The Monster In The Dark

Do you remember as a child, waking in the middle of the night, scared and convinced there was a monster at the end of your bed?  Wow, it gives me shivers just writing that memory. We cry out in the night, mom rushes in, and the instant she turns on the light the monster disappears — and we see it was nothing more than our robe hanging on the bedpost.  As children, we begin realizing those shadows in the dark evaporate in the light and our fear fades away into obscurity. The problem is, once we’re adults, we discover that sometimes the monster that wakes us in the night is not so easily vanquished. It may not be 8’ tall and hairy with 9” claws and 5” fangs and a roar that shakes the earth — no, that kind of monster would almost be easier to handle.  Our monsters are deeper, more emotional, in our head, and they don’t evaporate in the light; it doesn’t just scare us because of the dark. It scares us because it can keep us in the dark, believing untruths, buying into an illogical fear that has become bigger than life. And it’s up to us to face it head-on. I’m facing a monster myself these days, and it’s two-pronged. First, I’m looking at another year gone by, and facing the reality that I haven’t accomplished all I’ve wanted to by the time I thought I would. So few of us have, I realize, which makes this a familiar, if deeply uncomfortable, monster to face. Second, I’m looking at my work and the careful...

Can You Hear What’s In Your Heart This Christmas?

Merry Christmas!May your days be joyful, playful and bright, and no matter what this season throws at you: lead with your heart and all it holds.Speaking of the heart, have you ever noticed that embedded in the word “Heart” are a bunch of other words?heher ear hear heatart That might seem like just a simple play on words — and ok, I admit it, it was kinda fun noticing and looking for all that is embedded in our heart. And I know, there are more; tea, tar, and even one of the most horrible words and emotions there is; dare I write it?  h-a-t-e.  Oh how I cringe just writing the letters, but when it comes to how we show up and lead, even that word is a powerful reminder of the choices our heart faces every day when we have the courage to lead through it.When we lead through our heart, we’re listening, and listening is the courage to truly heart, not just want we want to hear but what is actually being said regardless of how clumsily it may be conveyed. Genuine listening uses most of our heart because true hearing is to heart both sides, mine and yours, that’s why it contains heart and heart, masculine and feminine. Yes, hearing is an act requiring the mechanics of the heart but in the end, true listening is an heart, an abstract emotional expression that moves beyond words and requires feeling.  And when the heart of hearing is practiced through the heart of the heart, there’s room for it all.   We use the expression “the heart of a relationship”  because at the heart of relationship is the courage to...

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...

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...