Change, the only constant…

July 22nd, 2016

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Do you ever find yourself in a sea of change? This past year has brought with it lots of changes – at work, at home and around the world. Not unlike the seasonal shift to Summer I find myself slowing down, more languid in my movement and my thoughts. Yet, I am also full of energy to fuel the changes still to come.

At the same time, I find myself more acutely aware of who I am and how I’m showing up.

I had the incredible opportunity last month to receive the kind of feedback I encourage all of my coaching clients to obtain – through a 360. It wasn’t my first 360 but it certainly got my attention in ways no other broad-based feedback has. Maybe it’s because I just turned 65.

Maybe it’s because I have a wonderful coach, Kirsten Olson, to help me process it all (coaches benefit from coaches too). Maybe it’s because it’s a new (to me) kind of 360 – The Leadership Circle Profile. I love this instrument! It presents as a single, comprehensive view of my creative competencies (above the horizon) mirroring (or not) my reactive tendencies (below the horizon). Kind of like a scientific mashup of my two favorite 360 instruments, Korn/Ferry’s Voices 360 with Tracom’s Social Styles and Versatility; all in one, neat visual.

My big take-away from all that feedback was that it’s time for me to be even more of who I am than I’ve allowed in the past. I bet you’re wondering, “what does that mean exactly?”

While I’m not sure exactly what that means, I know part of it includes allowing myself to be more fully participatory – not to shy away from stating my opinion when appropriate. To be more of a Driver in the conversation, less Amiable. Sharing more of what I feel to be true, even if it ruffles a few feathers. Time for some transformational stepping up to the extroverted plate.

And hey! It’s summer. No better time to plant my feet firmly on the ground, and get ready to swing for the bleachers.

See you on the field.

Let’s play ball!

Looking back…

September 28th, 2015

My last post, titled “Looking Forward” was focused on the work we do when we’re in the planning stages of our life, whether it’s our own personal development or the kind of strategic planning we do as an organization or a team. For some reason fall feels like a good time to look back.

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What I see, from this vantage point, is you. You are one of a number of very committed, talented, articulate and caring leaders. You come from all kinds of diverse industries – fashion, tech, CPG, health care, to name just a few – and you represent a range of ages, from 20 something millennials to 60+ year old boomers. You’ve held all kinds of jobs, the good, the bad and the ugly.

A few weeks ago I found myself on a radio panel on the show Vermont Edition, with Jane Lindholm, discussing exactly that – Why We Hate/Love Our Jobs. My fellow panelist, Renee Beaupre-White, director of career services at Castleton University, had some great advice for those just starting out in their careers. Take risks. Don’t spend all of your energy looking for your ideal job. Try things out. You never know where that might lead.

I didn’t have a chance to say so on the air, but I’d like to offer the same advice to all of you more experienced, well-worn, been-there-done-that worker bees. Even if you’re a senior leader, in fact, especially if you’re a senior leader, be willing to look at other ways of doing things, other ways of looking back at what’s worked with your team/company and ways to do things differently. A way to look back to learn more about yourself and your team. To look at things from a different perspective, take a more positive approach, reinvent your problem solving process.

This month also coincides with the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, known as the Day of Atonement. A day to give thanks, and praise, and to humble oneself. A good practice for every leader, no matter your faith, no matter the time of year.

Life’s short. Clear eyes, strong hearts, can’t lose.

Looking forward…

June 26th, 2015

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Wow!  Do you ever feel like life is moving so quickly that there’s rarely time to stop, look around, much less look forward?  As you know, part of my work as an OD consultant is help companies large and small – sometimes just individual entrepreneurs – plan for their futures, both strategically and tactically.  It just hit me that I hadn’t ever done the same thing for myself; not for Cole Consulting, not for Peter Cole.

So I did.

Not in the tired old way, using the classic SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to get started, but in the way I’ve come to appreciate as a more affirmative, results-oriented approach: the SOAR method.

SOAR takes the positive half of the SWOT, omits the negative, and brilliantly adds Aspirations and Results; providing both an inspirational element along with a very practical, tactical Results focused component.  This fits perfectly with some of the other work I’ve been personally inspired by recently in the field of Positive Psychology.  Check out Dr. Maria Sirois’ site, a colleague of mine, for some inspiration of you own.

