Come for the skills, stay for greater ease in life

I want to help you deliver on your commitments with less wear and tear, get out of bed in the morning excited about the day ahead, and enter difficult conversations ready not just to survive them, but to own them.

Over the past 20+ years, I’ve helped many leaders and teams do just these things. I call this my “client work.” It’s been the source of my income, the fullest expression of my gifts, and the focus of my professional attention. The great thing about working with people directly is you get to have a true mutual exchange. You speak, I listen. I speak, you listen. Together we end up better than where we started.

If you’ve worked with me, or someone like me (but without the fedora and scintillating sense of humor), you know what I’m talking about. When you commit to an ongoing relationship, structure it well, and stay real with each other, good stuff happens.

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The work we do here through blog posts and the podcast is different. The beauty of it for me is the convenience. I get to connect with you without either of us getting on a plane. (Unless you have that rare malady known as 40,000 Foot Virtual, where you won’t go online unless you’re high in the clouds).  Also, you get what you want when you want it, because nothing I’ve done so far is live.

OK, there was that live Twitter interview I did one morning while stranded on the Las Vegas strip with our kids in tow, which was strangely energizing. But, other than this, it’s been asynchronous all the way.

The downside of this medium is that I don’t get to know what you’re thinking unless I ask, and I haven’t asked very often. So, most of the time, you hear me, but I don’t hear you.

Sure, some of you drop me a line periodically to ask a question or thank me for an interview that reached you at just the right moment. For the most part, however, I’m in the dark. So I come up with stuff that I think you’ll find valuable and then knock on wood hoping you’ll get something out of it.

Up until now, I’ve been satisfied with this. My work attention has focused on clients. Outside of work, I’m now a member of the sandwich generation: young kids at home plus aging parents. So life is full. (I never say the word “busy.” It’s OK if you do, but I prefer “full.” It means at capacity but not necessarily at top speed). As a result, my approach to the podcast and blog has been a haphazardly choreographed three-step:

  1. Select guests I admire and topics I feel passionate about
  2. Go for quality
  3. Prioritize variety over a consistent theme you can connect with

This approach breaks at least 31 rules of online business. Many of these rules I don’t give a lick about. But others, I’m now realizing, really matter.

New times call for new offerings

If you noticed I haven’t written for a couple of months, this is why. Over the summer, life slowed down, and I had a couple of weeks away from my kids. I used this opportunity to take a step back and reflect on what we’ve done here so far. What am I proud of? What is decent yet could serve you much better? What’s worth getting rid of completely?

Unless you’re feline, you only get one life. What do you want to do with it?

Asking myself these questions, I’ve realized a couple things. First, I’m honored that so many of you have connected with me here and brought friends along for the ride. Some folks just joined us last week. Others have been reading (and then listening) since the late 90s. This so cool.

The second thing is we can do more. I can do more for you. Give you resources that match exactly what you need in this moment. Make them actionable and customized. And challenge you to roll up your sleeves and practice. It’s now possible to use video and audio to provide skill-building drills you can do at home or at the office. (More on this below). So much is possible.

For me, step one is to rethink what we’re up to here, get your input, and pull together something that Millennials—and even some in our generation—would call epic.

You’ll start to see things named differently. I’m excited about this. But let’s be clear: this isn’t just about creating a new brand. It’s also deeply personal for me.

To help you grow, I need to grow (gulp!)

Let’s talk Enneagram for a minute. It’s a personal growth system I’ve used with leaders and teams since 2001. Nine types, each a different answer to the question “What makes you tick?” Unlike Myers-Briggs and other typing systems, the goal isn’t just to accept we are all different, but to suggest a path of growth. It’s less about categorizing than liberating. Each type describes a box you put yourself in every day—and how to get out of it. That’s why some call the Enneagram a transformation system.

In this system, I identify as a Six, the Loyal Skeptic. My teacher, Russ Hudson, describes the Six as the most misunderstood type. I would substitute “awesome” for “misunderstood,” but Russ is still onto something. 🙂

Here’s one way you roll if you identify as a Six: come up with a new idea, immediately question it (“Can I trust myself? Can I trust others?”), and then either hedge your bets or zigzag. Sometimes this results in very little action. Analysis paralysis. In other cases, like mine, you generate stuff—a lot of stuff—but it’s all over the map. Claiming a niche requires a decision, and you’re not ready for that.

The reason is understandable. Hedging your bets feels safe. Then result for others, however, is less than ideal. When you don’t have a clear niche and offer, people don’t know how to interact with you. A great example of this is my web site. Yesterday morning over coffee, a branding consultant said to me, “Your web site shows you have a lot of interests. What’s not clear are your primary focus and offering. What are they?”

Bingo. Her assessment wasn’t news to me, but it confirmed what already was clear: it’s time to do online what already happens with clients: be clear about who I serve, be consistent in what I offer, and then deliver.

Rebranding is a step forward in my own growth. I’ll summarize it it three words: put you first.

