Thursday, July 31, 2008


This posting is not a plug for the company that markets the device in the photo above. However, what is it about the “easy button” gimmick that has captured the imagination of tens of millions of people and has generated zillions of dollars for the office supply company?

What is ease and why do we want it? What makes having ease so difficult? Or, what makes having difficulty so easy? Is anything really that easy?

A common topic in coaching with my clients is ease—the need for more, the hope for more, the absence of it, the inconsistency of it. Everyone wants it! And the paradox is that to have ease requires effort, intention, choice. Having ease is much more difficult than hitting a button.


  • Board members showing up at meetings on time and participating actively creates ease for the board. Conversations don’t have to be repeated, meetings can end on time, and productive work takes place.
  • Naming the fear of doing a particular task opens the door for ease. “I don’t feel comfortable raising money” leads to skill building and training which leads to successful philanthropic asks. Being skillful and generating revenue creates ease.
  • Utilizing resources as an organization creates ease. Often we possess a wealth of resources that will help us to meet our goals that go unutilized or underutilized. Accessing the resources we have available to us, and in some cases creating new resources, creates ease.

Right! Many will argue there is not much that is easy about showing up to meetings on time, participating actively, naming fears, learning new skills, identifying and accessing resources. Or is there? I wonder, what is the barrier to accountability? What is the barrier to engagement? What is the barrier to humility? What is the barrier to growth? What is the real barrier to ease for you?

Think about it… and then reach for your “easy button.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mid-Week Musing

I was with a client yesterday and present in the coaching was a lot of energy and movement and creativity. We were in great alignment and our coaching partnership was really holding the work. Stuff was happening.

Coaching can be very fun!

The session was over and the energy passed when I was reminded of how satisfying and fun my work is. I couldn’t help but think about those things I love doing so much that I can get completely lost in them.

What do you enjoy doing so much that you lose yourself in it?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Taking Stock

I am closing down my desk for the weekend and as I am doing so, I am taking stock of my week. What did I accomplish? What didn’t I accomplish? How do I feel about my week overall? What was the moment of learning? Of joy? Of unbridled humor? On a scale--one-to-ten, thumbs up/thumbs down, A-F—what was my week?

I notice how easy it is to fall into the pattern of moving on from one day to the next without taking a moment to look at what was and what I am carrying forward. It is one of the reasons why I love honoring the Jewish Sabbath; there is a punctuation mark at the end of this week and then the next sentence begins. For me, this marker of Shabbat brings the week to full closure… it’s over…be done… rest.

My week is ending with an exclamation mark (!) and the next sentence begins “I see a sailboat just out my window… I am going to take the dog for a walk on the beach.”

And you?

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cyberbullying: A Legal Milestone

All over the Internet this afternoon is this story about a British man who won a libel suit in the U.K. against a former friend who created and published an imposter profile on Facebook in order to humiliate and intimidate him. Congratulations!

Cyberbullying, in all of its forms, is a terrible problem and is on the rise!

My son has been the victim of a similar cyberbullying stunt orchestrated by some classmates at his middle school. Two boys created an imposter Myspace profile including his photo and other personal details in order to harass and intimidate him. Upon deeper exploration, we uncovered an entire network of bullies being managed by middle school children in our community, existing only for the purpose of hurting classmates.

To make matters worse, no system was evolved enough to remedy this situation. To date, there are no laws in the U.S. that protect our kids (and their identities) when they are being harassed and bullied on the Internet. The perpetrators believe they have the upper hand and think nothing can happen to them if they are caught. Ask any middle school student about cyberbullying and they will know it happens, who the victims and who the bullies are, and that it continues because there are no policies in place to prevent or punish. We received a very rich e-mail from one of the 13 year old perpetrators of the harassment against my son—IN ALL CAPS—threatening us to “back off or else” and how her actions were protected by free speech.

There is a growing movement of parents, educators, legislators, and law enforcement officials taking an interest in the issue of cyberbullying. We are trying to have a hearty dialogue about the severity of the issue and we are trying to create meaningful policy to protect victims and punish perpetrators. Hopefully this legal victory in the U.K. will have some value in the U.S.

Become informed!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

To Be Stuck...

What is it to be stuck? What is it to be so stuck you cannot see through the stuck-ness? What is it to be so stuck that you would knowingly (or unknowingly) choose to jeopardize your peace? Your job? Your relationship? Your values? Getting unstuck can often feel impossible.

