Thursday, December 28, 2017

WHY Do You Want To Do These Things?

I will be launching a new service in January 2018 that will help you create clarity around your goals, certainty about what to do, and help you provide a greater impact on your work environment.

In the meantime, I’d like to share a free PDF containing a useful personal prioritization exercise to help you get started.



I hope you can join me on this journey!
Today we will combine what we want to feel with what we want to accomplish.

We’re looking for WHY we want to achieve these goals.

It’s knowing the WHY that will help us keep going when we hit the inevitable dip.


Today’s assignment:

For each goal:


I mentioned earlier that one of my goals for 2018 was to read 52 books.

Why do I want to do this?

To expand my influences and to return to a deeper, more comprehensive, and more relaxing way of consuming information.

How will this goal help me feel the way I want to feel?

  • Even as a kid, I found sitting down and reading a book relaxing.  Relaxed is one of my desired feelings.
  • Much of my preferred reading material leans towards non-fiction.  I have a large stack of business and psychology books on deck for this project.  The education in these areas will help my confidence.  Confident is one of my desired feelings.


Some goals may not have a clear connection between the goal and the desired feelings.

For instance – another goal I mentioned was to launch a new product/service in 2018.

Why do I want to do this?

I want to help make work life more humane.  My immediate experience and the experiences of close friends and colleagues drives this project.

Like Simon Sinek, this particular project was born from personal pain. I’ve been trying to solve my own problem.  From that effort, I feel I have information and experience that I think will help others.

I know some of the undesirable feelings I will have as I finish creating and launch and market the project include:

  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • etc

However, I also know that I will feel the following:

  • Loving –  I want to help my friends (many of whom are in the middle management and project management ranks) find happiness and help them feel more competent and capable.  If, through my work, I can help at least one team find the space to de-stress and work effectively with each other and with others – I will consider that success.
  • Joyful – I’m going to count the feeling of accomplishment as joy. I feel joy when I reach milestones. I will feel joy when I officially launch and complete the construction phase of the project. I will feel joy when I get my first customers.  I’m sure there will be other joyful times too during this process.
  • Confident – Even if this project misses the mark, I have gained new skills and learned important lessons while I built and marketed this solution.  I can use this information to improve the product and to improve my other services.
  • Contentment – If this project succeeds beyond my wildest dreams, the work delivers significant positive change in people’s working environments and personal lives,  and I’m able to systematize it in a way that others want to share, I anticipate feeling the contentment of a job well done.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.



Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Simon Sinek is the go-to person for finding your Why.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Prioritizing What You Want To Do This Year

I will be launching a new service in January 2018 that will help you create clarity around your goals, certainty about what to do, and help you provide a greater impact on your work environment.

In the meantime, I’d like to share a free PDF containing a useful personal prioritization exercise to help you get started.

I hope you can join me on this journey!
Today’s assignment:

With your list of all of the things you want to do this year:

  1. Categorize each goal – Process or Destination
  2. For each goal – is it YOUR goal or did someone assign it to you?  Mark the goals that you are doing for someone else.
  3. For the goals that are YOUR goals – how passionate are you about the goal?  I’m calling this the passion level.
    • 1 for meh or “I should…”  5 for “Hell Yes!”
  4. For the goals that are YOUR goals – how achievable do you feel the goal is? I’m calling this the confidence level.
    • 1 for “when pigs fly”, 5 for “No question – this will happen this year!”

How many “Hell Yes” goals do you have?  Any?

How many “No question – this will happen this year!” goals do you have? Any?

If you have one Hell Yes, this will happen this year goal – you are doing better than a lot of us.  That looks like a goal for the year.

Even a Hell Yes – I think this can happen, just not entirely sure how yet (a level 3)  is awesome.  Looks like another goal for the year.

Ultimately, we are looking for 5-10 goals we can focus on for the year.

Oh yeah – and those goals should be YOURS.  Not something someone else gave you.


