The Blog You've Been Missing

Course Corrections

August 25, 2010

Filed under: Coaching,observations — admin @ 5:51 am

I met a newlywed couple last week. He is a lawyer, she is a medical resident working at a health center in Colorado. They met in New York City where he was working and she was finishing med school and moved West to accommodate her career.

They were on their honeymoon – in fact when she introduced herself by her maiden name her husband’s reaction was pretty priceless. She corrected herself quickly substituting his four syllable name for her shorter moniker. I don’t think any lasting damage was done and I’m sure the kiss- and-make-up portion of the evening was pretty good.

Names aside he admitted that after four years as an undergraduate, three years of law school, a year getting ready for the bar exam, and three years working as a patent lawyer in New York, he hated his career.

His wife was quick to point out that despite working 90-hour weeks she loved hers and that when she finished her residency she was taking a year-long post working in New Zea land – both to see a new culture and explore another medical system.

Practicing law in New Zealand probably wasn’t in the cards for what appeared to be a short-term commitment, so he was clearly a bit up in the air about what to do.

The answered seemed obvious to me; try as many jobs as you can. Maybe you’ll discover that what you’ve trained for was pretty good after all or maybe you’ll decide that sheep farming is a great career.

His wife didn’t seem to care so long as they were together and she could practice medicine. I complimented her and told her husband to just remember the two most important words in any marriage, “yes, dear.”

Changing course is one of the toughest challenges most people have to face. It usually means you have to admit you made a mistake and then you have to figure out a new direction. Anything you can do to eliminate options – including finding out what you don’t like – will make the decision easier.

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That’s How We Do Things

August 21, 2010

Filed under: Coaching,Management,observations — admin @ 1:31 pm

Start with a cage containing five monkeys.

Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water.

After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result – all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him.

After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.

Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been done round here.

And that, my friends, is how company policies are made.

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Making Assumptions

Filed under: Coaching,Management,observations,Uncategorized — admin @ 1:19 pm

I was in a local card shop recently when a young mother and her tow-haired 3-year-old walked in.

They had obviously been in before because the youngster made a bee-line for some cuddly stuffed animals and, after a brief stop, headed for a candy display conveniently placed at his eye-level.

“OK,,” his mom said, “you can have one.”
“No, two,” he answered.
“One,” his mother said firmly.

His mother eyed me and then the clerk, who were watching to see who would win the battle of wills. The conversation degenerated quickly to “One,” Two,” “One,” “Two.”

Exasperated the mother tried “It’s either one, or none.” The youngster, looked up sadly and holding two candies in his hand, said simply, “I was thinking of you.”
Guess how many candies mom bought.

Next time you get into an argument, make sure you think things through before you back yourself into a corner.

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Seasonal Writing

August 10, 2010

Filed under: Book Review,Gardening,Uncategorized — admin @ 3:54 pm

When I finished reading Michael Pollan’s “Second Nature” I wished there were more seasons.

Pollan, who is now famous for telling Americans what they should eat, began his book-writing career with a work on gardening, and like many others he used Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall to keep things organized.

I just wish there were some extra seasons so he would have written more. I’m probably biased since I enjoy digging in the dirt and my career in journalism matches Pollan’s.

If you have read any of Pollan’s other works you will recognize the meticulous research which backs up his simple but eloquent style. The book traces his own life in gardening from his grandfather who loved to garden, to his father who had no use for even mowing his front lawn, to Pollan’s own love affair with a farm he owned in Central Connecticut over twenty years ago.

Along the way we learn where the American passion for green lawns began, where weeds come from and why there are so many rose varieties.

My favorite chapter is Pollan’s analysis of the seed and flower catalogs that every gardener gets. Pollan has more than a little fun explaining catalog hierarchy.

Pollan also dispenses a fair number of gardening tips although they’re often hidden among the philosophical underpinnings of compost.

About my only criticism, from a California perspective, is that some of the gardening advice doesn’t really apply to the conditions we have here, but if you have a green thumb or just an interest in why things grow, “:Second Nature’ is worth a read.

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Too many coaches?

August 5, 2010

Filed under: Coaching,Management — admin @ 6:11 pm

Are there too many coaches? A good friend recently made the off-hand comment that coaches were ‘a dime a dozen.’

There are an unending number of coaching specialties. Most marketing gurus advise coaches to find a niche and fill it. And since many certified coaches come from other fields it stands to reason that they would focus on an area where they have some previous expertise.

So, there are coaches who specialize is lifestyle, fitness, careers, nutrition, parenting, money, happiness, spirituality, organization and a host of other areas too numerous to mention.

While there are well-established schools and training programs to certify coaches there is still no nationally recognized standard so there is nothing to stop anyone from just putting up a shingle or building a web page.

I don’t know if my friend’s comment is indicative of the public’s attitude toward coaching. I certainly hope not, and my area of expertise, which focuses on career counseling, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of people looking for a new career – either voluntarily or not.

In this country the issue is more likely to be an individual’s recognition that a coach could help them clarify their goals and make decision-making more effective and, in the long run, more effective.

But I will admit that there can be so many choices in coaching that even deciding what kind of coach you need can be daunting.

My suggestion is to look at local organizations-such as East Bay Coaches – and check out their web directory – at least it narrows the list to folks who are committed enough to join a professional organization.

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Coaching or Psychology? Who decides?

August 1, 2010

Filed under: Coaching,Management,Wellness — admin @ 7:38 pm

I recently had a call from a new client who told me he was already seeing a psychologist, but thought that having a coach would ’round out’ the work that he needed to do.

To be honest most clients don’t understand the difference – and neither do many coaches. If fact there is an ongoing debate about where coaching falls in the psychology continuum.

For many psychologists, coaching is just another form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) a branch of psychology which attempts to train people to make changes to patterns and lifestyles which impact their psychosis.

The difference is not so much the technique but rather the starting point of the client. Does he or she just need some help to see a new perspective or is there really an underlying clinical issue which needs to be addressed.

Many coaches work closely with psychologists so they can refer clients if they find issues which fall out of their area of expertise. In my case, my wife is a psychologist, who has also gone through training as a coach, and is a valuable resource.

Psychologists who are also coaches can often administer objective assessments if they feel there’s an underlying psychological issue.

Coaches, from non-psychological backgrounds, are not qualified to interpret test results, but they should have the training to recognize when there is a potential problem.

This is true in any situation but can be particularly significant in management coaching when a company is paying a coach to help an employee. Failure to recognize the difference between a management style that needs to be changed and a psychosis that needs to be address can lead to significant liability issues.

Most coaching clients are healthy well-adjusted individuals who just need a little help with specific issues but it’s up to the coach to make sure their potential client gets the help they need.

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