Which reminds me of a Rodney Dangerfield line. The goal in life, he said, is to “put yourself number one without stepping in number two.” Touche.

What you can expect

I’ll be sharing more in the weeks and months ahead. For now, here is a preview of what you can look forward to:

  • The podcast will have a new name. From the beginning, “The Amiel Show” was a placeholder. If you aren’t ready to commit to a single focus, you have two options: do nothing, or name the darn thing after yourself. I did the latter. It’s been terrific for teaching people how to pronounce my name. But that’s it, and nobody has shown me how saying my name with three syllables instead of two has made them better at work or happier in life. So, the name will change. At the moment, I have an Evernote listing over 75 possible names. One thing they have in common: no “Amiel.
  • The resources you receive from me will be stuff you want to share. Managers are always looking for modest-size nuggets of practical wisdom to share with their teams. Whether you’re preparing for an offsite, following up on a development plan, or giving your folks a new shared language, it can be difficult to find just the right resource for that moment. Even harder to find something that is accessible and actionable. Consultants and coaches have the same challenge with their clients. I’ll be lending you a hand with this. Recently, I’ve subscribed to a few top notch curated newsletters. The curator picks the best resources on a topic, adds a bit of humorous commentary, and sends it your way. This is one option I’m exploring.
  • More consistently timed messages. If I promise a weekly newsletter on Tuesdays, you’ll get a weekly newsletter on Tuesdays. If I promise something twice a month, you’ll get it twice a month. The reason I haven’t done this to date isn’t because I don’t value consistency or don’t value you, but because I’ve squeezed my podcast and blog into my calendar on an “as time permits” basis. If you have an equivalent of this in your life (hopefully not your marriage or kids!), then you’ll know what I’m talking about. In any case, you want to trust what you receive and when you receive it. Once I make this commitment, I’ll stick to it.
  • Access to a community where you can make real connections. First there were online forums. Then, blogs with comments sections. These days, we have Facebook and Twitter. If you’re like me, it’s hard to find a place online to have a substantive conversation online without either dullness or drama, superficiality or toxicity. I’ve been in Facebook groups with some of the smartest people, including those with calming meditation or yoga practices, and the conversation inevitably devolves to mush or madness. It’s one reason I gave Facebook the boot last fall. It’s also a reason I want to create for you something that I’ve longed for: a safe space for intelligent conversations among practical people with responsibilities, frustrations, and commitments similar to yours. What will this look like? I’m just starting my research, but the coolest thing I’ve seen so far is a private social network like Mighty Networks. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, I’d be paying to rent their technology. So instead of selling ads, they’d receive my monthly autopay. Here’s why this is good news. Right now, if you’re on Facebook, you are the product. Algorithms study you, and companies sell you. In a private social network, you are the customer. Whether I pay for everything or you toss in a few bucks, the conversation is for us and between us. As someone who’s been participating in a private social network for the past month, I can tell you it’s refreshingly different.
  • Online mini-courses providing not just concepts but actual exercises you can practice. If you’ve hung around with me for a while, you know I’m all about deliberate practice. Whether on the job or in dedicated practice time, you get better at something by naming what you will improve, selecting specific skills to practice, and then doing multiple repetitions in varying conditions. You get feedback from yourself (which we call “self-reflection) and from a coach, mentor, or trusted colleague. The result is two-fold: you build competence, and you grow into the best version of yourself. I dedicated a whole chapter to this in my first book Practice Greatness. It’s also why I like guiding clients through live conversation drills during meetings. Familiar with high intensity interval training? I’ve started offering this to my clients—not to build muscle and burn fat, but to get better at speaking and listening. Call it high intensity conversation training. Think about it. No serious person plays tennis matches without dozens of hours rallying with a partner or against the wall. Nobody thinks of performing in a rock band without hundreds of hours of individual and group rehearsals. Yet, in organizations, we think we can perform two of the primary actions of managing, speaking and listening, without practicing it whatsoever. Funny, isn’t it? Actually, I find it sad. The good news is that I’ve developed a method to practice conversations with clients that I’d like to offer you.  So, if you’re ready for a new challenge, I’ll have something for you.
  • A minimalist web site. Over the past month, my wife, our two sons, and I have been removing a ton of clutter from our home. The goal is to keep only things that are either useful or pleasurable. If you’ve ever tried this, it’s hard to start, both painful and liberating to do, and satisfying to complete. We’re only part-way through, but already the results have been incredible. I started with a room that expert minimalists recommend you save until later because it’s so difficult: my office. I’ll save the details for another day, but let me tell you, it is so much more enjoyable to work in this space now than it was a mere three weeks ago. After making this change, I look at my web site and think: Next Project! There’s more clutter than clarity, more distraction than distillation. Holler if you disagree, but I think it’s time for a change. So that, too, will be coming soon.

A penny for your thoughts?

If you were to name one thing here that has you thinking, “Hmmm, intriguing!” what would it be?

Hit Reply and let me know. I promise to read what you write and take it into consideration.

Cheerfully real,

Amiel

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.