A few of my personal goals for the year:

  • Launch a new product/service by the end of 2018 – Hell Yes, this will happen in 2018 (Passion Level 5 /Confidence Level 5).
    • I started the work last year and I’m close to launching – so I’m feeling a lot more confident about this goal.  If you asked me this time last year, the answer would have been Hell Yes, I think this can happen, just not entirely sure how yet.
  • Obtain another certification this year – I want to do this, this will happen in 2018 (Passion Level 4/Confidence level 5).
    • I have the materials for the cert I will be pursuing. I just haven’t started it yet.  The certification is more for pursuing a personal interest vs. anything I intend to use professionally.
  • Read 52 books – Hell Yes, I’m pretty sure this will happen in 2018 (Passion Level 5/Confidence Level 4)
    • This means a 1 book per week cadence.  I’ve got a long list of books to read on my Kindle and they have started breeding again on my bookshelves.  I’m finding that concentrating on longer-form writing has been helping my attention span and, because I have to replace social media time with book time, my aggravation levels.

NONE of my goals were put there by anyone else but me.

NONE of my goals are “I think I should” goals.

Yeah – those things may happen that year – but they are not MY priority.



If you find yourself stuck with writing good goals:

Some other ways to think about goal-setting:


Thursday, December 21, 2017

What Do You Want To Do This Year?

I will be launching a new service in January 2018 that will help you create clarity around your goals, certainty about what to do, and help you provide a greater impact on your work environment.

In the meantime, I’d like to share a free PDF containing a useful personal prioritization exercise to help you get started.

I hope you can join me on this journey!
Let’s return to comfortable territory. Goal setting!

I find there are two types of goals:

  • Destination Goals:  “By the end of 2018, I will launch my new product and have at least 5 clients.”
  • Process Goals: “I will meditate 15 minutes per day at least 5 days per week this year.”

I use both.

Sometimes, the process goals help move you towards your destination goals.

Example: Destination goal – Lose 25 pounds.  Process goal – Replace my morning latte with water at least 5 days per week.

Sometimes, the process IS the destination.

Example: Meditate 15 minutes per day at least 5 days per week.

There isn’t a particular destination. I keep receiving feedback from my friends that the practice makes me a nicer person to be around.  Better relationships seem like a good enough reason for me to keep meditating.


Today’s assignment:

Free write all of the things you want to accomplish in 2018. 

It doesn’t matter how “ridiculous” or “stupid” or “unrealistic” the goal appears.

Over the weekend – write down anything else that comes up.

We are going to ask some questions about these goals next week.



Michael Hyatt is one of my favorite goal-setting and prioritization gurus.  Two books I recommend if you want a deep dive into this process (both Amazon Affiliate links):

Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want – He walks you through a comprehensive goal-setting process in this book.

Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals – This book provides more immediate and focused guidance for the year.



Thursday, December 14, 2017

How Do You Want to Feel This Year?

I will be launching a new service in January 2018 that will help you create clarity around your goals, certainty about what to do, and help you provide a greater impact on your work environment.

In the meantime, I’d like to share a free PDF containing a useful personal prioritization exercise to help you get started.



I hope you can join me on this journey!

Part of my annual planning this year was to work through The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte (Amazon affiliate link).

Ms. LaPorte’s argument – we do what we do because we want to feel a certain way.

Why do I pursue certifications even after I earned two graduate degrees? Why am I working towards a double bodyweight deadlift? Why do I give to charity?  Why do I try to go out to lunch with friends at least 1x per week?

There are lots of reasons, but fundamentally I am aiming for “happy.”  Or any of its variants.

After working through her exercises, I came up with the following five feelings:

  • Contentment
  • Confidence
  • Loving
  • Relaxed
  • Joyful

Two recommendations while doing today’s exercise:

    • Focus on terms that resonate with you.  For example, I am uncomfortable with the word “happy” because the term seems a bit manic.  “Joyful,” to me, seems more serene. Plus, “Happy” reminds me of this video:


  • Focus on the feelings that do not require someone else’s action to occur.  For example, “loved” implies that someone else loves me.  “Loving” is something I can control.

Grab pen and paper, or open a word document and let’s get going!


Today’s assignment:

How do you want to feel this year?

Take 2 minutes and free write any words that come up.

