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Another Mr Gone!

Cheryl offers: Have you heard the news that Mr. Goodwrench, the hunky guy in blue, but never dirty overalls who supposedly could fix anything on a GM car is retiring? He’s not that old either since he started his career in 1974. However, if he was about 30 when he started that would make him 66, so maybe it’s about time he got a rest. It seems GM has opted for a more gender neutral brand strategy by using the term “Certified” in front of their 4 major brands: Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. I think this is a pretty smart marketing move on their part. With women making the decisions on over 65% of the major household expenditures, it would seem that appealing to their wants and needs through language is a good idea. And let’s face it; most of the times I’ve taken my car to a dealership, the result certainly fell into the category of major household expense. Somehow being “certified” sounds more professional, implies more training, deeper expertise, and possibly there’s even a test at the end to ensure some level of proficiency. In the book, Women Want More by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, the authors clearly define areas where women’s wants and needs are not being met.  I’m celebrating this change not only because GM might be making moves to meet some of those needs, but also because one more male brand association has been traded for a more inclusive gender neutral term. And that’s important for another reason.  In today’s world, many of the men working do not look like Mr. Goodwrench. They are Latino, Asian, African American, on and on. This is not just a good move; it’s a great move towards inclusiveness that more accurately reflects our world. Thanks GM!

Oh, the Stories I Tell Myself

Cheryl offers:  This is embarrassing to admit, but I’m going to do it. I just tried to register for First Friday Book Synopsis only to see the computer screen read “SOLD OUT”.  I saw this on my computer screen and thought “What? How can that be?” Now for those of you who are not familiar with this event, it occurs every month on the first Friday, just like the name states.  Therefore, I know this happens each month and since I attended last month’s event, I even knew which books were going to be showcased tomorrow.  I’m in a real pickle here folks. I’ve been promoting this with some key executives at my company and there are 3 who want to attend tomorrow along with me.  How did this happen I ask myself? I found solace in Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind.  When Pink describes the value of telling stories and how much longer we all remember stories than mere data, he says “Story represents a pathway to understanding that doesn’t run through the left side (that would be the logical side) of the brain.” Oh perfect! I was telling myself the story “I know I need to do this and I know I can wait until the last minute. It’s OK because it’s always been OK.”  If I had thought about this logically, I would have taken action to ensure things happened smoothly. Lesson learned again: Be careful who I listen to, especially when it’s myself!

Apology / Apologia – coaching

Sara here: I have gotten some response to the post I offered about coaching.  I’ve offended some and for that, I apologize.  That is why this is titled “apology/apologia.”  It is to say that I am sorry for causing reaction – and I would offer my argument to support what I believe about coaching with all sincerity.

I used the term “judgement” and that was a poor choice of words.  Let me be clear that I didn’t mean that anyone was “judgmental” in working with other people.  Language is a tricky thing.  I suspect we often don’t communicate by speaking the same language.

Let me take another run at this.  I was talking about the relationship that should exist between a coach and a client.  I firmly believe that a coach has the responsibility to remain neutral toward client and client’s situation.  A coach’s responsibility is to assess rather than vote.   I substitute vote for judgement because I mean taking a position (rather than being judgmental).  By refusing to take a position, the coach can be curious about the effectiveness of a client in ways that are outside the coach’s experience.   Language does make creating the distinction challenging.

By the way – there are weaknesses in the world and in people, no denying.  However, the job of the coach is not in the area of weakness.  What differentiates a coach from other helping professions is that they to assess how the client sees themselves, help them expand their perspectives and open clients up to their own blind spots.  Ergo, the difference between fixing what’s broken vs discovering new paths.  In fact, in the world of neuropsychology: the work of Daniel Goleman, David Rock and others is reinforcing this understanding of coaching and its effectiveness in helping people change…creating new neuropathways rather than trying to redirect old ones.

I don’t know if I am making this any better!  Here is my last word – I would invite anyone curious about coaching to join us this week at the International Coach Federation annual conference being held in Fort Worth (Oct 27-30).  Come meet coaches and here the distinctions from those more articulate than I!

The Invisible Truth – until Now

Cheryl offers: I’m reading a darn good book these days; it’s called Wander Woman: How High Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction by Marcia Reynolds. I’ve known Marcia for several years now and she’s quite the fireball.  She caught my attention when I read “Generally women aren’t trying to prove they can do something difficult in spite of their gender; being a woman factors very little into their reasons for proving their worth.”  As I thought back over my life when I tackled some pretty interesting challenges myself, in my case I knew she was right on target.

I started my college education at Southern Methodist University when my last child left for college. That was a challenge because I was in the Executive MBA program with no undergraduate degree. They let a few in now and then and I was one of the lucky ones. I always wanted to go to college and never had the stars align until then. I never gave being a woman a thought as I considered getting that degree; I just knew I wanted it.  I moved to Zurich Switzerland a few years later on an international assignment with IBM to lead a major transformation effort. I didn’t agree to be away from my family for a year and take on that assignment because I was a woman; it was because it was so darn challenging and it sounded like the most fun imaginable. Later as I left IBM and retired to become an entrepreneur, I embraced that new life without ever thinking I might be leaping from corporate America to entrepreneur-land because I was a woman. It was because I was ready for a new way of life.

