Friday, November 30, 2007

Chuck Norris is afraid of choking

The Chicago Tribune reported today that movie star Chuck Norris re-affirmed his intent not to run for public office ... for fear of "choking." Norris? Afraid? Choking? Well, sort of ...

In the tough-guy's own words:

"Let's say I run for a position in politics and I am debating my opponent and my opponent starts attacking my character and I leap over the bench and choke him unconscious, it's not going to help my campaign."

Ohhhh! Norris! Afraid! Choking! I get it now!

Isn't it interesting how a little context can so completely change the meaning of a message?

The underlying coaching questions, of course, are these:
How might YOU be misinterpreting others and how might THEY be misinterpreting you? And assuming it's happening, what do you want to actually DO about it?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Favorite New Quote

Here's my new favorite inspirational quotation by, poet and gardener, Genine Lentine:
"The question I am asked daily by the world is this: Was that all you wanted?"
And here's my new favorite recipe for having an incredibly-awesome day: Ask the world for something that will have it sit upright in its chair and say, "Wow! You've got my attention. Now let me see what I can do for you."

Try it and see for yourself. (Just don't get greedy.)


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fun Family (Thanksgiving) Rituals

Fun Family Rituals - the notion is that each family does stuff that may seem insignificant to others, but is actually very special in how it helps define family values, camaraderie and cherished memories. The fun, sometimes silly, stuff that families do, look forward to doing, remember doing and continue to do - through the years.

In honor of this Thanksgiving Day, here are some of the family rituals and traditions included in my Fun Family Rituals compilation (available for download at: as written by the very people who use them to celebrate both today's holiday, and their families:

" On Thanksgiving, my kids make a Thankful Box and have everyone in the house "deposit" an index card telling what they're thankful for. Then, before dessert, we read them one at a time and laugh and cry and thank our lucky stars for our family and friends."

"We always make a turkey for Thanksgiving - even if we go to a relative's house. Gotta have our own leftovers!"

"After Thanksgiving dinner, all the moms of our extended family get together with handfuls of cash. We take whatever we were planning on spending on each of our 13 nieces and nephews for Christmas and neatly separate it all into envelopes - each marked with a child's name. When everyone is done putting their money in, the moms get their own kids' envelopes so that they can spend the money on gifts 'on behalf of' the aunts and uncles."

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Vulnerability, Teamwork, and Personal Growth

Last week I had the opportunity to spend two days on a rustic team building retreat at Joy Outdoor Education Center in Clarksville, Ohio, courtesy of a corporate client, Hill-Rom, where the group learned about their Insights® colors (courtesy of Scott Schwefel), did a high ropes course and related activities, endured gusts up to 34 mph and wind chills down to the teens (brrr!), shared emotionally-moving and personal stories deep into the night by light (and warmth) of a bonfire, slept in cabins, ate camp food, and stretched and grew in ways that were truly amazing. And that was Day One!

Day Two included a morning of coaching and facilitation, courtesy of yours truly, and an afternoon of detailed departmental planning and goal-setting, led by Phillip Saxton, president of MiTowne.

Initially, I perceived, and prepared for, my role as that of catalyst: "an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action," as Merriam Webster might say. But as I settled into my bunk that first night it struck me that the 'change' I was there to provoke had actually already happened. Every single person, in their own special way, had already become so much more open, courageous, real - and vulnerable - with each other. The team knew it, liked it, and matched it, with a collective support, respect, regard, knowing, and appreciation.

That was the good news. The not-so-good news was that pretty much everything I had prepared for the following morning was now unnecessary and wrong! I no longer needed to help them change; my job was to help them solidify their changes.

It's one thing to watch others being vulnerable; it's something entirely different to be vulnerable oneself. Yet to be truly in service of the group I was there to coach, facilitate, and support, I knew I needed to honor and respect where the group now 'was' - and be completely present to, and enabling of, whatever needed to unfold from that point forward.

So, pre-dawn, and in keeping with the "Pushing the Limits" theme of the retreat, I decided to take what was to be the 'end' of my facilitation - an article called "Life is a ten-speed Bicycle," - and use it to start a conversational unfolding, if you will, where I would rely on my coaching instincts and the collective wisdom of the group to reach for something essential, but as of yet, unknown.

And so, for the next 3½ hours, quite powerfully at times, we explored, realized, agreed, and fine-tuned, what else was needed for this group of smart, capable, and caring professionals to truly coalesce into a single, unified, and unshakable, whole.

The ultimate outcome? Well that remains to be seen. To be sure, they're off to a very good start, but the team must consistently apply the Lessons Learned, aha's realized, and courageousness experienced for the ongoing magic to happen.

Will it be easy? Probably not. Is it doable? Definitely so. Is it likely? I actually believe it is.

As for me, I know that like everyone else, my comfort zone was significantly stretched these last few days - and in a number of different ways! (As I reflect on what that means, I feel a contented little smile coming to my face.) So for that, I thank each and every one of you who helped make that my new reality.

Now if I can just get that campfire smoke smell out of my clothing, I'll be all set!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Done with your Performance Reviews Yet?!