Set it aside.  Review it tomorrow.  Any new words?  Any synonyms?

Over the weekend – narrow that list down to 3-5 core feelings.


The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul (Amazon affiliate link)- I recommend this if you want to do a comprehensive deep-dive on this exercise. Her questions allow for a deeper exploration and an eye-opening analysis of your current state and emotional patterns.

Atlas of Emotions – an interactive tool based on Paul Ekman’s research on emotions as universal categories.  If emotional identification isn’t your thing – The Atlas of Emotions narrows your choices down to 5.  Choose 1 (and I’m taking bets on which one you will choose).

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Finding Quiet

I will be launching a new service in January 2018 that will help you create clarity around your goals, certainty about what to do, and help you provide a greater impact on your work environment.

In the meantime, I’d like to share a free PDF containing a useful personal prioritization exercise to help you get started.



I hope you can join me on this journey!

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to find some quiet.

Extended, undisturbed quiet.

The conversation you are going to have will be between you and a piece of paper.

And you want to be alone.  No other inputs.

No friends. No phone. No computer.  Nothing to distract you.

You want to hear the chatter in your head.

Just keep an observational distance from it.

Easier said than done, I know.


Some of the techniques I have used to find quiet space:

  • Early morning – first thing.  Before the coffee has kicked in.
    • My brain is less noisy then + I lean towards morning person, so few people are bothering me at that time.
  • Late evening after everyone has left.
    • More for night people.  I haven’t been nearly as successful with this technique.  But then, I’m a morning person.  I also find that I am either mentally burned out at the end of the day or over-stimulated and my brain has a gajillion things going on, and I can’t concentrate.
  • Hide in an unused conference room out of main traffic areas.
    • Schedule it as “strategic planning” on the conference room calendar and block off your calendar.
      • It IS a meeting – you don’t need to tell them it’s a meeting with yourself and the voices in your head.
    • If you have to have someone else schedule it for you – just tell the scheduler you will send invites separately
    • Alternately – you could just check the schedule, then squat in the room
    • Don’t use more than 1 hour for this. Ideally 30 minutes. Don’t be a room hog.
  • Take an actual lunch outside the office alone.
    • Best done during a beautiful day outside.  We could all probably use the Vitamin D.
  • On travel – conference – hide in a hallway away from the action for a few minutes
    • It’s a productive way to spend the time between sessions vs. checking your email. Just once.
    • In my experience – my slowest email times during conferences tend to be between the keynote and the first breakout session.  Depending on your circumstances, that optimal time will change.
  • On travel – client sites – leverage hotel time
    • Again, I find the change in environment helps.
    • I also don’t have the distractions on the road that I do at home.
    • When was the last time you saw something entertaining on TV anyhow?

The following techniques are less ideal.  You want to take whatever comes up and write them down in one notebook dedicated to this task.

  • Voice recording during the commute.
    • Most of us commute alone.  Most phones have voice recorder functionality.
    • I prefer writing because I know that for me writing stuff down sticks.  This technique is more “in a pinch”.
  • During lines and waits – using the note tools on your phone
    • This is the “being alone while in a crowd” technique
    • This technique has the bonus of making you look “busy” so no one bothers you.
  • Taking a notebook to the gym.
    • I lift weights – so this works for me.  I write stuff down during rest periods if something comes to me.
    • Lift heavy enough – the mind clears real nicely.
    • The change in environment also helps.
    • Many gyms have daycare (for those of you with children)
    • This won’t quite work with running, treadmills, rowing, etc.

Finding quiet may be the hardest step in finding personal clarity.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

2018 Will Be Epic!

Those who know me well know I don’t get excited very easily.

I’m excited!

I will be launching a new service in January 2018 that will help you create clarity around your goals, certainty about what to do, and help you provide a greater impact on your work environment.

In the meantime, I’d like to share a free PDF containing a useful personal prioritization exercise to help you get started.

I hope you can join me on this journey!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

An Argument for Sandboxes

Over the US Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I encountered a TED talk done by OK Go.

In the talk, they explain that they don’t have ideas, they find them.