I have had the good fortune to facilitate some very meaningful, powerful, insightful and productive strategic planning sessions with a number of organizations and teams.  During the past few years I’ve been struck by how different it’s been to use the SOAR process.   I recently led a team of about a dozen scientists through their SOAR and came away in awe of how creative and synergistically innovative their planning process was.  What historically would have taken two to three days to achieve, they knocked out in less than a day.  What was even more impressive was the fact that there was no ‘afternoon meeting fatigue’.  No wondering how it might all fit together.  Their energy was infectious, their commitment contagious, their synergies inspiring.  The team’s manager wrote us afterwards… “Thank you so much for the excellent Strategy session yesterday with the team.  It was a very productive and fun meeting!  I am so pleased the whole team engaged, participated, and drafted excellent action plans.”   It’s not often that we get to hear “meeting” and “fun” in the same sentence.

When I completed the SOAR process for myself I had the most amazing epiphany!   I could clearly see how elements in each of my four quadrants connected to one another.  Connect the dots!  Certain Strengths led directly to definite Opportunities, which then connected to a few of my more meaningful Aspirations, leading right to a few very specific Results.  My path forward, clearly spelled out.

Be forewarned… one of my results was to write more!

If you’d like to know more about SOAR and/or need a little help in putting the process in place, drop me a line or give me a call.  I am happy to help – positively!

 

Rebirth, rejuvenation and renewal…

March 13th, 2015

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My mother, Julie, may she rest in peace, was an avid gardener.  She managed to get through the relatively long, hard winters of the NY metropolitan area not by flying south to Florida or other warm climes as so many of her friends did, but rather by sorting through seed catalogs and researching perennials to add to her flower beds.  And reflecting on what she’s going to let go of to make room for the new.

She was accused of wearing rose colored glasses, forever seeing the positive and the beautiful, ignoring the worst in people, sometimes at the risk of avoiding what appeared to others as the obvious, looming misfortune.  And yet she managed to remain positive even in the midst of the inevitable calamity that avoidance often brings.

As a leadership coach I often see people I’m working with avoiding the difficult conversations all around them – with a direct report who shirks their most basic responsibilities, with a boss who micromanages to the point of project destructiveness, or with a life partner who no longer supports the marriage.  Avoiding the obvious does a disservice to us all.  It is the profound difference between compassion and codependence.  Having the difficult conversation is the path of compassion.  Avoiding it perpetuates the codependence, unhealthy for all involved.

What does this have to do with rebirth, rejuvenation and/or renewal you may ask?

Everything.

I suggest that with the end of winter, we take these last cold, rainy days to reflect on what we need to let go of, what we need to clear out to make room for the wonderful new things that spring will bring, and the conversations, as difficult as they may be, that we need to have in order to move things forward.   And we do so with a positive approach, an act or two of random kindness as a gift of gratitude for all that we have to be thankful for, and, with some rose colored glasses to shade us from the dark glare of the kooky world around us.

Happy Spring everyone!

 

Celebrating 20 Years of Cole Consulting!

September 17th, 2014

Long Pond, Wellfleet

Last month marked the anniversary of Cole Consulting’s 20th year in business.

It was exactly that long ago that I stood, waist deep, in the crystal clear waters of Long Pond, on Cape Cod, and, thankfully, for the last time complained to my dear old childhood friend Bob that I just didn’t want to go back to work. Again. Work at that time meant managing teams in the energy services industry; aka building automation, computer controls, HVAC.

And I didn’t go back.

I went forward.

I took the leap, as entrepreneurs are prone to do, of opening not just a business but an expression of everything I hold near and dear. I had lots of help during those early years and I practiced the wisdom of my mentors: I trusted the dance. I persevered. I held on to the belief that ‘the customer is always right’.

And the right customers have consistently come to me, for which I am eternally grateful.

In my sixteen years in the energy services business I really liked the problem solving/energy saving/high tech cool stuff that came with the job. What I really loved was the team building and leadership/team development opportunities that my managerial positions afforded.

Over these past 20 years I have had the incredibly good fortune of working with some of the finest, most creative, dedicated, humble leaders anyone could hope for. I’ve learned as much as I’ve shared. I feel honored to be trusted by such an esteemed collection of inspirational leaders, movers and shakers, community-centric connectors, and just plain fun individuals to be around. On an almost continual basis my faith in our collective humanity is restored and reinvigorated.

I am extremely grateful to all of you, my clients and friends, who have allowed me into your lives and honored me through your courage, your insatiable appetite for learning and your willingness to try on new ways of being in the world.

Thank you for being part of my 20 years of right livlihood!

Here’s to the next 20…

Blue Skies and Branding

July 28th, 2013

Blue Skies and BrandingWhat is a brand, anyway?  Here’s what Marty Neumier says it’s not: it’s not  a logo, it’s not a tagline,  it’s not even a product or service.

