January 15th, 2020

Happy Holidays!

This holiday season, post-Thanksgiving, pre-New Year’s, has me feeling more than a little nostalgic.  I’m sure that it started just before TDay, at my High School Reunion, meeting old friends I haven’t seen in decades, remembering how we shared some incredible times together – growing up in the ‘60’s, civil rights strikes, marches against the war, walk on the moon, assassinations, great music, a rebel with a cause.   

Now, the decade of the teens is about to end as we enter 2020. 

Much to reflect on.  How did we get here?  Where are we going? Will we find our way?

I’m reminded of one of my favorite Lao Tzu quotes:

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself, if you want to eliminate all of the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.  Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

I believe that self-transformation starts with self-care.  If we can’t take care of ourselves, how can we have the strength and courage to transform?  The New York Times had an inspiring article on this topic yesterday, by a Buddhist monk, Haemin Sunim.  The top of his list – breathe!  Just take a deep breath.  This holiday season, may you give yourself the gift of mindful breathing

For more on self-transformation, feel free to browse the Cultivating Connection page on our site, or, go directly to the section on Cultivating Connection on that page.  Brene Brown’s piece on Leadership is one of my favorites.

May you and your family have a happy, peaceful and breath-filled New Year, and every year.


Moving from Certainty to Ambiguity

August 1st, 2019

Let’s face it.  Most of us really like certainty.  It’s just so much easier to see the black or white in any situation than to muddle around in shades of grey.  As the Democratic Presidential contenders do their debate thing, aren’t we hoping for a clear, clean message that shows a way forward, one way or another?  Case closed. 

Yet, life isn’t like that.

More and more, I’m realizing that moving from Certainty to Ambiguity, to a place of curiosity and wonder, is harder to come by but well worth the effort.  It takes a commitment on my part to dig deeper, push past my judgments and reactions.  And do it with compassion and grace.  To stay still, within myself, and offer what I know about myself, rather than self-righteously telling someone else what I see is ‘wrong’ with them.  Or worse, feeling it but not saying anything (which will bleed out in some passive aggressive way later, to be sure).

I’ve shared Kim Scott’s model of Radical Candor before, and while it still applies to many situations, what I’m talking about here has more to do with Transactional Analysis.  In large part because when I’m ‘stuck’ in a place of Certainty, because I see myself as right and/or others as wrong, so that I can take comfort in my black and white analysis, I’m almost always operating out of my old child self – protecting, defending, rationalizing my position. 

When I can return to my present self, willing to live within the ambiguity that the present almost always requires, I find my way back to a connection with others that is far more satisfying and productive.  Yes, uncomfortable at first (not black or white, and that makes me squirm), but healthy in that curious, wondering, willing to look at my own shit kind of way.

I do hope the Democrats take a look at their shit and figure this out, sooner than later.

Thanks for listening.  Let me know your thoughts when you have a chance.


Are leaders grown, or born?

May 28th, 2019

Digging around in the garden today I had the epiphany that leadership development is really quite similar to gardening. 

First, before you even start trying to develop (nurture) the leader (daisy), you want to prepare the culture (soil) so that it’s filled with support/nutrients, so that growth is possible. 

Then, you take a look at the group of responsible leaders (healthy sprouts) and select (plant) those that look to have the highest potential.

Water, feed, weed, repeat…

My point is that just as with gardening, leadership development is as much about nurturing the environment/culture (soil) as it is about training, incentives and/or bonuses.  Maybe even more so.

Brené Brown has lately been translating her wonderful work in the field of vulnerability and resilience into the world of work.  She describes a leader as “someone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential.”

Her three tips for being better leaders:

  3. COURAGE IS CONTAGIOUS.  (click here and then scroll down to the “Cultivating Connection” section for her detailed explanation).

All this requires the creation of a safe space.  A culture where mistakes are not punished but rather celebrated as another ‘learning milestone’, to be acknowledged and shared with others.

Frederick Laloux, author of  Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, makes the case that humans, as a species, are headed towards work cultures that are grounded in the creation of “…soulful workplaces—schools, hospitals, businesses, and nonprofits—where our talents can blossom and our callings can be honored.”   Soulful workplaces.  Doesn’t that sound lovely?