Or, more accurately, they have an idea that might be interesting – then spend a healthy chunk of their budget experimenting to see if the idea is viable, and then creating a plan against what they discover.

This is different from most of the projects I’ve been on, which assume that it HAS TO WORK.

If you have 18 minutes, this is well worth your time.

And if you have an EXTRA 6 minutes, this is a fascinating behind-the-scenes for one of their more complicated videos.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Importance of Having Many Aligned Visions

The most impactful teams I’ve been on have been teams filled with people who share the same vision.

The vision of what the team needs to accomplish aligned with each of their personal visions.

That alignment wasn’t something they were “persuaded into.”

Each individual member was clear on what he or she wanted.  The individual then chose (often consciously) to be on the project because it helped them achieve their personal goals for themselves and allowed them to do something to create the world that they want to see.

When a personal vision aligns with a project vision, the team member more quickly sees how he or she can help bring the vision into form using his or her skills and experience.

These types of teams, I’ve noticed, go through the Forming, Storming and Norming phases of teambuilding pretty quickly.

I also tend to observe more instances of individuals collaborating and helping.

Any arguments that occur are around how to approach a problem and tend to be respectful vs. why they are doing the project in the first place or political posturing.

You can encourage people to buy in.

It’s a lot nicer to work with people you don’t have to persuade in the first place.



Thursday, November 23, 2017


On this US Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks:

  • To my clients.  I’ve learned a lot from each of them during these past 18 months. And I am grateful that they have allowed me to make a living doing things I love to do.
  • To my network. I am so grateful for the time, conversations, feedback and encouragement to continue on this path.
  • To my family. Your support, love, and wisdom have made this somewhat unexpected journey much easier.  Being an entrepreneur was never a life goal of mine, it just seemed like the best thing to do at this point in my career. I did not expect everyone to be such awesome cheerleaders and so enthusiastic about my taking this path.  I am (and will be) forever grateful.
  • To my friends.   I’m very fortunate to have many friends who also happen to be professionally accomplished and have a breadth of experience.  Even better, they are willing to take a look at my projects and give constructive feedback that makes my work that much better.  Oh yeah, and they get me out of the house every once in a while.  Thank you for your enthusiasm, wise advice, and encouraging me to wear something other than yoga pants on occasion.
  • To my accountability partners (Brian, Julie, David, Judy, Kevin).  Thanks for holding me accountable as I start doing scary new things I have never done before.  Accountability partners are a key ingredient for me to successfully get things done. The fact that these people are willing to spend their time and energy to check up on me means a lot.
  • To Cally, the dog. Thank you for reminding me to get outside every once in awhile.
  • To Ryan.  My success or failure in this venture directly impacts your life.  The fact that you have more confidence in my ability to succeed than I often do means the world to me.  Thank you for being my Chief Organizational Psychologist. I love you!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Aligning Personal Vision with an Organization

As I move through the middle to end-stage of my career, I’m realizing I don’t have many project cycles left.

As a result, it’s become clear that I have to make sure that an organization’s values and vision align with my personal values and vision.

The quality of life that results when my personal values and vision align with the organization is much higher.

Furthermore, the organization gets more of my energy,  higher quality work, and a better attitude.

I don’t think I am alone here.


The late Sir John Whitmore, in the introduction to his 5th edition of Coaching for Performance  (affiliate link), felt that organizations are beginning to reconnect their business to their purpose.

As the people who get stuff done, we can help support this by choosing to work with organizations that have that connection to their purpose.

We are in an era where job stability is an illusion and there is a greater expectation that we will have multiple jobs over the course of a career.  In some areas, job tenure is even seen as suspect.

Because we have more mobility, we can choose where we spend our time and energy.

Let’s support organizations that understand that working for people, planet, and profit is a triple win.

Let’s support organizations that see their employees and contractors as humans rather than cost centers to be reduced or “resources” to be used.

Let’s choose mindfully the places where we provide our energy and labor.

What are your values?

What is the vision you have for your life?

What is the organization’s vision? Does it match your vision for yourself and the world?

What are the organization’s values?  Do they match your values?