Reminds me of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (thank you Dr. John Gottman for your interpretation and research). The Four Horsemen are a metaphor depicting the end of times in the Old Testament. They describe conquest, war, hunger, and death. Dr. Gottman uses this metaphor to describe communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship. I have also heard these “horsemen” called “team toxins” by a coach who works exclusively with corporate teams. Horsemen, toxins… whatever they are called their presence in any form will keep you and your relationship very stuck!

Criticism: When you attack others, their personality, or their character usually with the intent to make them wrong and make yourself right.

Contempt: When you attack others with the intention to insult or psychologically hurt.

Defensiveness: When you ward off attacks directed toward you by seeing yourself as a victim.

Stonewalling: When you convey disapproval, separation, disconnection, and smugness. Often appears as withdrawal as a way to avoid conflict.

Give some thought to the presence of the horsemen in your partnership or team. What do you notice when they arrive? What form do they often take? Which horseman are you most familiar with? How does using the horsemen serve you? If you could be more skillful, what would taming these horsemen look like to you? How would your relationships benefit?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Fun!

A few months ago I was sharing a thoroughly enjoyable dinner with a group of coaches when someone asked “if you could be a superhero with any superhero power, what would it be?”

What I noticed with this group is no one had to think very hard about the superpower they wished they possessed. We each knew there was something we wished we could be or do that was waaaay beyond what we are able to do as mere mortals. Oh, the fun that ensued.

Imagine if everyone in your group or team revealed their superpower to the entire group. What could happen? How would it be to know you serve on a board with colleagues who have the power to heal disease, animate the inanimate, turn anything touched into gold, breathe underwater, shape shift, and “read” any book simply by touching its cover. These superpowers may not exist in real life but I bet that by naming what the desired superpower is, it might say something about the people with whom we share time on the board. Think about it.

Here’s a terrific website to aid your creativity. And while you are designing your superhero, mine will be out and about granting wishes to anyone who wants one.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


As I am sitting at my desk catching up on some e-mail I notice a very traditionally styled, very sweet tug boat chugging by my window (I live at the ocean…). Bright red with white trim, big tire "bumpers" dangling off the side rails, and a bit of black smoke coming out its smokestack. And I am reminded of the power and design of a tugboat that enables it to push/guide/direct these great big ships. I wonder about the small and powerful things in our lives that serve to move our greatness forward.

Enjoy your tugboats!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


We are having guests over which required a quick trip to the big box warehouse store to pick up some wine and snacks. I pushed away from my desk, left my home, drove to the store, did my shopping, nibbled a few samples while doing the shopping, had a quick lunch at the snack bar, loaded my car with my purchases, drove home, unloaded the car, put the items away, and am now back at my desk.

And it was all done in a total and complete blackout!

I am aware all of that happened and yet I can hardly remember any detail. There was music on the CD player, but what was it? Did I pass a funeral procession? How heavy was the traffic? It is all a fog. Maybe shopping for wine and snacks is not necessarily a memorable occasion, one with depth and meaning (It was just an errand!). I can let that go. And what I do notice is how easy it is to get completely consumed in autopilot… where the miles and the minutes and the moments slip by and I have no sense of having been in control, much less a participant.

Wow! It’s all so robotic, so mechanical, so.. so mind numbingly routine.

I wonder where else in my life I am in autopilot. My marriage? Raising my son? Coaching? And when I am in autopilot, what for? How does being in autopilot serve me? What do I know abut this state? If I would change these moments, what would I change them to? What is it about being solidly present am I resisting (even when driving and shopping)?

What does autopilot look like for you? How does being in autopilot support you and your goals? What do you notice you miss when you are in this state?

What does being fully present in autopilot look like?

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Third Entity

I just got off the phone with my sister. It has been a while since we’ve talked. Life is busy (kids, spouses, home renovations, business) and time gets away from us. I also notice we share a passion for communicating with one another in human voice vs. some disconnected electronic method. Given life and different time zones we grab moments together when we can.

When I am with my sister I become deeply aware of the dynamics of relationship systems, especially the familial type. Our relationship system has a unique history and includes rank, titles, wisdom and experience. There is mystery also. Our system is one of natural order…of DNA…we were born into one another’s lives…and more than anything, it has become a system created of intention. We seek being together, we create a lot of room for one another, and we deeply love one another.