I believe that a brand is our legacy.  It is the culmination of all we’ve done, all we’ve accomplished, the connections we’ve made and perhaps most important, the karmic footprint we leave behind as we make our way through life.  By that I mean all of the things we’ve done that have left an impact on those around us, especially those that have put their trust in us.

More →

Both Sides Now… a Life of Mentoring and Being Mentored

October 10th, 2012

Last week, while making the drive from my New York office up to my Vermont office, coming up Route 22A where it enters VT, I was View for the office...suddenly and vividly reminded of why I chose VT as my escape route out of the metropolitan suburbs of the 60’s.  Three things struck me: 1) the vast open sky that seems to stretch out forever, though it’s nicely framed by the Adirondacks on one side and the Green mountains on the other; 2) the unobstructed landscape below – gracefully assisted by the lack of billboards, thanks to the foresight of VT’s Legislature in the 60’s, and, 3) the small number of houses, and consequently a landscape that not only allowed for but actively promoted long, slow, deep breathing.

So what does any of this have to do w/ mentoring?  Well, while I did have some very significant mentors growing up outside of NYC, my most memorable and meaningful mentors have mostly been here in VT.  Starting with my first career as an educator, Sandra Wyner, a strikingly beautiful South African woman who studied Montessori with Maria’s son Mario, in Bergamo, Italy, the way it was meant to be taught; with the focus on the student, the teacher a mere facilitator and resource provider.  Sandra and I started a modified-Montessori, parent-cooperative elementary school in 1976 that is still going strong today.  She mentored me in the art of individualized education, collaborative process and transactional analysis (a system for personal growth and personal change.)

The 80’s led me out of teaching and into the realm of business, where I had the good fortune to work side-by-side with many amazingly bright and talented individuals.  My most memorable mentor was a scrappy old codger named Hank Adams, who hired me to serve as General Manager at his thriving mechanical services business, and was a mentor to me in ways I’m still learning from.  Although Hank had to leave high school to help his father run his business, he had the kind of business savvy that just can’t be learned pursuing an MBA.   For example, when considering recruiting for key positions as we were growing the business, he would challenge my pedigreed aspirants, shiny resumes and all, with the phrase “someone we know, even if they’re only a middle-of-the-road leader, is always preferable to the unknown know-it-all.”  Understanding and developing leaders takes time and commitment.  Short cuts should be few and far between.

By the time the 90’s came around I realized that I needed to cultivate my leadership capabilities both inside and outside the workplace.  I ran for our local school board and had the good fortune to initially serve on the board with the superintendent, Fred Tuttle.  Fred was not only a kind, intelligent, humble, compassionate leader, with over forty years of experience in the field, he knew that the business of education was really the business of people.  He had the ability to connect with people, all kinds of people – directly, deeply and most importantly, meaningfully.  He taught me, by example, more about how great leaders can build connections, than any other leader I’ve had the good fortune to mentor under.

Around the turn of the millennium, I met, and mentored under, a colleague, Dean Lea, who is a Renaissance man extraordinaire.  Although he hadn’t practiced as a pharmacologist for years, Dean understood the essence of that field, part alchemist, part researcher, facilitator, advocate, life -long learner.  As an arborist, he brought some of those same skills to his apple orchards.  As an organizational development consultant and executive coach, he used all of those and more.  And on top of all that, he has taught me that one’s quirkiness (and Dean can be quite quirky) is to be cherished, not suppressed.

And, of course, mentoring is at its best when it goes both ways.  For years now I’ve considered it an honor to provide the mitzvah of mentoring, particularly to young people between jobs and/or careers.  My way of giving back, paying it forward.  So what an added bonus when I had the opportunity to begin formally mentoring my daughter, Alexa, when she agreed to come to work for me earlier this year.  She’s always had an affinity for coaching work, the ‘go-to girl’ not only with her friends but also folks of all ages and backgrounds.  A great listener, compassionate to the core and always ready, willing and able to lend a hand to help get things done.  Together, we have studied the art of effective communication, creative business problem solving and how to lead by example.

The best of both worlds.

Giving and getting.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Aligning the Four Bodies

September 19th, 2012

Guest blog by Alexa Cole, VP of Client Services, Cole Consulting

Yesterday I participated in a call by the Wealthy Thought Leader, Andrea Lee, called “Coaching Skills for Highly Uncertain Times.” It was comforting to participate on this call and have the gentle reminder that things aren’t just hard for me and for my clients, they’re hard for most EVERYONE right now. These are uncertain times, and it’s the way we navigate through these times that make us stronger and wiser human beings.