Been putting off those year-end performance evaluations because you can't figure out exactly how to say what you know needs to be said?

Well help is available in the form of an easily downloadable Special Report called: Employee Performance Discussions: 10 Important Things a Boss MUST Know How to Say.

Employee Performance Discussions e-bookGiving effective employee performance reviews is not about being a jerk. To the contrary - it's about being respectful, caring, succinct, and on-the-money with your observations, comments, recommendations, and requests. The better you do this, the more likely your staff's performance will improve. Perhaps more importantly, though, the better you do this, the more likely your staff's improved performance can be sustained over time.

Employee Discussions shows you how. In it, you'll find:
  • 10 specific conversation "clarifiers" that can dramatically improve the performance of all employees - from your very best, to weakest, and everyone in between
  • Specific phrasings of what to say, including when to say it, and why
  • Concrete examples for you to follow in your own performance management discussions with your direct reports and lower-level employees
  • An Application section that includes typical employee problem scenarios along with clarified and simplified scripts for giving constructive criticism
  • A Locking-in-the-Learning section, where important coaching questions are raised for you to answer, and homework assignments for you to complete, so you can integrate these lessons more quickly and thoroughly into your management skill-set
  • Primary Focus questions that directs your attention to recognizing how best to apply each specific ‘clarifier’ to your current employee performance situation.
Procrastinate no more - get your copy of Employee Performance Discussions at today and finish up those employee evaluations already!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Coaches and Therapists - How Different?: ICF Conference Breakout Session

While I've been to coaching vs. therapy presentations before, they were always lead by coaches. So I thought it'd be particularly refreshing to hear about it from the other side, as it were. Enter Dr. David Orlinsky, noted professor of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago.

Of all of his charts and descriptions offered, this was the one I found most helpful in articulating the differences:

David Orlinsky analysis

Good set of distinctions, don't you think?

Thanks, David.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Julio Olalla: ICF Conference Keynote Speaker

The opening keynote speaker and Honorary Conference Chair of the International Coach Federation's 2007 Annual Conference was Julio Olalla, MCC, founder and president of the Newfield Network, an international education, coaching and consulting company.

A very engaging speaker, Julio spoke about the 'cognitive schizophrenia' that has developed in the modern world. He suggested that the world insists we focus on our exterior knowing - science, business, objects, the 'real' world, etc. - which we dutifully do. But lost in the process is our ability to connect with our interior knowledge - our hearts and souls, passions and beliefs, hopes, dreams, values, love, loyalty, appreciation for the wisdom of others and the very "cognitive possibilities" that flow from emotion.

The answer is not to swing the pendulum all the way to the other side, or even learn how to ably switch between exterior and interior paradigms in an effort to achieve so-called balance. Rather, he said, the answer is in learning how to unify our exterior and interior knowledge into a cohesive whole. (Coaching, by the way, is one of the few mechanisms available for directly enabling this type of learning.)

Easy? No. Possible? Absolutely.

Our existing 'cosmology', says Olalla - the story we've created for ourselves about how we fit into the world - is externally based:
O --> A --> R
Observers (us) take Actions that yield specific Results. Should we not like the Results, we simply change our Actions and try again. Note that we don't typically consider how we might change ourselves to modify the outcome.

What if we allowed ourselves to change in addition to (or even in lieu of) changing the actions we take? How might we more consciously and intentionally incorporate more of our interior knowing into the "O --> A --> R" model?
Quite possibly, the Actions we'd subsequently take (and want to take, for that matter) would be sufficiently different to enable some completely new Results heretofore unavailable to us.

Easy? No. Possible? Absolutely.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Coaching Next Level Leaders: ICF Conference Breakout Session

Scott Eblin, president of The Eblin Group, and author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, started this session by positing that a full 40% of new leaders fail within 18 months. Some of the external reasons for that include shifts in the market and organizational dynamics, but it's the internal reasons that are more often the cause:

  • being afraid to say, "I don't know"
  • not listening well enough
  • not getting the "lay of the land"
  • fear
  • not learning the new rules of the position
  • the urge to control things
  • not clarifying expectations and requirements

In looking for what to do about all this, Eblin interviewed several hundred seasoned executives, asking them two key questions:

  1. What do you recommend executives "pick up" and "let go of" in order to be successful in their new roles?
  2. What did you "pick up" and "let go of" that resulted in your success in your new roles?

Three key leadership presence elements emerged - personal presence, team presence, and organizational presence - each having 3 key elements to "pick up" and 3 key elements to "let go of":

Thanks, Scott.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

ICF Conference 2007

Last week I was in Long Beach California attending the 12th annual conference of the International Coach Federation, along with about 1,500 other coaches from 36 different countries. International, indeed!

In addition to coaches from New Jersey, Colorado, Nebraska, New York, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maryland, among other states, I also met some wonderful coaches from Japan, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Brazil, Columbia, France, China, Australia, and New Zealand, as well. It's truly amazing to me how much the ICF - and coaching - has grown over the last several years.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll be blogging about some of the keynotes and breakout sessions that I thought were particularly interesting, intriguing, and relevant to a wider audience.

It was nice to be away. It's now nice to be back!