuals generate an idea and with leadership the idea grows into a movement and then we all own the idea. In the case of a non-profit, individuals take an idea and create organizations because inherent is the belief that collectives can create greater impact than an individual. Because of the individual's effort a group can emerge and take over and achieve.
My hope: Leaders and founders will be honored because they saw something that was possible and believed so intentionally and cared so much and exercised such courage that we joined in and learned and grew and owned it!
Monday, December 1, 2008
I was a student in India when I was an undergraduate. I lived there and studied there. I lived on two university campuses founded by Mahatma Gandhi that were designed to foster a greater understanding of peaceful protest and self sufficiency. My research took me all over the country where I met amazing people and deeply experienced what India has to offer. My life changed.
In 2004 I took my then ten-year-old son to India for a seven week backpacking experience. Our goal was to see as much of the country as we could and to retrace my undergraduate footsteps by visiting the places I lived and reconnecting with the people I knew and who welcomed me into their homes all those years ago. We trekked all over the country and we visited and stayed with every family I knew and who welcomed us in as family. Our lives changed.
We began our journey in Mumbai. In fact, we began our journey in Shelleys Hotel, a quaint hotel in the Colaba district of Mumbai. At that time, Shelleys Hotel was a popular hotel for tourists that occupied the ground and first and second floors and the Chabad of Mumbai occupied the remaining upper floors. Since 2004 the hotel was acquired by the Chabad and the entire building was renamed and occupied as Nariman House. Nariman House is the "Jewish Center" that was occupied by the terrorists, where an intense battled took place, and where Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife were murdered last week.
While in Mumbai, my son and I attended Shabbat Services at the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, also in the neighborhood. It was our intention to explore the lives of Indian Jews while we were in India. One Friday night we met Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife. I remember being greeted by him and I know we shared a wonderful dinner following services at the home of one of the temple members (the whole congregation left the synagogue after services and went to dinner together). As I type this blog entry I have Rabbi Holtzberg's business card beside me.
While in Mumbai we ate many of our meals at the Cafe Leopold, the site where the terrorist battles began last week. The cafe is a great place for travelers and tourists to get acclimated to Mumbai and India. We had some great moments sitting at the front of this open air restaurant and watching India--in all of its complexity--pass by on the street and sidewalks just beyond our gaze. Last week this restaurant was littered with gunshot and mayhem.
We would leave Cafe Leopold and visit the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Hotel, two magnificent landmarks in the old city. It was in front of the Taj Mahal Hotel where my son first touched the Arabian Sea, experienced his first child begging on the street (he bought her powdered milk in the store), and where he took in the confusing contrasts that define India--rich and poor, homeless and housed, residents and tourists, British Raj and Democratic India, American child on summer holiday and Indian girl begging for daily survival. The Gateway of India, a big open monument, symbolically welcomes people to India's shores and was the site where the terrorists came ashore from boats in the harbor with bags of weapons and ammunition. It was the starting point for the days of terror that followed.
To get to and from Mumbai (something we did a few times) we would visit the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station, a glorious monument to India on the go and another site of senseless terrorist violence and death.
It is all so overwhelming, really. Not only to have been to India and to the places that were all over the news in the last 72 hours and to have made an acquaintance with innocent victims of such a tragedy, but also to love India deeply and to feel pain and sadness for the people who have been so painfully hurt.
The loss of human life causes me huge grief. And what I notice today is the loss of voice--the settling of disagreements with violence and death and threats and fear and psychology and irrationality and hopelessness. I grieve for the people who feel such hopelessness that all they can do is kill and destroy. I believe fair minded people want to listen; but evil people have to have the courage to talk. Conversely, fair minded people want to talk and evil people might learn from listening too.
Is there a "coaching point" to make? Not so sure...I'll try.
What might be possible for the world if people talked and listened to one another, even to words they find objectionable and to ideas that they find impossible or repellent? What might be possible for the world if we were to recognize and solve problems from the stance that there is some truth to what we each have to say and some not truth? Pathways to peace and conflict resolution and love and understanding are complex; how are you with complexity? What's trying to happen here?
