June 26, 2007
I’ve been blogging weekly since I started “Chasing Wisdom” a few months back. This is my first time to miss my weekly deadline, but it was planned. I will be out of town over the 4th of July week so I decided to put this post in the middle of a 3-week span and another at the end when I get back.
The Independence Day theme is transformative for aspiring entrepreneurs and self-bossers. Our nation was founded on the basis of personal liberty of thought and expression, ending formalized categories of class, and market freedom through capitalism. Until the late 19th to early 20th century, nearly every person in the United States was self-employed or a small business owner. That included farmers, craftsmen, and small-scale merchants.
When I hear talks about employees transitioning to self-employment and business ownership, the reasons I hear resonate with all the great lessons I learned as a child about the ideals and values of this country: freedom of expression, the liberty to choose our own paths and design our futures, freedom to participate in the economy and take responsibility for our own income and wealth, and the freedom to learn and try new things unbound by class.
Some of you may be surprised that these were some of the lessons I learned about my country, since there are so many negative messages about the history of the nation and a focus on mistakes and flaws taught in public school today. I went to school in rural Oklahoma and suburban Texas, so that might explain why I learned the good stuff. I also learned about the flaws, especially the fact that it’s taken centuries to get closer to allowing all the freedoms of the United States to all citizens of any race, color, or creed. I learned about the wars against Native Americans and a string of broken promises. But I believed these were flaws of people, not flaws of the design. The values and principles of American liberty transform people and transform society over time, generally expanding freedom in spite of the ups and downs at particular points in history.
Independence was initially won to have freedom from a social class system and a closed economic system where most people were at the mercy of the nobility and a few wealthy merchants. Today the typical message about work is, “Get a good job at a big company and work your way up.” That message says put yourself at the mercy of a new nobility, corporations, who are also the wealthiest of the merchants. We’re running from the freedoms gained.
The message of self-employment, self-bossing, small business, and multiple income streams flies in the face of that message. It says, “Reclaim your independence! Take the liberty that is within your grasp! Exercise your freedom!”
What a way to celebrate and honor the spirit of independence in America.
May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,
June 15, 2007
Barbara Sher is one of my favorite virtual mentors. I got an e-mail notice the other day that she was doing some more teleseminars on “Resistance.” She’s been doing a few on that topic on a voluntary basis. The money paid benefits either her Kilim Women Project or the Coming Home Animal Sanctuary. Me, I’ve got resistance! And I like helping a good cause, so I signed up for this past Thursday’s call.
One of the participants must have been calling from The Twilight Zone. Barbara said at one point it was the noisiest teleseminar she’d ever been on. We had crying babies and screaming kids, off and on. We had a rhythmic grating like someone washing dishes, or sanding something, or sharpening a tool (Yikes!). We had people coughing or clearing their throat LOUDLY into the phone. We even heard “You’ve got mail” from someone’s computer.
Three people had volunteered to work with Barbara on the call. The volunteer would present the situation related to changing work or moving towards a new career or advancing their business, and Barbara would help them see the next steps and figure out what was keeping them from moving forward. It was a lot like coaching. Each participant got some great ideas. But none of them was struggling with the specific kind of resistance Barbara teaches about. When you resist making sales call because it’s not your personality, that’s understandable. When you resist balancing your checkbook because it’s taxing and boring, that’s normal. When you love to paint and you finally have time and a studio set up, but you wind up dusting the bookshelves instead of painting—that’s resistance. And, as a person who’s tried dusting bookshelves, I can say it’s just not normal, either!
After the call Barbara invited us to her public discussion groups at her web site. It was interesting that many people who have read her books and understand her concepts could list all the tips and ideas and techniques she had suggested during the discussion. Others, newer to the ideas or with minds organized in a different way, hadn’t caught on to all that was shared and were amazed when they realized all that was covered in the call. Even though none of the participants was actually talking about the kind of resistance that involves avoiding what you really want to be doing, she taught a lot of techniques for overcoming obstacles. She did her part and did it really well, but with all the interruptions and distractions and confused expectations, I’m sure it was a challenging experience.
There was a teleseminar a couple of weeks back that I heard as a member of Fast Track Your Dream, a career change support community. There was a glitch with recording the call so some of us had a “re-enactment” call to share our notes and memories of the examples and recommendations. Fast Track creator Valerie Young came up with a couple of extra recordings for us to download, so we wound up with much more information than recording the call alone would have given us. But, boy, was she in a tough spot trying to find ways to provide that information after the recording process fell apart.