He also said “an organization cannot evolve beyond its leadership’s stage of development.” 

So, please, tend to your gardens, both at home and at work.  And then enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

Here if you want to talk,


Radically candid endings…

September 11th, 2018

Recently I found myself at a crossroad.  Committed to a relationship with an organization that fed my soul in many ways, and, had a severely dysfunctional component.  When to persevere?  When to call it codependent and move on for the health of all involved?

If you’ve ever found yourself at just such an intersection, you may have felt the same combination as I had, of approach avoidance, mixed with some trembling inner fear, then deeper grappling with the compassion/codependence conundrum, followed by (hopefully!) a decision to end it with grace, clarity and dignity for all.

That last part was the toughest for me to navigate.   Though the approach avoidance and inner fear thing was no walk in the park either.  In fact all of it was difficult, disorienting and emotionally exhausting.  How would I arrive at a place where grace and dignity won over blame and shame?

Thankfully, I had lots of help from the people closest to me; checking me for clarity, directly confronting me when I shifted back into the drama and holding me accountable to my core values. I had valuable tools and resources that helped as well.

How do we get ourselves back onto the high road, away from blaming others?  How do we divorce ourselves from the drama that so easily can shift the focus from us to ‘them’; especially if we don’t have close loved ones for that kind of support?

For starters I often turn to my ‘virtual mentors’.  Brené Brown. Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Tim FerrisKim Scott, to name a few.

Brené Brown has written and spoken extensively on Shame and Blame.  We all tend towards this space, especially when we’re exhausted and feeling beaten down.  I don’t know about you but it’s much easier for me to blame someone else than to face my fears head on.

In addition to Brené’s work there’s the whole field of Appreciative Inquiry, Kim Scott’s model of Radical Candor, the Harvard Negotiation’s system of Difficult Conversations and the general practice of Mindfulness.  These are all excellent resources for navigating the drama-filled waters of difficult change, and difficult decisions.

I love the summer!  It’s hard to see it slipping away.  Another radically candid ending.  Time to gear up for fall/winter, time to remember to commit even more deeply to my mindfulness practice.

I hope your summer ends well, and your way to mindfulness helps.  Follow the links above if you’re interested in digging deeper.

All my best,


14 frogs sat on a log…

January 18th, 2018

So, if 14 frogs are sitting on a log and 3 decide to jump off, how many are left?

This brain teaser is brought to you by Robert Kegan, an American developmental psychologist and author. He was a Professor in Adult Learning and Professional Development at Harvard Graduate School of Education. His book, Immunity To Change, seemed like a perfect topic for this particular moment in time.

January 16th – the halfway point between New Year’s Day (the perfect time for resolutions) and Groundhog Day (the perfect time for reflection on why our resolutions aren’t working). Groundhog Day is also one of my all-time favorite movies. While the movie is centered on Bill Murray’s apparent immunity to change, he does spend almost all of his screen time trying to change. There’s a sequence of scenes where he tries over and over and over again to win the heart of Andi MacDowell, with no success. Kind of the opposite of Albert Einstein’s famous definition of insanity, yet Murray is quite literally going kind of crazy. Sound like anyone you know?


He stops trying and spends his day just being.

As Kegan or Murray will tell you, change is tough. Real change is really tough.

That’s where a coach – Leadership Coach, Executive Coach, Peer Coach – can help us distinguish between the trying and the being. A Coach can offer the honest feedback, tools and resources to help navigate the breakthrough often needed to get to wherever it is you need to be.

If you’re a Do It Yourself (DIY) kind of person you might consider a DIY/Peer Coaching approach. Transform your partner/spouse/boy-girl friend/best friend into a Peer Coaching relationship, since they know you better than almost anyone else. You can take a look at one of our Resources pages (halfway down under “Coaching”) for the templates and tools to get your DIY/Coaching project off the ground.

