Making lemonade

Well, it’s been a challenging couple of months, and my neglected blog is proof.

In early September I had surgery on my left foot to correct problems that included an arthritic bunion and anomalies in the small bones of my second and third toes.  Little did I know how big a deal this would turn out to be.

My previous experience with foot problems was limited to a stress fracture back in 2004 that healed in 8 weeks and never had me off my feet at all.  This time, I was in the twilight zone for 3 days getting over the anesthetic, I was on crutches for two weeks, and I had to figure out how to live on just the first floor of my two-story house because getting up and down the stairs was all but impossible.

My wonderful neighbors came to the rescue.  I sent out an SOS to the neighborhood e-group asking for a folding bed I could set up in my dining room.  Two neighbors responded, bringing over a bed and a duvet, setting it up and then fetching the sheets and making the bed for me.  My next door neighbor came over the first several days I was home and made breakfast, fetched and carried, took care of the cats’ litter boxes (which were temporarily upstairs and inaccessible to me) and helped me get set up to live downstairs.  Another neighbor offered tips on navigating with crutches, things I hadn’t even thought about – like how to carry things from one place to another (use a backpack, or keep a plastic bag in your pocket).  I have a new appreciation for cargo pants and their myriad pockets!  My boyfriend spent four days with me, did my laundry, cooked, and bought me a desk chair at Goodwill that enabled me to scoot around when the crutches got too tiring.  Another neighbor put my trash out and several gave me their cell numbers in case I needed anything.  God bless all of them.

Perhaps the biggest ah-ha in all of this was being forced to slow down.  I was housebound for two weeks and not feeling at all well part of that time.  Although I’m given to introspection and will look for what I can learn from just about any experience, this one was unique – I’ve always enjoyed excellent health and am rarely if ever ill.  This was an opportunity to take stock, consider the fragility of life, be grateful, appreciate and marvel at feet (something I never thought about until I was forced to do without one of mine!), redirect my energies and rededicate myself to my work.  I felt as if I’d been given a reprieve and a gift.

I hope to be back in shoes by early November.  Until then I’m in an orthopedic boot, gimping around on the heel of my left foot, but walking nonetheless.  I am grateful.

Posted in Personal, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Leading from behind”…a newly relevant old concept

There’s an interesting discussion going on right now on the Five Dysfunctions of a Team group on LinkedIn – it’s for those of us who are devotees, if you will, of Patrick Lencioni’s eponymous landmark book.  Someone posted a thoughtful synopsis of a May HBR article entitled “Leading from Behind,” which supports the idea that leaders lead best when they harness people’s collective genius, “create a world to which people want to belong,” and then essentially get out of the way (post is here: ).  It reminded me of Robert Greenleaf’s groundbreaking book “Servant Leadership,” which seems to me to be the genesis of the idea of leading from behind.  Servant leadership, in its most simplistic description, is about removing the obstacles that get in people’s way as they seek to make a meaningful contribution to the work of the organization.  In the article there are a number of thought-provoking concepts, including these:  that leadership is influence, not a box on an org chart or a title on a business card; that authentic leadership is the ability to influence a group of people toward a common goal; and that a wise leader knows when to lead from the front, from among the group, or pushing from behind.  Is leadership, then, not just about doing, but about being?  Your thoughts?

Posted in Business, Leadership, Work | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Coaching isn’t therapy…so no, you can’t combine them.

Someone on one of my LinkedIn groups asked if it’s ok to combine coaching and therapy, since some of the competencies and tools are similar.

The short answer is, no! It’s NOT ok to combine the two. Here in the US it’s unethical, and illegal, for someone to provide therapy without a medical license to do so. I personally know therapists who have become coaches, but they do not combine the two disciplines.

Therapy is called for when someone needs help with what has occurred in the past, or is dysfunctional in a way that is interfering with their present quality of life (e.g. addicted, codependent, etc.). A coach only works with functional people who want to use the present to create a future that aligns with their goals for themselves, whether professional or personal. A coach has an ethical obligation to refer a client who has emotional or other problems to the appropriate professional – therapist, psychologist, LCSW.   One sign that help other than coaching may be needed is a client’s continual inability to do anything they agree to do in terms of attaining their coaching goals, often accompanied by emotional upset.

A coach’s tools come from many different disciplines besides therapy – sports, teaching, business, to name a few.  Don’t collapse the distinction between coaching and therapy because the tools look similar – the clients are not. They deserve the services of the proper professional at the proper time, and it needs to be clear who they are dealing with.

Posted in Business, Executive coaching, HR | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Starting something? Hire a coach…

I started a coaching practice in 1993 that I ran for a dozen years and that became international in scope.  Whatever it is you’re starting, and particularly if it’s a business, I offer this wisdom gained the hard way!

1. Hire a coach. I still thank my first coach whenever I see her because she was absolutely instrumental in my success. It’s unfortunate that in many circles people think coaching is for those who need “fixing;” coaches are hired by successful people and those who aspire to success. Just ask an Olympic athlete – they are the cream of the crop, yet they wouldn’t practice or compete without one.