I live my life as Gary; my sister lives her life as Rena. And there is also something that happens when we are together. We create this third entity and empower this sibling relationship with life and promise. It doesn’t just happen! Ours is an entity that is alive, has its own rhythm and energy, and has a voice and a soul. When we come together and the electricity happens, there is something very special created. At the end of the phone call, we say good-bye, and then go back to our lives, carrying one another in our hearts, knowing the sibling entity has quieted for a while longer.

It will awaken again soon. It always does. And for now, the Gary entity carries the Rena entity within and I know I will celebrate in the sibling entity again very soon.

Name a relationship entity you have created. What is created when this entity is awake, vibrant, active? What do you notice? What does this entity need for you to put into it? What can you take from it? What does the third entity want? Think about controlling the entity; what do you notice? Consider being of service to the entity; what do you notice?

We are always in relationship to someone or something. Always.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

To Be or Not to Be

The coaching training I have received has been extraordinary. I have learned from talented instructors and practiced with courageous colleagues. There have been books, exams, practice sessions, conference calls, and loads of homework. My training and certification program were rigorous and, to this day, my learning continues. What I know is I can coach!

But what is it to be a coach? What is it to be anything? Being a coach. Being a parent. Being a son, a spouse, a neighbor, a citizen. I have come to know what it takes to do any of the roles, but to be any of those roles touches the unexplainable.

For me, being a coach is about the way in which I deliver the skills and tools I have to my clients. Essential to my being a coach is truth, integrity, rigor, humor, and a bit of pushiness. Being a coach is about connection with my clients and trust. When we connect and trust is present, there is a willingness to get a little bit messy, to explore more deeply. After observing my coaching, a friend noted my coaching skills are “insightful... they allow you to reveal the sacred cows your clients hold” and, with a gleaming eye said, “yet it is your soulfulness as a coach that stays with your client as they elegantly ride or boldly skewer the sacred cows!”

Think about your own doing and being continuum. Do you fulfill the role of board chair or do you embody being a board chair? What do you notice about being a volunteer or doing the role of volunteer? Most professional staff members of non-profits reject the idea that their work for a charity is only “a job.” There is something deeper there… there is skillfulness and something else not as easily named. On the flip side, I once heard a philanthropist describe why fundraising skill building, in addition to passion, was so essential to a non-profit: “You cannot fuel a movement for change by good intentions alone” he said. It is not even enough just to be; some doing is required!

Think about it…

What about doing/being lights you up? What about doing/being feels most challenging? What does integration of doing/being look like to you? What do you notice when there is (or isn’t) balance? What are you most aware of?


I notice a dynamic within a non-profit group I coach that is disturbingly common for many non-profit boards of directors:

They govern small.

Small governing appears in many forms: No one is held accountable. People are let off the hook. Decisions are made from fear and guilt. Bad behavior is enabled and rewarded. People make nice. People lack creativity and have no vision. They micromanage one another. They blame everyone and everything for their challenges and failures. They make excuses. They eventually disappear or they stick around long after their expiration date.

Small is exhausting!

Too often the board deflects blame for their challenged organization by voicing some version of “the staff is inexperienced (unskilled/young/lazy/unfocused…)” and “if we only had more money, we could…” It is true a skillful staff and well resourced programs make a big difference to an organization’s success. And so does a skillful and engaged board!

Big leadership, big governing, big dreaming, big initiatives, big impact comes from introspection and skillfulness. Big governing is about asking questions that consider what could be, what’s next, what if.


1. What could be for an organization if the full board was fully engaged?

2. What could be for an organization if the board members showed up on time to meetings and completed tasks they committed to in between board meetings?

3. What could be for an organization if the board modeled for the outside world their love of the organization by giving money and raising money with unbridled enthusiasm and skill?

4. What would a thoughtful and strategic partnership between board leaders and staff look like?

5. What does board self-evaluation look like? How does a board really know when it is successful or not?

6. What if board members were motivated to govern their organizations as if their very lives depended upon it? We know clients utilize services as if their lives depend upon it.

7. What could be for an organization if the board of directors was able to dream of the organization being bigger than any current program, leader, budget, founder, or staff?

Take a quiet moment to dream for your organization (or partnership or relationship).

How big will you dream? Now take that dream and multiply it by ten (or twenty or one hundred)… now that’s a big dream! What do you notice? What’s possible from this big place?

Try it!