Andrea Lee provided a wonderful tool during this talk on how I can help my clients get clearer about an ultimate goal and how to drive to that destination, being sensitive to the fact that our route is often circuitous. What she didn’t talk about, and what I’d like to address today, is how we can best take care of our minds, bodies, spirits and souls through these uncertain times.

According to Dr.Stone, a prominent and well-respected teacher, “the reason why we have these various bodies is so we can interact with and experience the various dimensions of reality. Our physical body allows us to experience and interact with this Earthly plane. Our emotional body gives our Soul and Spirit a “house,” so-to-speak, on the emotional plane, and our mental body allows interaction on the mental plane. We are multi-dimensional beings, and this is why we have multiple bodies.”

The road map, or action plan, is also important but I find it can be hard to discern the right action steps to take when I am overwhelmed or exhausted. Usually feeling depleted happens because I am not making the time or space to get in touch with my true heart’s desire.

I propose a four-part alignment exercise to use as a centering device for when you are going through a difficult decision called, aligning your four bodies.

1. Aligning the mind – What do I need to have clarity on before I can move forward with my decision? What is left unresolved in my mind?

  • Homework: Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle, making two columns. On the left write “Content” at the top, on the right column write “Context” at the top. Record each issue or mental block you may be having such as “I don’t feel I deserve to have a job in the field I want because I lack experience” and in the Context column next to it write down all of the limiting beliefs you may have around the issue such as “I lack confidence because…”, “I can take a class to gain more experience…”, etc. They can be positive or negative blocks but writing them down often helps free your mind from the burden of your decision.

2. Aligning the physical body – Carve out half an hour each day for the next three weeks to dance, walk, go for a run, or whatever you like to do for physical activity that is pure enjoyment.

  • Homework: When you move from this activity to your job or other tasks in your day, be aware of your feet firmly planted on the ground for rooting into the energy of the earth, our greatest resource.
  • Before bed: When you’re lying in bed at night, imagine breathing into your feet, legs, hips, stomach, all the way up your body. This will bring you into your body and re-ground you for sleep and relaxation.

3. Aligning the soul (or emotional body) – What are some things that make you come alive, or feel very fulfilled in your life? What brings you a sense of calm and joy? Alternately, what are some things that leave you feeling depleted or lackluster?

  • Homework: Spend at least one part of your day doing something that makes you feel happy and vibrant, and less time in your week being with people or activities that drain you. Especially when going through a difficult period or decision in your life, it is important to keep routine around things that feed you and provide you with emotional support.

4. Aligning the spirit – Whether you are a spiritual or religious person, or you feel most connected in nature or with people you love, get in touch with how you like to connect to the world around you. It may be through music, art, travel, or church. For me it is feeling a sense of community when I get to share a meal with those I love or meditate in the mornings.

  • Homework: see if you can spend time each week connecting with your own inner spirit and the spirit around you. If you don’t currently believe in a drawing force that connects us all, perhaps look into a non-denominational meditation or church service. I find it incredibly helpful in times of turmoil to have a sense of unity with others in the spiritual sense.

By getting in touch with these four parts of ourselves, our heart can release into the present more fully. It is easier to face decisions head-on because we feel nourished and grounded, ready to take on whatever comes our way. Use this method as a tool for making a tough decision, or just use it before bed, calling in your four bodies mentally in order to put each part of yourself to rest at the end of a long and productive day.

Let me know how it works for you and if you have any suggestions or feedback, please let me know in the comments below.

Take care,

Alexa

New Additions

September 17th, 2012

New Editions/Understanding Ourselves:

Time Management Sheet – by Cole Consulting. This is a two-pager that is great for helping you find more time in your day that you love to do.Enjoy!

Turning 60: The Twelve Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned So Far – by Tony Schwartz. Schwartz co-authored with renowned Performance Psychologist, Jim Loehr, “Managing Your Energy, Not Your time,” and is the founder of the The Energy Project. He is highly regarded in his field and has contributed a great deal to our work. This is a beautiful, introspective, and wise account of the lessons he has learned over the course of his life.

New Editions/Understanding Others:

How to Facilitate Rather than Direct Meetings – by Cole Consulting. This is a great explanation of what it means to facilitate as a leader. When facilitating a meeting (or conversation) you are giving the group, or person, the opportunity to share openly with you rather than following your lead as Director of the conversation. That being said, the facilitator does not take a passive role in the conversation. Read on to gain real knowledge and see hands on steps for being a great facilitator, and a better leader.