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Excerpt from On The Pulse Of Morning by Maya Angelou American Poet. Delivered January 19, 1993 at the Inauguration of President Clinton
Friday, October 31, 2008
There is a lot to being in relationship. We are in relationship always! Think about it. And at the moment I am intrigued by the will to keep going when marriage (and other relationships) gets tough. I notice in myself and my clients the ease with which we give up. What do you know about giving up? What do you notice about yourself when things are tough? Where does determination and perseverance come from? What is that spark that pulls people together and keeps them together in relationship? What do you know about that spark when it is extinguished? What's next for you in relationship?
For me, the theme for the weekend is relationship--celebrating others in relationship and celebrating being in relationship. It's pretty awesome.
Enjoy the weekend (and Congratulations Neshalee!).
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I am intrigued by the idea of a one word passion… a one word goal… a one word mantra. My work with non-profit staff and volunteer leaders often incorporates the stated mission of the organization and how it is held in the culture of the organization and how it is operationalized in the programs of the organization. A mission statement is typically more than one word and is open to a lot of dialogue and interpretation. A mission statement is essential, don’t get me wrong, and I am curious about the one word that captures who you are, what you are about.
What would it be like to simply stand for “equality?” What would it be like to stand for “love” or “accuracy” or “community” or “efficiency” or “healing?” How would our world be different if people and organizations stood for core concepts—deeply held values—that didn’t get lost in the flourishing language of mission statements and the ususal dis-integration that happens as a result of complex interpretations?
Here’s the challenge: What is the one word to which you are so deeply convicted that you will focus your life’s work in support of it…it defines you? When I take on my own challenge, I have a few words on my list… I stand for integrity. I stand for family. I stand for growth. I stand for adventure… I’ll work to get it to one!
Enjoy the day!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
“Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
- Dr. Howard Thurman
What makes you come alive? What does it look like? When will you do it? How will the world know?
Friday, October 3, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
It's Rosh Hashanah--Have a sweet New Year.The New Union Prayer Book
Monday, September 22, 2008
As I was driving home the entire episode became a huge metaphor for me and a client I am working with. I got to thinking about the ugliness and the discomfort we will endure in order to achieve something greater. For an executive director, how much change and uncertainty and undeveloped resources will s/he endure before something greater can happen? For my son (a freshman in high school), how much homework and teen angst will he endure before something greater happens, his goals form, he matures? How much unpleasant challenge will we tolerate in the workplace on the path to a promotion? It’s not a “first this, then that” proposition (or is it?); can achievement and impact happen at the same time as ugliness and discomfort? Is there value to the pain of the moment?
I am reminded: Treatment will be ugly and uncomfortable and cancerous cells will be dying off and healthy skin (and body) is being restored. A much richer place to be than looking to when the ugliness and discomfort ends so I can then get back to my life (and stand in family photos). I am going for the “yes, and…”--Yes, to treating skin cancer issues and living my life and growing my business and raising my son and taking a class and …
What do you say “Yes, and…” to?
(P.S. Wear sun block…lots!)
Friday, September 19, 2008
Do you remember how slowly the days passed when you were a child? An 80-mile car trip seemed endless. It took forever for summer to come. When it finally did, by late-July, summer seemed interminable. Basic arithmetic reveals that for a two-year old, the next year will represent 33% of her life thus far, whereas for a 19-year old, the next year represents 5%, and for a 39 year-old, only 2.5%...
More than anything else, the young child's perceptions influence how she experiences life. She has few markers that delineate the passage of time. On the first of each month, she pays no rent or mortgage. She has no job, and does not commute. She is likely to be regularly clothed, bathed, and cared for. The child arises each day with no agenda, no "to do" list. She experiences hunger, irritation, and sleepiness. She has some favorite activities -- her major activity is play. Each day brings new wonders... Meanwhile, she has no report to finish, no checkbook to balance, no across-town meetings. She does not even wear a watch.
Your life is a bit more complicated, and is related increasingly to how society has become more complex. Independent of who you are or what you do for a living, chances are that you're busy, perhaps extremely busy, and are a part of our active, generally hard-working population.