It’s gotten me to think that there can be high drama in offering teleseminars. I had thought I could learn the simple technical aspects, put together some interesting content, and have a low-risk way to offer information for a fee. Before these calls, my biggest worry was remembering to be on my own teleseminar. I’ve already missed one I signed up for because I forgot what day it was on. Fortunately, there was a nice recording waiting for me to download to my iPod afterwards. I’ve already heard that call and can listen to it again. But if I forgot to call in for my own teleseminar, I don’t think I’d be as excited to listen to what people recorded for me to hear afterwards!
May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,
June 8, 2007
I started this blog in January when Barbara Sher challenged her e-mail list to start taking steps towards career change, make a public declaration, and keep people updated by using a blog. She helps people at all stages of career change, trying to find what it is you want to do, learning how to make a career out of a passion, getting training, education, or work experience to help decide, and figuring out the steps to leave a stable job slowly without causing financial crisis.
I had already decided my trial year of therapy with foster kids wasn’t for me and I was wrapping up that practice. I knew I wanted to do positive counseling and thought coaching sounded pretty much like that to me. I knew I wanted to work with people in life transitions, especially looking for enjoyable and meaningful work, and with people who want to improve their skills working with children, including parents and teachers and caregivers.
So now I’m starting my sixth month of actively changing to a new career. Seems like I should be pretty much done by now but I’m not there yet.
I signed up for the coaching training through MentorCoach and have enjoyed discovering that, so far, coaching IS mostly positive counseling with a few important differences. I set up 2 practice clients early on, but am only able to work regularly with one because of schedule complications and other inconsistencies in my practice client’s life. Hey, maybe if we had worked together more than once I could have helped him overcome those obstacles!
I’ve been volunteering time working as a consultant with a minister of a smaller church who sees growth but wants to keep his church moving forward. We have focused on building stronger relationships among the congregants and how to develop community groups they will attend and enjoy. I developed a survey which we sent out and we’ve gotten 20-something responses so far. Consultation has involved offering information, brainstorming, and surveying others for their input, and I’ve learned I like doing those things to balance out the one-sided nature of coaching.
I learned, thanks to self-discovery exercises from Barbara Sher and from Valerie Young, that I enjoy community, the feeling of connection and belonging among people in groups. I love mentorship, which I define as a dynamic relationship with a person or group of people for the purpose of guiding the process of personal growth and development through self-discovery and shared knowledge, wisdom, and experience. I get jazzed by the idea of helping people develop mentorship skills to build connection and belonging in different kinds of groups and to bring unconnected and lonely people into thriving communities.
I know how to use QuickBooks. I’m ready to start getting paid and tracking those accounts—almost. I have a PayPal account but I don’t know how to process a credit card payment yet. I’m eager to get to the point where I need to learn.
I realized from the guidance and comments of coaches and others learning about coaching that I need to focus initial marketing on my community instead of a broad internet audience. I was stuck for a while wondering how I could come up with enough interesting material to be able to put out a monthly newsletter that would get people to sign up. And I was stuck wondering how to convert the newsletter list to a few paying clients. Now I see that’s a little bit down the road and my first focus should be on introducing myself to people in my community who might need coaching services or know people who do. Most importantly, I realized that speaking in front of groups is probably a good way to get a few initial referrals, and that although I complain that I don’t want to speak to groups I actually feel comfortable doing it. It’s the preparation where I’m worrying about what to say that’s the hard part.
This twisty road is still twisty, but I have many more suggestions about places to visit in my journey. I can’t head straight for any of them because I’m not sure of the route, but eventually I get there, and I find many more interesting places along the way.
May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,
June 1, 2007
I’m pretty sure it’s considered “common knowledge” that involving children in team activities is a good thing. It’s supposed to help them prepare for adult life where they have to get along with groups of people and work as teams.
In the idealized version, kids will have the chance to learn how to deal with different kinds of people and their personalities. They will have an adult outside their families (usually) who helps train them and guide them, being a role model and mentor (remember this is the idealized version). They will learn to count on other people some of the time, and they will learn other people are counting on them. If they don’t do their part, the whole team or group will struggle. They will learn the value of being part of something greater than themselves.
All that CAN happen, but it’s pretty rare. Fortunately, even with a pretty pathetic experience as part of a group or team, our kids learn a lot about dealing with other people. They can get some of the idealized lessons on struggling teams, and they can get some of the harsher lessons on high performing teams.
As you read my list of other lessons, be forewarned this is not a feel-good entry. Some of these lessons are a little harsh. I’m not all smiles and hugs. That’s not my nature. I’m a skeptic and a cynic and a pragmatist about human interactions, good and bad.
