Category: Celebrating Success

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,

Peter

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…

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 →

Blind spots – a portal to paradigm shifts

June 25th, 2012

Sitting in one of those hard plastic, butt numbing chairs at the local police station (a room I had passed by on numerous occasions over the years on my way to City Council meetings, as part of my duties as a School Board member), I was suddenly taken by the irony of it all. Waiting for the police to bring my 15 year-old son in after he ran away from home it hit me like a Mac truck. How in the world could I have been so judgmental for so many years, thinking that other parents just didn’t have it together enough to know how to be good parents? Thinking that we were so much better, so much more together in our parenting approach, which (somehow) would translate into a free pass, a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, when it came to truly difficult parenting problems.

Boy I didn’t see that one coming! Not only did I not see it, I thought after twenty years into the whole parenting gig, we were out of the woods. Though when I looked back to my early parenting complaining years, there were certainly many assurances by our older friends, who had older kids (aka teenagers) that dealing with dirty diapers was a piece of cake compared to parenting teens. Once I realized how blind I had been I felt incredibly humbled by my hubris. And, I felt in awe of all of those tortured parents I had judged so harshly for so many years.

Going from Blind Spot to Paradigm Shift is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes we need to get hit over the head with an oversized 2×4. For some of us (myself included) a 2×4, even applied multiple times isn’t sufficient. Sometimes we need a Mac truck.

So how can we improve our odds of moving from a blind spot to a paradigm shift, before we hurt ourselves or others?

• Expand our view, and perspective, so we might better see our judgments and biases (i.e. talking/listening to my friends who also had teenagers while keeping an open mind that their experience might be more similar to my own than I might expect.)

• Seek and be open to receiving regular feedback, from as many different people as possible.

• Recognize that there may be some old family systems that we habitually keep repeating, blindly, even though they don’t serve us anymore. This can be a wealth of information for many of us as we look to be the kind of parent that takes the best of our parents parenting while leaving the ‘not so best’ behind. Please check out our resource section on Bowen Family Systems for some great additional reading.

Back to the uncomfortable Police Station chair. While it wasn’t painless, or seamless, or easy in any stretch of the imagination, we (and by “we” I mean the whole family, my wife and I and all three of our kids) made changes to our family systems, including a change in schools for our 15 year-old. We practiced limits with love, getting better at understanding the tipping point between compassion and co-dependence. We learned, and continue to learn, that life is lifey. It’s imperfect. It’s messy. But boy, it’s never dull or boring!

My shift occurred the way most significant change occurs… very gradually and then suddenly all at once. I suppose that there were years and years of learning that certain things just weren’t working. But I kept my guard up, often blamed others and remained confident in my unknowingness. And then, slam, bam, thank you ma’am. It was all so obvious. I had been judging others harshly, to a standard that is impossible to attain. Perfection.

We all do the best we can. And sometimes it’s just not enough. But it’s the best we can do. No judgments. No blame.

My son is 32 now and a successful sustainable food systems consultant. We love each other very much, and tell each other that on a regular basis, and, at the end of the day, that’s what matters most.

Fierce in What I Say

March 21st, 2012

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

In the recent wake of my family trip to Seattle I’ve been thinking a great deal about what makes me me. What makes you you? I’ve been musing that there are three main reasons I am myself, me, I.

What I think, do, and say are all uniquely me. Of course, there are often outside factors, social pressures, and judgments that enter my mind affecting these things, but still I am the ultimate controller, guider of these three gauges that mark me.

Seattle also marked me in a proactive way of wanting to cultivate and expand the things I think, do, and say, and the latter was the main reason for the trip from San Francisco to the Evergreen State. I was there with my brother and father, associates of mine as well as family, to take a training in Fierce Conversations. Fierce Inc®, started by Susan Scott, is a training company that “helps organizations develop leaders, transform cultures, increase engagement, and create authentic, energizing and rewarding connections with colleagues and customers through skillful conversations.” It is a refreshing lens into the deeper constructs of how what we say and how we say it, really does shape us. The most popular adage of Fierce is: While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a business, a career, a marriage, or a life, any single conversation can®.

I pride myself a great conversationalist, an extrovert who can make friends with the bus driver, the Executive, and the check-out clerk all in a single day. But what about going deeper with these people? What authentic conversations are necessary in my personal and professional life for growth? What am I hiding behind? These are all questions that have been stirred up, not only for me, but for my brother, father, and the people around us who we have been sharing the principles of Fierce with.

I felt astounded and thrilled to be learning the tools of Fierce and immediately put the practices in place upon returning home to the Bay Area. I was astounded because in my nearly 30 years of studying, I had never before taken a class in how to have genuine, heart-felt, and direct conversations. Since it’s basically a no-brainer what Susan Scott says, that any one conversation can change the course of your life, why have we never been taught this?

I encourage you, dear reader of this blog, to take a minute and think about a conversation that has been hanging on the precipice for you whether in your personal life or career. Acknowledge that you are risking more by not saying what needs to be said than by risking being authentic and truthful to your friend, colleague, or boss. Take a deep breath, speak from your heart, and try to look at the issue alongside of the other person, rather than in opposition with him/her. After all, the root of the word conversation stems from “con” meaning with someone. Be present with that person and with the real issue at hand, and I guarantee you will feel relieved by the genuine, authentic you that is revealed.

If you’ve tried this or are going to try this, we would love to hear your comments below…