Are the behaviors, choices, and rewards in the organization in alignment with the stated values?

If there is a disconnect between your personal values and vision and the organizational values and vision, how bad is it?

What can you do to close that gap?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Why Environment is Important

In my experience, I do my best work in environments where my personal values and talents can thrive.

Environments where who I AM is appreciated, not just the work product, or skills they think I bring to the table, or how many hours I put in at the office.

Work and life are not separate things to be balanced.

Work IS part of life.

Life Balance Wheel

Too much energy spent in one segment makes everything lopsided and impacts the whole.

Hate what you do?  Hate where you do it?  Don’t care about the people you do it with?

That impacts your health, your ability to re-energize yourself, your relationships with everyone around you, and your self-esteem.

I’ve even watched as the raspberry bushes in my backyard migrated from their original location within a bricked plot to 3 feet away to where the pear tree used to stand.

If the plants can move to more supportive environments, you can too.

Why else is it important to make sure you are in a supportive environment?

Remember Jim Rohn’s saying – “You are the average of the five people you spend time with?”

What are the characteristics of those people?

Where are the similarities? Uncomfortable, isn’t it?

I’ve learned over the past few years that when I can see up close someone who has gone where I want to go, it seems more attainable. Especially when I get to watch them as they go through the process.

On the flip side, when I find myself in toxic environments – everything shifts towards toxicity. It requires that much more energy to maintain focus on goals and the positive things in my life.

The struggle may be real, but it is not entirely necessary.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Why Personal Vision is Important

As I move through this life, the importance of a personal vision becomes clearer.

What do I want my life to look like?

What do I want my relationships to look like?

What do I want my environment to look like?

What activities and causes do I want to support?

How do I want to engage in the world?

Why do I want these things?


Everything, from where I work to what I purchase to what I do, trickles down from the answers to these questions.

If I don’t have solid answers to these questions, I drift.

I wind up in places that don’t serve me or others.

I find myself doing things that serve no good purpose or are actively destructive.

If I do wind up in these places by accident, if I haven’t developed a personal vision, I don’t have anything to measure against.

Just a general sense of “this sucks,” then thrashing about to have things “not suck” but not knowing what “not suck” looks like.

Life is too short to be moving from one sucky environment to another.


I think we all deserve better.

I think we all deserve to be in supportive environments.

I think we all deserve to have our labor appropriately valued and appreciated.

I think we all deserve to have our environments and activities be in alignment with what we most value.

I think we all deserve opportunities to grow into our best selves.

To do that, we just need to spend a few moments figuring out what that looks like.

We also need to allow for modifications along the way as we learn what works and what doesn’t and as we grow, change, gain more experience, and engage in this adventure called life.


What do you want your life to look like?


Thursday, November 09, 2017

Small Steps

Over the past few years, I’ve seen significantly more evidence that change occurs in small steps.

Small, bite-sized, easily defined, easily executed pieces.

One of my favorite change management instructors (John Berardi, who just happens to be in the nutrition and fitness space) continues to advocate for selecting one habit to modify and do so in a way that you have a 99% chance of succeeding.  Minor choices lead to major changes.

Yes, there are times you need to yank out the rug.

  • Stop drinking cold turkey – because trying to reduce it doesn’t work for you.
  • Throw out all the junk food from the house – because if it is in the house, it gets eaten.
  • Remove the classrooms – because they are expensive to maintain and run and instructors and students alike are using them as a crutch/excuse not to change.

Use the extreme approach sparingly, when all else doesn’t work.

The rebound can be spectacular if the extreme change is not supported for an extended period.  I’ve seen that too many times both personally and professionally.

So why do we think that change will happen faster if we “pull out all the stops?”  Change all the things all at once?  Have a big, celebratory event and assume it will stick?

I’m beginning to think that we keep approaching change as an all-or-nothing deal because it satisfies some desires:

  • The desire for excitement – gotta admit that big change initiatives, both personal and professional, can be exciting.
  • The desire for certainty – big events have an end.
  • The desire for clarity – big initiatives generally have clear goals.  The only problem is that the destination they set isn’t the final one.