If you continually feel pressured, don't take it personally. You are experiencing the same dilemma as millions of other people, and you are part of the most time-pressed society of over-information and communication in history… Few people have what they consider to be breathing space in which to reflect,…truly relax, or simply be.
At this moment you are being bombarded on all sides. The "intake overglut" wreaks havoc on the receptive capacities of the unwary. Yet you can break away from the pack that idly ingests the information, noise and garbage that comes its way. Despite the ever-escalating array of obstacles, you can attain breathing space.
Jeff Davidson, [edited passage from] Breathing Space: Living and Working at a Comfortable Pace in a Sped-Up Society
Slow down. Enjoy the space to breathe this weekend!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Could be the traits and characteristics of a board of directors. Could be the traits and characteristics of a person, or a partnership. When a group is assembled, whether you know it or not, there’s a whole lot more present than what appears on the surface.
What do you notice about who occupies your table? What will it take for this group to be effective? What does it take to balance needs/functions of the whole with the unique attributes of the individuals?
is trying to can happen here?
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
My brother-in-law is an appreciative fan. He will send personal letters to these famous people, sincerely acknowledging their talent or reflecting upon how they have impacted him in some way. He sends photos or books or record albums or sports items with his request for a personalized signature. Most everyone he reaches out to complies because they are so touched by his sincerity. Collecting autographs is his hobby—his passion--and it brings him pure joy!
Recently, when I was with my brother-in-law, he was in the process of interacting with and getting an autograph from a famous singer/entertainer from the 50’s and 60’s. My brother-in-law wrote to this singer about how he remembers his teenage sister (now deceased) dancing around her bedroom with a song from one of the singer’s LPs playing repeatedly. The singer responded to my brother-in-laws request for a special autograph with a personal letter expressing his appreciation for the story and offering to sign anything sent his way. My brother-in-law sent his sister’s album for the entertainer to sign. It’s a lovely story.
He called me the other day to tease me about his latest outing. “Guess where I went?” he asks and I immediately know it has something to do with autograph collecting. “Okay, whose did you get today?” I ask with sincere, eager curiosity. He tells me how he went to a “Star Unveiling” at the Hollywood Walk of Fame for the 70’s singing group The Village People and there he got an autograph from each villager (remember the police man, the cowboy, the construction worker, etc.?). He got autographs from Greg Louganis and Charo who were also there (go figure!). We laughed about our Village People memories, marveled at Greg Louganis and his Olympic success, and pondered Charo’s success and longevity (and talent?). This is the joy and sharing that comes from his hobby.
Autographs… it’s his thing. And what I notice is his pure, unbridled, over-the-top, creative, strategic, appreciative, enthusiastic, extraordinary love for his hobby. He embraces this hobby with such fervor, with such passion! It makes me wonder, what are you passionate about? What do you do that brings you endless, boundless joy?
And what I also notice is my brother-in-law is spreading appreciation and acknowledgment to people for doing something in his world that made an impact whether for a moment or his lifetime. My brother-in-law marks his life in many ways, one of which is by a movie or a song or a joke or a sporting event. He lets people know their song made a difference or their movie performance shed some light. He takes time to let people know they touched him in some way.
What does showing appreciation and sharing acknowledgement look like to you? What are the risks you take when offering acknowledgment? When you offer it, how do you know it is received? What happens to you after you offer acknowledgment that is received? What do you notice?
Try this: Amazing things happen in your world when you share on the outside what is going on inside.
Go try it!
Monday, September 15, 2008
I think my progression into an electronic “plugged in” lifestyle was fairly common. I don’t recall resisting the need to have a computer, e-mail, and some other gadgets (although the cost and rapid “disposability” of equipment was always a bit much to take). In fact, I have embraced technology and do enjoy the ease having it brings to my life. In fact, a large part of my business is built around connectivity. Years ago I named my goal: to build a coaching practice that I can do anywhere in the world. Having a laptop computer and a cell phone gives me amazing freedom to do just that.
[Insert admission here…] Technology has become essential to me.