If you think trained professional help is how you’d like to proceed,  let’s talk about how one of Cole Consulting’s Executive or Leadership Coaches can be of assistance. Let’s talk. I’ll share a little about how our different associates cover a broad range of experience, training and approaches, and all of whom are great connectors and gentle-yet-candid truth tellers.

Okay… back to the frogs.

If you guessed 11 left on the log, you are in good company, as most come up with that number. But that’s not the answer. Fourteen are left. Just because 3 decided to jump doesn’t mean that they, in fact, jumped.

Like Kegan says in his book, we’re mostly immune to change. Because change is tough.

Thanks for listening!

Stay in touch…

Reinventing organizations, reinventing ourselves…

October 31st, 2017

My last missive, “Congratulations… and condolences”, left me wondering if I’d ever have the energy to do anything of any major importance again. Like picking up the paper or doing the dishes. Seriously, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was heading for early retirement out of sheer exhaustion.

I LOVE my work, so retirement was always something that other people do, but not me. Yet nine months into this year I found myself so consumed with the business of prepping, selling, moving and unpacking that I have had little time for much else other than my favorite NFP, Common Roots, where I’ve kept my fingers very much on the pulse of organizational change, growth and opportunity. This post isn’t about that worthy cause but please do check them out at www.commonroots.org when you have a chance.

This piece is prompted by what I read in last week’s NYT’s; an Op Ed by David Brooks entitled “When Life Asks for Everything”. Brooks writes about two models of human development – The Four Kinds of Happiness (FKoH) and Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. He concludes that the FKoH trump Maslow in one fundamental way – “meaning and purpose and mission” (the highest point of the FKoH) far surpass Maslow’s highest point, self-actualization (experiencing autonomy and living in a way that expresses our authentic self). Brooks refers to Maslow’s self-actualization as “self-absorption”.

Sorry David. I think that how we’re evolving (hopefully) is more a combination of the two models, not one over the other. My new favorite OD (organizational development) text, Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, offers a very similar hypothesis. What I particularly like about this text, by Frederic Laloux, is that he researches and documents a dozen organizations that have put this theory into practice, and quite successfully I might add.

One good example of how both models come together to move us forward evolutionarily can be found when we look at the difference between what Laloux calls Green organizations (think Ben & Jerry’s and Southwest Airlines) and Teal organizations (such as the more fully evolved Patagonia and Sounds True). Green organizations have raised the issue of treating employees more respectfully, even looking at ways to help employees and their teams have more autonomy over their work. At least in theory… according to their websites’ mission statement. Teal organizations go one step further in supporting the core value of ‘empowerment’ by changing how job roles are both defined and managed. Not only are these Teal organizations doing away with job descriptions and titles, they are providing the mechanisms and systems that allow individuals and their teams to fully manage themselves – truly self-managing teams. No mid-level managers. No hierarchical bosses. Green sets the stage, Teal takes it a giant leap forward. Here’s how Laloux lays it out.

“Wisdom traditions from around the world speak to this from a deeper level: at heart, we are all profoundly interconnected and part of a whole, but it’s a truth we have forgotten. We are born into separation and raised to feel divided from our deeper nature, as well as from the people and life around us. Our deepest calling in life, these traditions tell us, is to reclaim wholeness, within ourselves and in our connection with the outside world.

This spiritual insight inspires Teal Organizations’ second breakthrough: to create a space that supports us in our journey to wholeness. Extraordinary things begin to happen when we dare to bring all of who we are to work. Every time we leave a part of us behind, we cut ourselves off from part of our potential, of our creativity and energy. No wonder many workplaces feel somehow lifeless. In wholeness we are life-full. We discover in awe how much more life there is in us than we ever imagined. In our relationships with colleagues, much of what made the workplace unpleasant and inefficient vanishes; work becomes a vehicle where we help each other reveal our inner greatness and manifest our calling.

Self-management goes a long way toward helping us show up more fully. With no scarce promotions to fight for, no bosses to please, and no adversaries to elbow aside, much of the political poison is drained out of organizations. There is a phrase I heard many times in the self-managing organizations I researched: here I feel I can fully be myself. Without a boss looking over our shoulder, without employees to keep in line and peers that could turn into competitors, we can finally let our guard down and simply focus on the work we want to do.