The fallacy is that we think of change as one and done.

Change is a process.

There IS no one and done.

  • Stopping drinking? You still need to make a moment-by-moment decision on what to consume…for the rest of your LIFE.
  • Changing your diet? You still need to go to the grocery store and choose the appropriate foods or select the option at the restaurant that matches your diet vs. what looks “tasty”…for the rest of your LIFE.
  • Moving to online learning?  You still need to make the appropriate instructional design decisions for your course objectives and continuously improve your development skills and your tools.

Those new habits need practice, reinforcement, supportive environments, and mindset changes.

Even with time, it can be shockingly easy to slip back into old habits.

The bigger the change, the bigger the potential rebound.

Let’s stop trying to change all the things all at once.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Choose One Thing

Wendy, do I have to choose only ONE thing?

I had asked my entrepreneurial friend, who had been complaining about being overwhelmed, having too many ideas, too much to do, and not enough focus, what he considered to be the most important thing he wanted to accomplish.

I get it.

I stare at all of the ideas that I have and things I want to do and the niggly odds and ends and details to get me there, and I sometimes want to throw my hands in the air and pray that the magical productivity fairies come down and do all the work for me.

Unfortunately, those magical fairies are in my hands and my head.  I still need to do the work – physically, intellectually and emotionally.

Because there is one of me and only 24 hours in a day, I still need to decide what is most important.

Right now, the most critical priority is preparing a new service for launch (target – January 2018).

This priority includes all of the marketing, branding and sales efforts, nevermind putting together 15+ years worth of experience and 10 years worth of blog posts into something that others can digest and use.

Oh yeah, add the struggle of getting out of my own way since my inner perfectionist gremlin is going bonkers right now.

Because this priority is so all-encompassing and requires so much energy, it means that other things I want to do I need to put on the back-burner for later.

Or let go of. 

It’s not easy.

There’s a fear of loss that trickles in when I decide to let go of something. Even if it just for “later.”

I need to be OK with letting something sit for a bit.  Ideas that I’ve allowed to simmer tend to be much better in execution when I get to them. Even if I do wind up letting go of the idea, or “miss the boat,” it turns out for the best.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Mentor and Coach

Remember the list of behavior changes you made?

There were two parts:

  1. Identify desired behaviors
  2. Identify undesired behaviors

During that process, I asked you to identify substitute behaviors.

Substituting one behavior for another is more comfortable than removing a behavior altogether.

People will find substitute activities anyway. You might as well leverage that.

Behavior change is uncomfortable.

Think about when you last tried to “stop” doing something.

Hard, isn’t it?

I find that I am much more successful when I have a “replacement” behavior that fills the gap.

I am working on reducing my coffee consumption.  As of this writing, I’m down to 2 cups a day – most days.

The days I am successful, it is because I have access to hot tea.

Tea-drinking serves as an excellent replacement behavior for coffee-drinking because:

  1. I like hot tea, and I often drink coffee to stay warm vs. any desire for coffee itself
  2. There is a little bit of caffeine, so I don’t trigger the caffeine withdrawal headache

Eventually, I will “rip off the band-aid” and eliminate coffee from my diet.

When I am ready, I will find a mentor/coach.  Ideally, this mentor is someone who has been through this change before and currently models the behaviors I wish to adopt.

In this example, that means I am looking for a person who:

  1. Used to be a die-hard coffee drinker
  2. No longer drinks coffee
  3. Has substituted coffee with a healthier beverage (i.e., NOT someone who replaced coffee with 10 Diet Cokes per day)

The ideal mentor, for me, is someone who understands the struggle of changing that particular behavior.

Someone who is introspective and honest enough with themselves to be able to identify and share where they ran into difficulty.

Someone who I can relate to. If my mentor could do it, I can too.

Having this mentor provides a behavioral model and individual accountability.

This mentor asks questions when I slip and when I succeed.

What is working?  What isn’t? When do you struggle? When is it easy?

The accountability and encouragement of reflection help the change stick; even if it takes a few tries.

You can use this same process with organizational change.

Encourage the individuals who have successfully embodied the change to mentor others.

