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!
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!
July 22nd, 2016
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!
March 9th, 2016
You must be logged in to view this post.
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.
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.
June 26th, 2015
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!
March 13th, 2015
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?
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!
September 17th, 2014
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…
July 28th, 2013
What 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.
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 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.