In this particular computer episode my aggravation is not at having lost data; I haven’t and I back up my computer regularly. The aggravation I experience is in the fact that the data and my software and my programs are on the computer—it’s all there—and I have no access to them. The computer is dead. Feeling immobilized, incapable, crippled come to mind.
So this is what I am thinking: What happens when the sum of the parts does not add up to a whole! Or in the affirmative, what are we able to accomplish when the sum of the parts do add up to a whole?
I think about a client (an organization) who has a staff, a donor base, a board of directors, some consultants, a strategic plan, and financial resources. Their goal is to make huge impact for a particular group of people. And yet, there is little movement toward this goal. The parts cannot/do not come together to achieve the goal. There is a spinning—an inertia—that keeps a process happening but it is not a process taking this client toward its biggest goal. I wonder, what is the component that is missing, that prevents the parts from coming together? What needs to be tweaked in order to course-correct the parts and meet the goal? And what are the barriers to tweaking the parts? What’s trying to happen here?
My resourcefulness will help me to see solutions to my computer dilemma. I can take my back-up disk and get my data and borrow a computer to use the data. I can go to the local public library or coffee house for e-mail and web access. I can take out a pen and paper to write a letter and buy a stamp and mail it (do you know stamps are $.42 now?) or I can send a FAX (remember those machines?). I am getting my computer repaired. Similarly, my client can raise more money, enhance the skills of the board, realign the programs, retrain some staff, revise its long-term plan, and revisit its fundraising case. In either case, naming the challenge, tweaking and making some needed adjustments to the parts, and also aligning the parts with the whole will lead to success.
Notice the parts and the whole in your week. What do you know about their alignment? If the alignment is a bit off, what needs to happen? The parts are in service to something larger; what is it and how committed are you to it?
Have a great week.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
And, in addition to the philanthropic generosity he demonstrated, what has really stayed with me all these years was the title on his business card. He was the Director of Dream Fulfillment. I get it… a corporate foundation, he’s the leader, he oversees the giving away of millions of dollars, his efforts fulfills dreams. Cool!
Fast forward to this afternoon: I was poking around on a couple business networking websites and was struck by how mind-numbingly boring most job titles are. I wonder how challenging it must be to be successful in a job function that is identified with such a boring job title. Case Managers manage cases. Outside Sales Representatives probably represent products or services, in hopes of selling them, to people out in the community. IT Managers must manage some form of IT. Ugh!
Far and few between, there were some job titles that appeared that inspired me, intrigued me, or made me chuckle. At the very least, they did not seem to be the kind of title that would suck the life out of the good people who occupy the positions.
- Director of Vertical Markets
- Director of Strategy Planning
- Director of Sustainable Development
- Energy Engineer
- Information Architect
- Senior Strategy Consultant
- Implementation Engineer
- Creative Interactive Strategist
- Infrastructure Development Manager
- Community Relations Associate
- Interactive Designer
- Client Relationship Executive
- Cause Account Coordinator
- Chief Creative Officer
- Client Relations Manager
- Senior Game Developer
- Strategic Account Manager
I wonder what would be possible if the titles of the jobs we do enlivened us, motivated us, cracked us up. They can still say what we do but in a way that fills us with hope and possibility, not drain us of our creativity and breath. Can’t a Director of Public Policy become a Director of Public/Private Partnerships or maybe a Human Resources Manager can become the Manager of Our Valued People Because Without Them We’d Be Nothing? I think every fundraising position these days should have the word “philanthropy” in it’s title.
Words have great power. I want the roles I play in the world to move me to greatness and what that role is called is an important place to begin. What’s on your business card? How alive/inspired/creative/successful does the title make you feel? If you were to change your actual title, what would the new title be? And if your new, made up title resonates for you, go get your actual title changed. Now!
Friday, September 5, 2008
This afternoon I was working on my blog when I ran into trouble. I was trying—repeatedly—to add two new features to the blog and it wouldn’t work! I was certain I had done this function before and was puzzled that it wasn’t working for me this time. I became more persistent in my attempt to be self reliant and not call Sue. I gave in. After an e-mail and a call, Sue rescued me.