Provide support, training, and rewards for this mentorship.

Celebrate successful mentoring. Who have the mentors influenced?

For your part, listen when people tell you of their struggles to change.

Where are they struggling? How can you support them?

Use “just suck it up” sparingly.

Your people will notice the disconnect if the change doesn’t impact you or your work.

Your best people won’t tolerate it.

Resources – Amazon Affiliate Links

The Heart of Coaching: Using Transformational Coaching to Create a High-Performance Coaching Culture

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Rewards and Reinforcements

If you are going to make a change, you need to develop the environment for that change to thrive.

You have identified the behavior changes you want to reinforce, right?

From here, it’s time to start evaluating your current environment.

  • What is happening in your environment NOW that will support the changes you wish to make?
    • This includes behaviors people in your environment are already demonstrating.  The more you can support what people are already doing; the less dramatic the change will seem.
  • What is happening in your environment that might block the change?
    • Which obstacles can be easily removed?
    • What needs to happen to remove those obstacles?
  • How dramatic is the change in mindset required?
    • The more dramatic the mindset change, the more time, patience, and reinforcement will be required.

Once you know where you are at, you can review your destination.

  • Is there something new you need to put in place to support the change?
  • Are there reinforcement mechanisms already available in the environment that just need tweaking?
    • Can you add the behaviors to the performance evaluation process?  What is required to do that?  Do you have that level of support?
    • Can you add the behaviors to the job descriptions and career ladders?
  • How open is your organization to different reinforcement techniques?
    • Has your organization tried gamification before? How successful was it?  What worked and what didn’t?
    • Do you have the funding for prizes?
    • Do you have reward mechanisms already in place for collaboration and mentoring?  What would you need to build that?

As you and the organization work through the change, it is up to you to develop the environment for that change to thrive.

Think of it like a scientific experiment. Try one thing. Is it working? Did something else appear that you didn’t anticipate?  Are people gaming the system? Is there an adjustment you can make? Is there something else you can try?

Rewards and reinforcement do not have to be expensive.  They just have to be consistent across the system and across time.

Resources – Amazon Affiliate Links

The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook: The Complete Guide

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Safe Spaces

The second most important thing you can do as a leader is to provide safe spaces for change.

(The first most important thing you can do is model the change yourself).

Find a way to create a safe space – no matter how “high stakes”.

This is where “pilots” come in.

Tiny, quick projects to test the idea.

Pilots perform multiple, essential functions:

  1. A pilot allows you to see whether the change will work.
  2. A pilot lets you see where the sticking points will be around within the change
  3. A pilot creates people who model the behavior and can then spread that behavior among their colleagues.
  4. A pilot helps you confirm your behavioral reinforcement strategies

Ideally, these pilots are low-stakes.

Don’t let an argumentative, impatient, high-stakes team bulldoze you into making them be your “pilot.”

These teams tend to

  • Do things that are central to the operations of the organization
  • Have no patience
  • Squawk as soon as things “go wrong”
  • Spread that discomfort to the rest of the organization
  • Derail any future efforts

You will know who these teams are pretty quickly.

Fundamentally, you want your pilot to be a team that is impacted by the change, but any problems that appear do not paralyze the organization.

My best tactic is to explain to the impatient, high-stakes team that we want to do a small pilot so that we minimally impact their critical work.  We want to get the majority of the kinks out first.  By waiting a short period of time, we save them significant time and energy.

The argument doesn’t always work at first. Find an example from the organization’s history where their impatience made a change more difficult than necessary.  Document and share with your project champion and your team.

Find an example from the organization’s history where their impatience made a change more difficult than necessary.  Document and share with your project champion and your team.  Do your best to cool the high-stakes team’s jets.

Don’t know what law this is, but I found the following to be true:

“The higher the stakes, the more likely things are going to go wrong.”

Your attempts to create a pilot (a safe zone for the change) with a lower stakes team may not work, but at least you have the documentation if things go off the rails.

Resources – Amazon Affiliate Links

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Modeling Behavior

For any change, particularly changes that are significantly different from “the way we’ve always done things around here,” it helps to provide explicit models of the new behaviors.