⇔ When push comes to shove, when it’s their own child who is struggling, parents will give up the idealized values of learning to perform for a team and being accountable for doing your part. They will see high expectations as threatening to the self-esteem and emotional comfort of their own children, although they are widely proven to produce higher performance.
⇔ Most people value excuses over valid feedback. They hear a specific critique of a choice they made or the quality of their performance as personal criticism. Teammates who think they might also be critiqued in the same way are likely to defend a person receiving critique and find fault in the coach or team leader for offering the critique. Friends and parents of the person receiving the critique are likely to find fault in the person offering the critique, thinking they are protecting the player’s feelings.
⇔ Most people scapegoat one or a few people to avoid seeing personal responsibility. When there’s a breakaway play caused by poor strategy or sloppy team performance, the guy left alone trying to stop the score often gets the blame. With presentations, the speaker can get the blame when things don’t go well, even though it was poor visuals or a lack of good information due to other team members’ incompetence.
⇔ Most people oversimplify success and celebrate the one who scores. In team sports it’s very hard for one person to make a scoring play happen without relying on the work of teammates. The person who reads the field or the court best may move in a way to open up lanes for other players, or might get the ball to the scoring player after lots of effort. The one who scores usually gets the cheers.
⇔ It’s human nature to find strong players and focus on them instead of developing the entire team. It’s hard work to see the abilities and potential of someone who is new to a job or a sport, and it’s even harder to walk them step-by-step to becoming a good player. It’s easy to get comfortable and keep using what works.
⇔ Teams that rely on strong players without developing the others can’t keep performing long-term. Relying on a few strong players can win a lot of games, but big games and championships drain the players. The team with more well-prepared and talented players is much more likely to survive the energy drain by spreading around the hard work.
⇔ Adults that can teach our children valuable skills aren’t all role models or mentors. Usually people who teach a sport or hobby or skill are passionate first about the activity. If they are teaching, they might also enjoy working with people and seeing them learn and grow. But a lot of them just enjoy finding other people who share their interest in the activity and don’t concern themselves with the whole person. That’s okay. Our kids get to learn the difference between finding someone who is great at helping them learn a skill and intentionally choosing someone to be a mentor or role model.
⇔ Most leaders (including coaches) have very specific qualities and abilities they look for, so their evaluations of the same person can be very different. The lesson of receiving critique is very important. Critique should not be shunned because it’s harsh. It shouldn’t be completely embraced because it comes from someone with expertise. It should be thoughtfully and honestly considered and compared to what other people of similar expertise have to say. A player who is valued for his speed by two coaches and criticized for being too slow by the new coach has probably not really lost his speed. The new coach may not be specific enough describing what he wants to see, or he may just be seeing a narrow window and not the big picture.
⇔ Most leaders have one or a few team members they target for criticism, out of proportion to the way they respond to the rest of their team. This is mostly hard on the targeted players. Sometimes it leads to the whole team scapegoating the criticized players. That is most likely when the coach or leader is unfairly biased against the players and doesn’t see a balanced picture of their performance. Sometimes a coach is particularly harsh on a player because he sees enormous potential and is pushing hard, or because he thinks other people in the player’s life are soft on him and he’s held back by low expectations. The leader is trying to compensate for this in order to help the player long-term. This targeted player isn’t likely to be a team scapegoat. But he is likely to get frustrated and discouraged if he doesn’t talk to the leader and learn about the leader’s strong commitment and high expectations.
⇔ Most leaders have one or a few team members they favor and whose flaws they struggle to see. This is hard for the team members who aren’t favored, but it’s actually dangerous for the ones who ARE favored. A leader who provides predictably consistent feedback to a group but seems to give a pass to a couple of people causes resentment and hard feelings against the favored players and himself. That can undermine team spirit if the members don’t recognize this normal human shortcoming. The favored players won’t be getting much useful feedback and the expectations will be lower, so their performance will slip over time. They won’t be ready to do well on a different team. They won’t be ready to stand on their own.
⇔ One person can lift an entire group’s performance through personal effort, commitment and determination (I’m not ALL cynical). I don’t know if this is a gift everyone can cultivate or if it’s something only a few people can do. Motivation is a huge determining factor in sports, and it carries over to team performance in other areas. When one player suddenly starts playing with a burst of energy, shows a lot of focus and effort, and encourages teammates to improve their performance, a shift can occur. Suddenly execution is quicker and crisper and confidence is evident. A team can start to dominate and look unbeatable playing with intensity that starts from one player’s burst of enthusiasm.
May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,