Marcia has managed to see women as few others in my humble opinion. There are a lot more books these days being written about women. Marcia has managed to capture insights and perspectives no one else has possibly imagined; and yet, when you read her words, you quickly realize how they are exactly what you’ve known but were never quite able to describe.

One more word about coaching

Sara adds: What I am reading from both of you is a combination of “what is a coach” and “what does a coach do?”
Let me begin with “what is a coach?”  A little background – coaching is a relatively new industry (15 to 20 years old) and is still defining itself.  That’s one reason I believe that there are so many opinions.   I would reiterate the definition of coaching.  Its from the International Coach Federation, the premier (and largest) organization of coaches.  “The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching honors the client as the expert in his/her life and work and believes that every client is creative, resourceful, and whole.”   That’s not what you may read in dictionaries because dictionaries are historically behind common usage of evolving  terminology.  And the ICF definition NOT what coaching has meant in the past – or how it is sometimes still used.
Let me offer some distinctions:  There are teachers, coaches and mentors.  There are commonalities among those professions but basic differences, as well.  As helping professions evolve, coaching has become more clearly defined, differentiated and valuable.
Randy, with that distinction in mind, let me address one other thought I read in your examples and perhaps shift your perspective.  You talked about discovering “weakness or deficiencies”  as a way for improvements.  The shift I suggest is to let go of judgement.  “Weakness and deficiencies” are negatively charged words  and frankly, are in the eye of the beholder.  Have you heard about Jim Furyk’s golf swing?  It is unconventional and some golf pro’s might describe it as a weakness – certainly a deficiency.  But it’s effective and he is a constant performer on the PGA tour.  My point is – what might be a “weakness or deficiency” in a golf coach’s eye is a highly effective swing.  It works for Furyk,  So it’s not a weakness.   That’s the shift.  In coaching it is about observing what is without judgement.  A person wants to move forward in their life.  A coach observes where they are, what they want and the impact they are having.  From there, they work on creating change – not based on some idealized view of how change MUST be (based on a model) rather on the client’s wants and the path they create with the help of the coach.  Notice the shift from “doing it right” to doing what is right to achieve a result.
Sports have been using the term “coach” longer than people in my line of work and many sports coaches often engage in determining what is wrong.  But not all.  One of the most successful tennis coaches in history is Tim Gallwey, author of The Inner Game of Tennis (and Skiing and Golf and Work)  He states, “the opponent within one’s own head is more formidable than the one the other side off the net.”   His revolutionary approach to coaching got the attention of the likes of BIlly Jean King and football coach, Pete Carroll.   Sir John Whitmore, author of Coaching for Performance stated, “…Gallwey had put his finger on the essence of coaching.  Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their performance.”  (The emphasis is mine)
That puts us in a very different place with coaching…it is not about finding fault.  It is about uncovering and encouraging potential.  And frankly, that’s why it’s gotten to be such a popular and often misused term.  People may not know what it is, but they certainly want some of it!!
Here are three things I would have you know about coaching – it is a learned profession with defined competencies and levels of proficiency.  That means I challenge anyone who says they are a coach to pass a test.  If you have to demonstrate competencies to be a CPA or a teacher I believe you must be willing to do no less to call yourself a coach.  By the way, people who hire coaches should demand nothing less.   Second, professional coaching has a clear code of ethics that address responsibility, accountability and confidentiality.  Finally, coaching has an international, professional organization that provides self governance, accreditation for schools that train coaches and credentialing for coaches .
Come to think about it, the Dallas Cowboys organization might want to talk to me about what REAL coaching really is and the potential it offers.  I wrote about a year ago (I was fairly “put out” at the time) about Jerry Jones and his Cowboys.  Jerry said they didn’t need leaders…they just need execution….getting a bunch of large men to do things right.    And how’s that working for them?
I have a dozen coaching clients I would hold up in comparison to Jones and company in terms of reaching their goals of success.  There is coaching and there is coaching and the ultimate measure is success.

Perfect People

Cheryl  offers:  I was driving down Northwest Highway the other day and saw a sign outside a Methodist church that read “No perfect people allowed.” I was struck by the simplicity of the message immediately. And then I remembered all the times I might have thought I qualified for that category of perfect people.  Ouch! Over my lifetime, I would guess it’s happened more than I’d ever want to admit. And I must confess, it seemed to have happened at an early age. My mother loves to tell the story of my first day of school. When she asked how I liked it she swears I replied, “It was OK, but I’m not going back until all those other kids catch up with me.” I believe she was so astounded at my answer that it never occurred to her to teach me a much needed immediate lesson in humility.

I’ve read a lot of books over the years and most of them have been about leadership. I have learned the value of practicing humility regularly and to remind myself frequently that is it a necessary ingredient to a more peaceful and purposeful life. While the title of the book is somewhat ironic given their current economic woes, I’m reminded of the words from If Aristotle Ran General Motors by Tom Morris. “There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.” Somewhere in this quote I get the sense this means there are no perfect human beings and being able to embrace that thought brings its own sense of nobility. I’d like to think so because it means there might be hope for me yet!