Development of that model starts with you, even if it is not clear that it is your “job.”

Are you thanking your team for their hard work?

Are you sharing the impact the team’s work has made – even if it is “unfinished”?

Are you using and sharing the tools and techniques the team members have developed?

How are YOU modeling the behavior?

The second stage is finding a small group of people who are demonstrating the behavior.

Find people who are close to the “action.”

What are they doing?  How are you going to celebrate them?

How can they share the process they went through to make the change?

You don’t need many.  You just need people closer to the individuals impacted by the change.

Ideally, the folks impacted by the change look up to the people modeling the behaviors.

The closer the modelers, the more relatable the change.

Remember that change is a process.

People need multiple exposures to a particular change for them to absorb it for themselves.

Change – in mindset and behavior – is not a “one and done” activity.

Resources – Amazon Affiliate Links

The Success Principles(TM) – How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Thinking in Terms of Projects and Systems

As you may have guessed – my thinking tends to bias towards “systems thinking”.  (And in Wendy’s utopian fantasyland – these systems result in projects. Because I like clean end points.)
What does this look like?  Read More

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Using Plans for Learning

In my last post, I mentioned that project plans (and the changes to them) can be used for capturing information as plans change and potentially identifying trends if things go off the rails.
We can use these plans for learning!
What do I mean by this?  Read More

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Folly of Plans

Project plans, to me, are a rough estimate of what the project team thinks should be done to get from point A to point B. It’s a living document, not carved in stone.
In my experience, the real value in the project plan is in getting the steps and “to do” list out of people’s heads and onto paper.
Once I have that “paper” (or, in many cases, a computerized project plan), I can:

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Focusing on the Process

Eric Nehrlich’s post on the Island meta-narrative got me thinking about goals, results and achievement.
So much of my life (and my business) is about goals and results.
Get the application launched by x date.
Desired result [add business objective here]....  Read More

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Evaluating Requests

Recently, a system administrator acquaintance was asked to add a bar code to attendee badges for their big meeting.
They wanted to collect information on which sessions people attended during their conference.
On the surface, seems simple....   Read More

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Initiatives Resulting from Projects

I’ve noticed that successfully implemented large projects create more work.  From my experience, this work surfaces in the following ways:  Read More

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


You are working on a project.
You are tantalizingly close to finishing. To shipping. To going into production.
There’s just one more thing you need to do that takes just a little bit of time.... Read More

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Imagine a high-stakes, politically sensitive IT implementation.
During the project, things go wrong. Really wrong. As in – having more than half of your risk register come true wrong....  Read More

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Heart, Soul and Clinging

In my previous job, I was an LMS Administrator (among other things).
I spent a LOT of time with that LMS.
Creating programs, configuring the LMS to support those programs, negotiating with my organization and the vendor for customizations, occasionally going into the code myself to make things work for my organization.
The more work I put into something, the more ownership I feel.... Read More

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Onboarding Cost

The executive impulse to “throw people at a project”, though well-intentioned, can cause more problems and slow things down.  Why?  Read More

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

To-Do Boards

I love To Do boards.  Trello, Dotstorming, Post-It Notes and whiteboards.
Completing tasks makes my heart sing! I also know that it is personal and that not everyone shares my enthusiasm....  Read More

Thursday, June 08, 2017

The Valley of Despair

The excitement of learning something new, then the really big hill careening towards Depression.
Most organizations don’t account for this natural process. Everything is supposed to be “up”  all…the…time.
Or….if they do think about it…they work desperately to avoid it..... Read More

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Uncovering the Exceptions

Defined processes, documentation and a solid training program are all parts of a good foundation for doing process improvement and implementing the tools to support that improvement. However, before we start, we need to uncover what is REALLY happening in your environment. The most elegantly designed process isn’t a process if no one follows it....  Read More

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Technical vs Business

The executives see an opportunity to improve their sales processes by implementing a new enterprise customer management system. So they go out and find a system that promises to do so. All of the features are there. They pressure the IT team to get everything running in an absurdly tight timeline....  Read More