I’m left embracing the notion that it is up to each of us to determine how committed we are to living our right livelihood (or at least my interpretation of this Buddhist step along the eight-fold path) that ultimately makes the difference. Traditional Western models of office hierarchy and politics often dictate the closing of our minds and hearts to what is most important to us. Bringing collective consciousness to our lives requires us to open our minds and hearts and reinvent ourselves on an almost daily basis.

I am dedicated to reinventing myself so that I may more fully support individuals, teams and organizations that are committed to this practice of wholeness in the workplace. Not as white-wash, to pretty-up the mission/vision statements, but in the veritable commitment to and implementation of putting Teal systems in place so we can trust one another to get the job done. Collaboratively. Respectfully. With openness. With joy.

Hope to hear from you and your thoughts around reinvention.

Take good care,


Congratulations… and condolences

August 13th, 2017

Congratulations, and condolences…

Two seemingly disparate sentiments that so successfully describe my most recent experience of selling our house/home/sanctuary of many, many years (15 years for me and 31 for Lisa) and moving to our part-time cottage in VT.  Lock, stock and barrel.

Offering congratulations is what most people do and it makes a lot of sense, especially in the currently still stagnant housing market.  We sold our house/home/sanctuary within a few months on the market, and that’s a pretty good thing.  Mazel tov!

The condolences came from a few folks who understood the intense multilevel machinations that go into a move of this magnitude on ALL of the interrelated levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual (the biggest impact of them all).  Dealing with just one level would be intense enough.  Having all four in play at the same time was exhausting beyond anything I have experienced.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz wrote a wonderful book “The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Your Energy, not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal” which describes how to best manage our energy in each of these four areas.  There is a free self-assessment to see how you stack up in each area and overall.  I sure as shit didn’t take it during this time. I knew it wouldn’t be good…

Condolences are traditionally offered after a close one has died.  And there certainly was that feeling of loss, grief, un-mooring and disorientation that I have had when one of my close friends or family members has passed away.  The major difference here is that there is no funeral.  No sitting Shiva.  No formal (or even informal) grieving period, no cultural rituals to help us integrate the experience.  No chance to just slow down, pay respects.

The exact opposite was true, in fact.  Everything sped up.  So many conflicting demands – realtors, repair men, lawyers, junk haulers, movers, etc., etc. – spread over a relatively short period of time.  All of it focused on these impending events: the showings, the contract, the closing, the move.

The good news is that we are living in the same cottage we’ve known and loved for five years now.

The good news is that it is also a magical, sacred space.

The good news is that I still have my office in NYC – a great co-working space, Croissant, so I can continue to work with my NY clients, and get there in a NY minute (thank you JetBlue!).

I am very grateful for all that I have and for all of you.  Please let me know if you have any paradoxes that have you eating more ice cream than usual and/or keeping you up at 3 am.

Thanks, as always, for listening…

3 Simple Steps to Saner Virtual Meetings

March 1st, 2017

In this day and age, when the whole world seems to be operating in some type of Bizarro alternate universe, where up is down and truth is fiction and fiction is passed off as truth, and stress rules, wouldn’t it be nice if all that time we spend in meetings was less stressful instead of adding to the stress?

Where your voice is heard?

Not feeling silenced!

Especially if you’ve taken on the noble task of organizing your community to bring some sanity back to our political reality, and you’re trying to run a meeting, or be part of a meeting, where some people need to ‘dial-in’ because they’re busy juggling getting babies to bed while working to save the planet.

Or, you just want your work life to be more balanced and spending time in pointless meetings has got you down.

Either way, let’s address what started as a difficult form of communication to begin with. Assembling a bunch of people together in a room to get stuff done.  And then became even more difficult as we removed some of the people and added cell phones, speaker phones, WebEx, Facetime, Skype, you-name-it to the mix.