2. Be willing to do What It Takes. Thanks to MCC Michael Stratford, a buddy of mine for many years, for coming up with WIT. If you’re starting a business you have to be willing to get out there and talk to people! It isn’t “selling” as much as it is educating your universe on what you’re up to and creating relationships that are going to create other relationships, all of which are the bridge to what you’re after.  You get good at this by doing it – there’s no other way.

3. Start where you are. If you’ve been working in a particular niche and you’re passionate about “entrepreneuring” in it, all well and good. Otherwise, you can try doing what I did: I’d been in marketing in my corporate life and had a rolodex (today you’d call it a database!) of 300 contacts that I’d partnered with on marketing projects. In my case, the first thing my coach said to me when I was getting started was, “I want you to get on the phone and get 20 no’s a day!” Of course, I was worried about getting people to say yes – no’s were going to be easy! It took me 3 months, but I called all 300 people and wound up with about 12 clients, and it took off from there.

One of the best pieces of advice I got back then was from someone I met at a Chamber of Commerce meeting who said, “Be consistently persistent, and you’ll be successful.” She was right.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Coaching isn’t about “fixing” people

Here’s my response to a question posed on one of my LinkedIn groups regarding how coaching is often perceived  in organizations as being a tool for those “in trouble”:

The underlying problem is that coaching in many organizations is being used for remedial rather than developmental purposes. It has become synonymous with feedback and/or performance management, so of course, people who are being coached are people who need “fixing.” There are likely two reasons for this: one, that when organizational coaching took off a while back a lot of companies simply decided to start calling managers coaches; and two, that coaching as a distinct skill set is not well understood by those responsible for its implementation and management. Reversing this trend requires a strategy which will differ somewhat depending on the size of the organization and what it is actually using what it calls “coaching” for. In my role as an external consultant, trainer and executive coach, I’ve done the following:

1. Facilitated in-depth discussions with senior HR leaders regarding coaching: what it is and isn’t, to help them start distinguishing it for themselves and for the people they interact with on a regular basis.  2. Helped both HR leaders and business unit leaders distinguish between feedback, performance management and coaching, and day-to-day management and coaching.  3. Provided training in a simple coaching model (we use GROW) to help key people grasp the nature of what the coaching relationship is about.  4. Utilized a 360 process to plant the seeds of a “coach approach” by modeling coaching in the developmental plan process.  5. Consistently reinforced 1 and 2 above.

The next step, as perceptions begin to change, would be to launch a real coaching initiative. Some organizations tie this to a talent development or high potential development process; others utilize it for career development discussions. It helps if coaching becomes a judiciously exclusive process, associated with initiatives that are perceived as forward-thinking or positive by the organization at large.

Several internal champions who “get it” can be invaluable in turning the perception around. It will take time and an agreement among all involved on what coaching means as distinct from the management processes it’s been collapsed with, and an understanding of and willingness to employ the proper language for the management process being utilized in any given situation.

This is a real issue, so thoughts and comments regarding how to shift the negative perception that exists in many organizations of what coaching is are welcome.

Posted in Business, Executive coaching, HR | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

L&D vs. HR vs. OD…

There are a couple of interesting discussions going on in the ASTD and HR groups on LinkedIn regarding whether L and D (learning and development) should really be a separate function from HR (human resources).  There’s another on whether OD (organizational development) and training are or should be friends or enemies.  Traditionally, HR has had responsibility for anything to do with human capital development (I know; sounds bank-ish, like counting coins and bills!), along with all the legal, transactional (comp and benefits), compliance, employee relations and grievance issues that show up in larger organizations.  The link to the discussion is here:

My take is this:  L and D should be a separate function.  I’ll admit I have a vested interest in this idea; while one of my master’s degrees is in HR, I’ve never been a practitioner, and as an L and D strategist, expert coach and facilitator/trainer I find I’m getting shut out of jobs I think I’d be a good-to-great fit for because I don’t have the other HR pieces.  Even though it traditionally reports up to the VP HR, Terry Seamon, a commentator on this discussion, said it best:  “…a smart HR leader will hire really good L&D people and get out of their way.”

Posted in HR | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello all you HR-related types…

Anybody home?

Turning a light on here at XpertMCC…Xpert = expert (and you can be the judge); MCC = Master Certified Coach (of people, rather than sports :-).

There will be opinions, sure, but I also want to share expertise and start a dialog with other learning and development, OD, training and talent management types.  People experts, please join me here.  As a Master Certified Coach I worked hard to get the coaching profession up and running in the early 90’s; am one of the co-founders of the International Coach Federation (ICF), now celebrating its 15th anniversary and 17,000 members strong.

In the coming days I plan to begin posting on a variety of topics to do with the above.  My Twitter name is XpertMCC; feel free to follow me there and here.

More anon…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment