Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Watch Out World

Each time my cell phone rings from the American southwest this picture of my friend, Quiana, appears. I smile. The photo of her and her husband reminds me of the burgers and beers we shared at a brew pub in Minneapolis a couple years ago. Good times.

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!
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Moving On

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 Minneapolis home I sold 18 months ago when I moved to the Boston area. Little did I know then that my move to New England had very little to do with a new home, renovations, boxes, etc.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


"Why is a birthday cake the only food you can blow on and spit on and everybody rushes to get a piece?"

Bobby Kelton, Comedian

Enjoy the day!


I didn't like birthdays as a kid. Having a late August birthday was really sad as a child because everyone was on vacation and gathering a group of friends for a party was impossible. What was worse was being on vacation--usually camping in the forest--and getting an assortment of odd gifts ranging from pine cone art projects and trinkets from a local gift shop. I was given a plastic statue of a Canadian Mountie at my 11th birthday camping vacation party and it sat on my bedroom shelf well into college. It was pretty bad.

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

Life on the Highway

I just returned home from a very restorative trip. Spouse and kid went to the in-laws’ beach house (affectionately called the Hunter Hotel) and I went to California for a wide range of visits with extended family up and down the state. The reunion with my sunburned spouse and kid happened this morning after a long red-eye flight east.

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

Continuing Education

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.


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?

Thursday, August 7, 2008


“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Trail Angels

Some mornings reading the daily newspaper can be daunting. Increasing gas prices, economic uncertainty, home foreclosures, the latest antics of celebrities or politicians. For years now, reading the newspaper (and having coffee) in the morning is my ritual which helps me to feel informed and provides an important context to how I go about my day. Ritual, yes. Pleasant, not always.

This morning, in addition to a story about China’s “cloud physicists” who are scientifically “re-locating” annoying clouds that are hovering over the Olympic stadium, was this terrific article called “Angels of the Appalachian Trail: In western Mass., hikers depend on the kindness of strangers” which really caught my attention.

It was a long article about the hikers of the 2,175 mile long Appalachian Trail and how for hundreds of years they meet and interact with the locals who live near the trail. Apparently there is a long history of the locals baking cookies, providing fruit or cold drinks, shuttling hikers to the post office or stores where supplies can be purchased. Sometimes the locals just visit with, and offer supportive hugs to the wanderers far from home. It is all pretty sweet, actually.

Hikers quoted in the article describe “trail magic” along the trail (the article defines “trail magic” as “the alchemy of giving and gratitude that is part of the experience of hiking the [Appalachian] trail…”), taking the form of pots of hot coffee and baked goods sitting under a tree or an ice chest of cold beverages that appears from nowhere to be enjoyed by the hikers—free of charge, often anonymously left by “trail angels.” Guide books for decades have talked about the trail magic and the local characters who provide it.

And this is the part that grabbed me: When asked why these locals provide this trail magic, a woman who makes homemade blueberry pancakes for hikers, said reflectively “by helping hikers you become part of their story.” You become part of their story…

What do we do in our daily lives—for people, for our communities, for organizations—because we want to become part of the story? Imagine that as motivator! I wonder, what it would be like to be the anonymous person people talk about at the end of the day who made such a difference in someone’s day that they repeated the story to everyone they knew. What would it be like to offer cold drinks to your trash collector or mail carrier…to become part of their story? What would it be like to be the board member who respects and appreciates the contributions of the staff… to become part of the staff story? What would it be like to teach our children (or influence the children in our lives) the essential lesson of freedom and responsibility…to become part of their story?

What would being a “trail angel” creating “trail magic” in your daily life look like and what holds you back from doing just that? What is the story someone is telling about you today?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Shift Happens!

I am working with several clients who are in a parallel process—they are managing things the way they are while they are creating things the way they might be. Career transition, empty nesting, strategic planning, and business development are examples of this idea. It is a challenging place to be.

Think about it…

Here you are. You have a role, a program, a plan, a process… you are what you are today. And you take on a program to re-imagine, to re-invent yourself. You have to continue being what you are as you gradually shift to what you are trying to become. There is a transfer from now to next. There is planning, challenge, adjustment. Lightening fast or dead crawl slow… shift happens.

What does recruiting a new volunteer board look like while managing the board you currently have? What does planning for your organization’s bright future look like when you are mired in a dull now? What does securing your dream job look like while working the job you have? What does investing your savings look like while you are also paying down debt? What do you know is needed in order to be in both places at the same time?

One of the fun coaching tools we use is a “Wheel of Life” diagram. Talk about how something so simple can be so revealing! Try it! It goes something like this… If you rate your current topic (work, relationship, your board, money, etc.) a “3”—it’s where you are today—and your goal is to be a “10” what needs to happen in the space between 3 and 10? What’s there for you? What do you notice? That’s the parallel process… the “building from” place… how to be a 3 and a 4 and a 6 and a 9 while aiming for the 10. Get it?

Being in the 3 is familiar, safe, historical, habit, expected. Moving from 3 toward 10 requires some bold energy, imagination, risk, trial and error, collaboration, apologies. You have to be willing to take some bold steps out of the safe and familiar and into the risky unknown. It’s kind of daring.

Today, imagine the shift that wants to happen for you.