Let’s make it saner, shall we…

Let’s start by addressing the reality that Virtual meetings are in fact a different breed of animal than regular meetings.  As such, they require (I’d even say DEMAND) the introduction and adherence to a few basic, but different, civil rights.  Here are 3 steps to get you started…

  1. Assign the role of Virtual Meeting Facilitator (VMF) to a different person than the meeting organizer/chair/leader/whatever-you-want-to-call the head honcho. This person is responsible for setting up and making sure that EVERYONE (even if they think they’ll be there in person, just in case they find themselves sitting in the airport waiting area to board their last-minute flight to Zimbabwe) has the links, call-in #’s, passwords, access codes, etc. needed to join the meeting virtually.  Also, if, no excuse me, WHEN there is a problem with accessing the technology, the VMF is the one who gets the call.  NOT the person trying to run the meeting.  Why should everyone in the room (and those that have joined the meeting successfully) have to suffer when one person hasn’t figured out their technology?


  1. Add a few Virtual Meeting Operating Agreements (VMOA) to your regular Operating Agreement’s (OA). If one of your OA’s is Be Respectful (my personal favorite and my only non-negotiable if I’m facilitating) add under that agreement list that those calling in will use the Mute Button when they’re not speaking (so we don’t all have to listen to the clicking of their keyboard while they catch up on their email).  Another one under that same banner would be to make a point of asking the call-ins their opinion from time-to-time since it’s hard to know if they’re raising their hands or needing to say something through their body language.  Another good VMOA that you might add would be for those on the phone – please remember to say your name before speaking so everyone knows who you are; or, if you want to engage with someone who is on the phone, thread them into the conversation by starting with their name before asking them your question.  Last, but not least, as a facilitator, use round-robin instead of popcorn style when someone asks a question of the team.  That way there isn’t as much dead air while folks politely wait for someone else to offer their opinion.


  1. Agree as a team to keep looking for new ways to improve on the VM experience. For example, going from conference calls (audio only) to a full A/V platform (Skype, Facetime, WebEx, etc.) allows all of you to ‘see’ each other rather than just the folks in the room.   Have your VMF be on the lookout for the platform that’s right for you (new ones are popping up by the minute).  Have your VMF be responsible for managing the crossover to any new platform, ensuring that the transition is as smooth as possible.   Make sure that before you start the new platform all those ‘dialing in’ have experimented with the new tech and know how to work it.  Written instructions, w/ access codes, url’s and passwords all on one neat sheet.  You get my drift here…

These three steps are meant to be in addition to regular, good meeting practices that deserve to be an integral part of how your meetings are run.  For pointers on how to do just that, click here.  And/or, take this quick quiz on how efficient (or maddening) your meetings are currently operating.  A great metric to start with!

Disappointment and loss. Where does it lead?

December 11th, 2016

Disappointment, loss, grief, and, shock (DLGS).  That was my November. Especially on the morning of 11/9, which was especially shocking, as shocking in fact as the events of 9/11 (a numerologist would have a great time with that one).

For me, all of this DLGS on 11/9 was about to be fully sandwiched by two other events, full of disappointment, loss and grief.  First, the somewhat sudden passing of my 42-year old godson, on Halloween.  I had just been in touch with  his mom, one of my oldest, dearest friends, as she was helping him move into hospice, and I was planning on arriving the next day to see them.  Then, within a few hours of getting settled at hospice, he was gone.

The sandwich on the other side was a memorial service on 11/15 for a long-standing coaching client from one of my all-time favorite teams.  He was an incredible inventor (including the Craisin).  A great story teller.  A wonderful family man.  Only 59 years old.  Fine one minute.  Gone the next.

The silver lining, right in the middle of all this loss and grief, was a delightful dinner party, hosted by my old friend Katie, who had been planning on having a dozen of us over to celebrate the election results.  Which as you may have guessed turned into a somber, soul-searching evening. No celebrating for us.

Yet, our hostess had the wisdom, and the will, to lead us on a process of active listening, and  deep sharing.    Each of the dinner guests took turns first introducing ourselves and explaining our connection to our host & hostess.  Then, at the dinner table, Katie asked us to share how we were feeling, what we were thinking.  With rapt intent, we listened as each person made their personal accounting of how deeply troubled and concerned we were by what had just happened, and what may yet come to pass – post-election, mid-shock, still stunned.