What I noticed in my stuck place is that I knew how to execute what I was trying to do on the blog. I had done this before and I will do it again. Yet it wasn’t working. I became frustrated and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Inner chatter covered “you should leave this work to the professionals” and “you were just lucky last time you did this.” And I felt a certain self righteousness; I was right and the computer was wrong.
Moments later the features magically appeared on my blog. Sue had received my e-mail and with skill and ease made the changes for me. And a few moments later than that, there was an e-mail in my inbox from Sue that said “OK, first of all, you did nothing wrong. Their code was wrong. I fixed it…” I found myself patting myself on the back (I was right!) and I was grateful for my growing computer skills.
I was right (about this blogging matter) and yet, because computer literacy is a growing skill for me, I doubted my knowledge. Also, because what I was trying to do related to material that originated from a large, well resourced organization, I had to be wrong and they had to be right. They’re the experts; I’m a novice blogger who relies on his web site designer to rescue him… blah blah blah. I can do better than this!
My Friday learnings:
- I celebrate what I know and what I am learning.
- I like the tests that come in many forms that challenge me to own what I know and what I am learning.
- I surround myself with smart, fun people who collaborate and problem solve, reliably and expertly.
- As I cross one edge another appears (one computer lesson leads to another!).
- Even well resourced organizations make mistakes that require sole proprietors to sort out.
Enjoy the weekend!
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I was outside a subway station in town when I noticed a construction crew prepping the street for a project. Barricades were being set, sidewalks were being redirected, and the “plan” was being mapped out on the road with different colors of spray paint. I wonder, what will be achieved when this spray-paint-on-asphalt plan is implemented?
For years I have been a planning consultant, specifically strategic planning and fundraising planning for non-profit organizations. I really enjoy the planning process and being with a team (usually a board of directors) as it names and clarifies its governance and programmatic goals. Often these teams embrace this critical planning process with enthusiasm and intention which can be seen in the results of the effort… a well-written plan!
One thing I notice in most planning processes, however, is how little attention is paid to what to do with the plan once it is created. The team will meet and plan and write and plan. They will hold retreats and brainstorm and report back to the group and write some more. The team will conduct a SWAT analysis and compile SMART goals and conduct some form of judgment-free, inclusive voting. It’s all good. A stronger team is built. A plan is written.
Planning is a process that doesn’t end. For a non-profit organization, planning is about the impact you are trying to have on the world first, how you plan to make this impact second, and the actual resourcing of programs third. The planning proposition is: In order to do THIS (mission), we will do THIS (programs generally), and it will look like THIS (actual services provided). Consider:
In order to eradicate the world of Malaria by 2015, we will take a holistic approach to the epidemic by looking at the interrelationship of clean water, netting, medication, education, and public policy, by doing…
In order to end the institutionalization of children, we will fight for accessible adoption laws for all children without families, by doing…
In order to strengthen democratic institutions for all, we will educate people about their rights and responsibilities, by doing…
The most successful planning process is one that concludes at the end of the implementation of the plan produced; not at the conclusion of the planning process itself.
Think about it.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Yesterday I received an e-mail announcement from Quiana celebrating having earned her coaching certificate. She is now a CPCC. Wow! What I know, and we share, is the commitment, the hard work, the endless skill building drills and rigorous evaluation and feedback required to become great coaches. Coaching and certification is about becoming and being a coach, not doing coaching.
I am so proud of my friend. She is goodness, inspiration, skillfulness, and rigor all mushed up into an amazing woman.
Congratulations and blessings, dear friend!
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I have a client who was assisting a relative move this weekend and I was struck by this idea: When we move our stuff from one place to another we are often so consumed in the details of the move that we tend to ignore what a move is really about. I mean really about! It struck me how the act of moving can be such a great metaphor for the other kinds of movement in our lives—moving on, moving out, moving away from, moving toward something. Moving is so much more than boxes and trucks and paint and hanging pictures on the wall.
I wonder… what are you moving toward? What are the barriers blocking you? What are you moving from? What will you take with you (even unintentionally) from that place? What do you know about moving?
Have a great week!
