Three questions on my mind today [new post]

It’s been over a month since I’ve shared a podcast episode or blog post. How are you doing? What questions are on your mind?

Here are three questions that I’ve been wrestling/playing with in different domains of my life:

Executive coaching. How can I support and challenge leaders to practice new conversations on the job?

For the past fifteen years, my work has been guided by a simple premise: all the leadership wisdom in the world matters little unless it shows up in how leaders speak and listen on the job.

How do you know you are a better leader? By shifting the conversations you have and quality of presence you bring to them.

The challenge is how to do this in organizations that devalue preparation, reflection, and feedback (three phases of what I call the “on-the-job practice cycle,” the fourth phase being action); with bosses who rarely had role models for this themselves; and in a culture that squeezes out the inner life.

It’s a big hairy challenge!

Here’s one experiment I’ve been inviting leaders to try:

  • Designate a specific meeting each day as a practice field. Mark it on your calendar.
  • Start that meeting by quickly grounding in the body.
  • Look for opportunities in that meeting to practice specific words, body movement, and breath.
  • Ask a trusted colleague to give you feedback shortly after the meeting about the specific actions you want them to observe. Ideally, ask them in advance so they are prepared.
  • Briefly reflect in writing after the meeting—or at the next brief break—about what happened and what you can learn from it.

What can I do to increase the frequency and quality of this practice? What visual, auditory or kinesthetic cues could help? Is there an iPhone app for this?

Organizational consulting. In working with an entire organization, where do my interventions have the greatest impact?

During my first ten professional years, I exclusively consulted. During the second ten years, I did mostly one-on-one executive coaching. The past few years have seen a mix of the two. I’ve worked with entire leadership teams, advised executives and HR about system-wide succession planning and leadership development, shadow coached teams in action, and simply hung around waiting for people to pull me over for a question or request.

I think of these less as services than as experiments in having impact.

Where is my time best spent—and who gets to decide this? How do I assess requests coming my way, and what guides me in making counteroffers and new offers? Since I have to make a living and like being respected, how do money and public identity play into all of this?

Public Calling. In the age of DJT (my abbreviation for the current U.S. president’s name), how might I redirect my energy toward a better global future?

I’ve made no secret of my opinion of the current President and the grave threat he brings each day he remains in office. A lot of my writing and podcasting has been devoted to this topic. And for years, I’ve felt dedicated to promoting clean energy, slowing global warming, and supporting community resilience. Yet with a few notable exceptions, these commitments have shown up more in my public voice than in my day-to-day client work, and my public participation itself has been sporadic and, by my assessment, of negligible impact.

So, looking at the next six months—and, beyond that, the next few years—what’s possible? How might these commitments find expression in my coaching and consulting? If I were to invest more time on my public voice, what forms might this take? How about a daily podcast devoted to high-quality interviews on topics of broad public interest (likely at the intersection of politics and leadership) to attract listeners and sponsors?

These are three questions on my mind today.

Next week: questions about three other domains: friendship, parenting, and presence

 

Act In An Instant

At certain times in life, it’s important to act in an instant—even if the results will be less than ideal.

Consider the story of how I shaved my head for good.

Horse in starting gate

It was 2007. Julie and I were in the dining room of a condo in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, famous for its 18-foot-tall concrete sculpture of a troll smashing a VW bug in its left hand.

Dinner had just finished. At the table with me were Julie, our host (also named Julie), and her two friends. Four women plus Amiel.

#WDS2014: Loving Nerds, Igniting Practice, and Growing a New Mind

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

It is called the World Domination Summit—or WDS for short—and billed as a three-day gathering for remarkable people living in a conventional world.   I signed up to lure my brother to Portland for a visit—and because three Millennials called it “epic” and two Boomers said it was “refreshingly positive.” I showed up to see what all the fuss was about—and meet people I could hire to help me share my ideas more broadly. And I left—take a deep breath, because here’s the heretical part—neither wiser nor more inspired but with a deeper commitment to what I’ve been intending to do for years.

WDS openingparty

This post is not a recap of the experience—for initial summaries check out here, here, and here—but my reflections on its meaning for me, a 44-year-old leadership coach who doubles as a father, husband, and Paleo Jewish mystic empiricist.

Book Notes: So Good They Can’t Ignore You

This is the first of what will be an ongoing series of notes about books I’m reading. I read about fifty books a year, mostly related to leadership, organizational change, and adult development. Rather than write book reviews, I want to experiment with sharing what I do naturally when I read, which is to take notes about insights and questions that are relevant for my clients, colleagues, and friends. So rather than construct tidy and elegant reviews, I’ll present my reflections in raw form, unfiltered and unplugged.

We’ll call this Book Notes in homage to Brian Lamb’s long-running interview series on C-SPAN.

Key: My comments are in italics.

 

So Good They Can't Ignore YouSo Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Question for Work You Love by Cal Newport (2012)

The Passion Hypothesis: The key to occupational happiness is to first find out what you’re passionate about and then find a job that matches this passion.