Having that unexpectedly yet wonderfully intimate, deeply personal (yet in some ways universal) description of where each person was, right at this exact moment in time, had me feeling better already.  Uplifted beyond belief.  Just knowing that others were in a similar place, and hearing where they might go from here, brought a ray of hope and possibility.

I was particularly struck by our host’s description of how he felt like he has been living in a bubble.  Actually, a bubble within a bubble.  Living on an idyllic, socially responsible, working farm (first bubble), located in the State of VT (bigger bubble; Bernie’s bubble).

The whole experience  left me thinking of David Whyte’s missive on Disappointment:

The measure of our courage is the measure of our willingness to embrace disappointment, to turn towards it rather than away, the understanding that every real conversation of life involves having our hearts broken somewhere along the way and that there is no sincere path we can follow where we will not be fully and immeasurably let down and brought to earth, and where what initially looks like a betrayal, eventually puts real ground under our feet.

The great question in disappointment is whether we allow it to bring us to ground, to a firmer sense of our self, a surer sense of our world, and what is good and possible for us in that world, or whether we experience it only as a wound that makes us retreat from further participation.

Disappointment is a friend to transformation, a call to both accuracy and generosity in the assessment of our self and others, a test of sincerity and a catalyst of resilience. Disappointment is just the initial meeting with the frontier of an evolving life, an invitation to reality, which we expected to be one particular way and turns out to be another, often something more difficult, more overwhelming and strangely, in the end, more rewarding. 

More rewarding if we each commit to behaving as Leaders.  Step out of our bubbles.  Better yet, burst out of our bubbles.  No more sheep.  No more checking out, letting others lead, or just waiting for the world to change (as John Mayer sang once).  Time to step up.  Engage openly, honestly, compassionately with others.  Even if, especially if, they don’t come from our old, safe, self-replicating bubble.  

Lead on my friends!

Reflections on a more mindful state of being…

October 10th, 2016


As a young boy my mother would take me to temple on the High Holy days.  She would admonish me to sit still, reflect on where I had messed up during the previous year and make amends so that I could start the New Year with a clean slate.  At the time, I remember thinking that this all sounded a bit kooky.  Transgress all year, go to shul for a few days to make amends, then go out and misbehave all over again?!?

Which of course is exactly what I did.

It’s only as an adult that I finally started to put together the value of deep reflection, heartfelt atonement and commitment to doing better.  I am just now beginning to understand and appreciate the incredible impact and karmic reverberations of reflection and repentance.

In addition to avoiding the repetition of past mistakes, there’s much to be said for going one step further, such as practicing random acts of kindness and beauty. Or not so random.

Maybe we can find a way to reset our Snap Judgement Meter.  Breathe in and breathe out.  Slow down enough to be able to meet people where they are as opposed to where we think they should be.   Almost always it takes a willingness to look compassionately at whatever might be going on for others at any moment in time and accept them for who and where they are.  Here.  Now.  Without judgement.

It seems like many of my coaching clients and their teams experience a similar dissonance in the workplace; quick on the draw to judge others and themselves for that matter. All this does is lead to poor communication, challenging work flow and disappointing results.  The solution may not be as simple as meditating or mindfulness practices, but it certainly can’t hurt.  Almost every day we see new evidence of the effectiveness of a daily practice.  Just this week, in the online New York Times, I discovered this whole section devoted to How to Meditate and why it’s so helpful and healthy.  Sounds True is a wonderful resource worth checking out for their Mindfulness Daily program (amongst other great offerings).  There’s always the Understanding Ourselves page on my site (scroll down towards the bottom) where you’ll find great articles on meditation and mindfulness, along with some good readings on Communication and Leadership (further up the page, Sections listed alphabetically).

Even if you’re not celebrating the Jewish New Year, the fall is still an opportune time to put these practices of reflection and mindfulness to the top of your to-do list.  The change of seasons, the abundance of the fall harvest and the age-old time for ‘back-to-school’ seem ripe with possibilities.

What do you do to slow down and reset?  Any practices you’d like to share?  I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to full and bountiful reflection!