(The photo above is of the cute
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
And somewhere in my early 20's it all changed. Birthday celebrations became about celebrating aging, being grateful to be alive, and growth! I enjoy the marker of my birthday for reflecting upon my life, seeing the direction it is going, and making adjustments. It is my own private "new year" and I do make resolutions!
Which days mark your life and how do you celebrate? What do you notice the celebration is about? What's next for you?
Monday, August 18, 2008
I just returned home from a very restorative trip. Spouse and kid went to the in-laws’ beach house (affectionately called the
One of my little pleasures while traveling is the USA Today newspaper sitting outside my hotel room door each morning. The color photos, the clean layout, brief and digestible articles, and the sections called “Life” and “Tech” and "Travel" makes for an enjoyable read. And on Wednesday there was a section of an article that has stayed with me for quite a while.
The article is called “Does Age Matter When You’re CEO?” and examines (I don’t know if USA Today actually examines, but the article does describe) how young is too young and how old is too old to run a company. The article asks, are our best days in front of or behind us?
Snips of the article include:
There are some CEOs running major companies in their 40s and 70s, and those interviewed say that age has little to do with success and leadership. What matters far more is whether executives see the heart of their career and accomplishments ahead of them or behind.
Age is a wild card as headhunters and corporate boards ponder trade-offs such as energy vs. wisdom. An experienced CEO might help a company avoid repeating mistakes, but the flexibility of youth might be important in an environment of quick adjustments.
Experience is not about having more answers. It’s about asking the right questions.
I don’t think you get smarter, but you get wisdom. Everything is not an existential crisis. When you get older, you separate out what is really a crisis from an average problem.
Character and courage are more important than age. If you’re a young weasel, you’ll be an old weasel.
I wonder… Is the heart of your career and accomplishments ahead of or behind you? What’s the trade-off you make in your relationship/team when it comes to energy vs. wisdom? Which do you value more? If experience is not about having more answers but asking the right questions, what are the questions you are asking? What do you know about crisis and separating crisis from average problems? If character and courage are more important than age, what else is?
Friday, August 8, 2008
My colleague Danila (adore her!) sent me an e-mail this morning with the quotation (below) and she asks: “how does the quotation resonate for you?”
Executive coaches are not for the meek. They're for people who value unambiguous feedback. All coaches have one thing in common; it's that they are ruthlessly results-oriented.FAST COMPANY Magazine
Her invitation to explore my ideas about executive coaching was really nice and provocative. About the quotation… this is what I make up:
I actually like the quotation. “Ruthlessly” doesn’t entirely land for me but overall, I like how the quotation shows that coaches will push/ kiss/ kick/ demand/ force/ challenge clients over their edges. Coaching is rigorous; not ruthless.
The “results oriented” piece, for me, does not always look like items to be checked off a list. Sometimes the coach supporting a client drifting is what’s needed. From my coaching stance, I will support the client in the process they choose; it is the client’s agenda. That isn’t to say I won’t offer ideas and suggestions for them to consider in their choice-making. And it’s their choice.
Coaching is not always about “we can do this and this and this…” Some results are quantifiable and some are not, yet they are still results. As a coach, I look for big, dramatic, meaningful results…results that matter to the client…and sometimes they are measured and sometimes they are not.
I do really like “unambiguous feedback” since that is exactly what I offer to my clients and feel it is our greatest power (and asset) as coaches… it is why we are hired. Clients are familiar with the people and patterns of “tell me what to do” and BS and ambiguity. And they want something different. Clients want us to tell them something others are not. Coaches name what they see for their clients and it’s the client’s job to explore.
There is a curiosity that erupts in me about the term “executive coach.” There is a conceptual, and in some cases a practical difference among coaches. Executive coaches, Life coaches, Success coaches, Fitness coaches, Prosperity coaches, Leadership coaches… there are so many different kinds of coaches these days. After reading the quotation I am wondering are only executive coaches “not for the meek” and “ruthlessly results-oriented” or are life coaches also? Will a fitness coach “value unambiguous feedback?” All of this reminds me that it is the coach that the client is in relationship with, not the type of coach.
What are the traits you want in your coach?