Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Courage to Look

The courage to look at your negative and postivie traitsAdam was struggling:  his boss was telling him he was too defensive, not open to hearing people he worked with, going it too alone.  As part of our coaching work, we decided to ask for feedback from everyone with whom he worked – the people who reported to him, his colleagues, his supervisor and, yes, even some of his clients.  Of course, he was nervous.  What would they say?  Did he really want to know what they thought of him?  And when the results came in, not all the news was good.

While there was much that Adam was doing well, many people noted how defensive he was and how hard it was to feel part of a team working with him.  Adam took a big gulp and then showed what he was made of!  As his coach, I found myself filled with admiration.  He wrote a thank-you note to each person who had provided feedback and in the note he told people that he would be working hard to be less defensive and to be more open.  He noted other areas he wanted to work on and invited everyone to continue to give him feedback about how he was doing.  His tone was open and welcoming.  How courageous, I thought. 

It’s easy to look in the mirror yourself and decide how you’re doing, but to ask others and risk hearing about ways you’re falling short – now that’s more of a challenge.  And yet, what could be more powerful?  And what has greater potential to grow your business?  Inspired by Adam, I now ask several questions of all my clients. 

  1. How is our relationship working for you?
  2. What am I doing well?
  3. What would you like to have more of?  Less of?
  4. What could I be doing better?

I don’t wait until the end of an engagement to ask, either.  I ask periodically and let people know that I really want to hear the truth.  And notice that none of these questions can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.  They have to really give me some information.  That’s one way people get the message that you really want to know, rather than just hearing a feel-good “Great!  Everything’s fine!”

It takes courage to look at yourself honestly; it’s even harder to ask others and risk hearing that you’re not perfect.  There’s probably not much that’s harder in business or in life.  But the payoff is enormous.  With the courage to look and the information you gather, you’re on your way to more satisfied clients and employees.  You can’t lose!



It’s Not Always Straight

Following your life pathWhen I was young, I always thought it was important to choose a path and follow it. It would be a direct path and lead in a straight line. You were supposed to know where it would lead, know that when you reached the destination you imagined, that you would be happy, fulfilled and have a sense of completion.

But life isn’t like that. The path isn’t always straight. I was supposed to go to college, graduate, choose a career, perhaps go to graduate school, work in some company, get married, have children and live happily ever after. Instead, I discovered I wasn’t ready for college, so I managed to be “invited to leave” at the end of my freshman year and the trauma of that situation kept me away from school for 10 years. It was as though a huge tree had fallen across my path. It was a major setback and my self-esteem was in the gutter. Looking back, however, it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. What I wanted more than anything at the time was to find my way as an adult – to live on my own and create a life for myself. I managed to create a situation that forced me to do just that. Painful as it was – and it was devastating – I learned some invaluable lessons.

I learned first and foremost that I could not be done in, that I would survive and make a life that I could be proud of. I was lonely. I survived it. I had no idea how to manage money. I learned. I didn’t know how to cook. I taught myself little by little. I didn’t know how I had gotten myself into such a mess. I got myself into therapy (paying for it myself!) and with help, I figured it out. In other words, I learned about my resilience, my resourcefulness and my determination. What could be more important?

My path continued to be pretty crooked. I got married, began having a family, became a family therapist (“through the back door,” as my mother never failed to remind me), divorced, eventually got not one but two master’s degrees (and still no B.A.), got remarried, started a company with my husband, and years later, became a coach. I love my life! I love where I’ve gotten to, and I love supporting others on their crooked paths. I know now how important those roadblocks, downed trees, detours and unexpected potholes are. That’s how you find out who you are. It’s where you get to test yourself, to learn from your setbacks as well as your successes, and to keep putting one foot in front of the other with the knowledge that you’re going to be fine.

Do I wish I could have avoided the pain and humiliation of getting thrown out of college? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, it was painful and enraging, but on the other hand, look what I gained! Could I have learned those things another way? Maybe. But I keep being reminded of the wise words of Kahlil Gibran: “…is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?”*

*Gibran, Kahlil. The Prophet. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1961.




This blog is about the many things that are important to me. I hope they will resonate with you as well. My dream is for it to be a conversation, with comments and additions by all of you who read what I – and my guests – write. I hope you will feel free to share your wisdom. I’m looking forward to the conversation.

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