What Role Do You Want Me To Play?

What role do you want me to play? When I began coaching, I had to resist the urge to coach every conversation. So my wife and I made a pact: if it wasn’t abundantly clear (and I’m male, so most times it wasn’t) I would ask, “Which role would you like me to play: Husband, Friend or Coach?” You know us husband types — we want to fix and protect. If she brings a problem to me, obviously she wants me to jump into action and fix it, right? This is easy to interpret with some comments, like, “Honey, the ice maker is stuck again.”  But if it’s about her tough day, or a problem with her boss, she may not want me to fix it — she may just want a friend.   A friend is someone who commiserates. They’re the person with whom you grab a glass of wine and vent, just to get it off your chest. There’s nothing to fix; you just want someone who will join you in your misery and agree that you boss is a jerk. “I can’t believe he did that to you! Ugh!” Whether you’re right or wrong is irrelevant; your friend just listens, and you feel better because you’ve been seen and heard. Fixing the problem had nothing to do with it. Even though most spouses consider each other their best friend, this can be a difficult role for a spouse to play, especially if their partner seems to be hurting. Coaching, on the other hand, isn’t about me doing anything, or commiserating. It’s about asking powerful questions, working together, and discussing the options in order to solve the problem. It’s not about what the coach...

The Problem With Accountability

In truth, January 1 is no different than any other day of the year. And yet, it holds a remarkable power for fresh starts and cleansing. Many of us dare to dream, seeing the New Year as a blank slate upon which we can write the story of our life. Whether we believe it’s possible or not, it’s a beginning — a beginning that, for a glimmer of time we tell ourselves we have the power to control; the power to create; the power to bend to our will. Then comes January 17th: “Ditch The New Year’s Resolution Day.” The date believed to be the point in this new beginning the highest number of people will realize it’s just another version of each year before, nothing really changes, there are too many factors beyond our control, and to hell with those damn resolutions. “I didn’t really mean it anyway.”And yet, the secret to success is remarkably simple, though consistently misunderstood and misused. Accountability. You want your resolutions in business and in life to succeed? Be held accountable. But why are people so resistant to accountability? It’s supposed to be a good thing, right? Well, one thing I’ve noticed: Accountability is often used as a weapon, when it should be used as a tool. It’s a bit like having an expensive piece of cutlery — perfect for gourmet meals, but it can also be used to mortally wound someone. Yikes. And accountability is often used for the injury rather than the nourishment, both in the workplace and at home. Too often, accountability is saved for too late in the game, when we’re beyond the point of no return....

Change Is Easy

Change is easy, right? Ok, you go first! I love that line because, as we all know, we always feel like it’s the other person who needs to change first. You don’t trust that they will change, too, if you go first, so you want them to go first so you can j̶u̶d̶g̶e̶ I mean, trust them. That’s part of what makes it really hard being a manager. When there’s a problem, your name comes up! It’s easy for employees to lay blame on you for any problems happening in the office. And sure, relationships are a two-way street. It can feel unfair when that team judgement lands on you. But guess what? If anything is going to change, it’s your role to move first, to build that trust, to take that risk. That’s part of being a leader. Being a leader is a huge amount of work. No question. You are required to be different. You are required to be more patient, ask better questions & positively engage with people, even if they can’t — or won’t. If someone’s going to change a negative situation, it’s you. You can hope that someone else will step up, but you can’t bank on it. Employees may not think they have the authority or influence, and they may not. They may not be aware of the boundaries or might be worried about losing their job. When something needs to change, it’s our opportunity as leaders, in the words of Gandhi, to be the change. You are just as human as the rest of the team, just as nervous or afraid of making a mistake, perhaps. And...

With All Due Respect To NIKE

Are you running from something? Or towards something? Too often we’re running away, trying to escape — but our problems keep following us!  Like that person who goes from one bad relationship to another with no loss of emotion, or those that seem to have terrible job after terrible job. But what are the chances that they could have that many bad jobs (or relationships)? There’s got to be a common theme, a common denominator. If you’re in this situation, I hate to break it to you: the common denominator is YOU. We tend to take our problems with us. So if you want a different result, you have to take a different action. But how can you change your perspective? How can you build a habit of considering new ideas and making more powerful decisions? Well, take a lesson from Socrates. There are three elements to how we engage with and show up in our life; there’s what we think, how we feel and what we do. Pick one, change some aspect of it and see what you get. Then change another part and explore again. Not every change will yield the desired result, but some will.Otherwise, if you just keep thinking, feeling and doing the same things over and over again, nothing will ever change, right?  Here’s the full Socrates quote: If you always do what you’ve always done, You will always get what you always got. If you always get what you always got, You will always think what you’ve always thought. If you always think what you’ve always thought, You will always feel what you’ve always felt. If...

Adding a Child Won’t Fix It

Have you ever heard one of those heartbreaking stories where a couple struggling with their relationship suddenly decides to have children — thinking it will bring them closer together? How often does that work out well? Yeah — it’s a terrible strategy that virtually never works. And yet millions of couples have done it! Kids can’t automatically make your marriage better. In fact, kids often reveal the weaknesses in your relationship, and almost inevitably make things harder. After all, the Army has nothing on parenting being the toughest job you’ll ever love. We do the same thing in our careers. When frustrated, unhappy, or disrespected in their job, I have watched many decide to “have a baby” — in other words, take on a huge responsibility in order to prove to themselves or their superiors that they’re committed. Sometimes this strategy works; but very rarely is a great new work experience or a wonderful marriage forged in the flames of this “new child.” Far more often, a stressed system exposed to an even greater stress breaks under the pressure, and there are almost always innocent bystanders harmed in the process. Employees or clients will suffer if you are unable to meet your new or old commitments, just like a broken marriage hurts children, family, and friends. If your job is causing you stress or self-doubt, adding to your pile of responsibilities is not the solution. Instead, work to connect with the job and responsibilities you have now.  Name the problem accurately, identify where, when or how you are feeling disrespected or invisible or devalued — whatever the real issue is. Seek help.Perhaps...