Category: Celebrating Success
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.
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.
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…
March 19th, 2012
How to have highly effective meetings: 3 Simple ways to be productive and present while meeting
By guest blogger, Alexa Cole, VP of Client Services at Cole Consulting
“Be present, be exactly where you are.”
Lately I’ve been having a lot of meetings with colleagues and coffee’s to network with Bay Area consultants such as myself. It has raised the question, how do I know that my meetings are being effective and helping me achieve measurable results? I feel good when I leave with a to-do list of items to research or people to further reach out to. That is a measurable, quantitative end goal to taking an hour out of my day for a lunch with someone. However, if I don’t leave with a to-do list, only a business card or another connection with a new person, I am still enriched just the same. Down the road, I may call on that same person for guidance or help or be able to refer someone to them for useful services. I had the epiphany that I can measure a successful meeting, either in the office or out networking, by following three simple guidelines:
- Be present, be exactly where you are. When you’re meeting with someone for 15 minutes, or even for an hour, try to be present with that person completely. Resist checking your phone or answering calls. Be clear on the front end how much time you have for that person and set the parameters in the beginning. That way you’ll know when the time is up and so will they. Try to make your surroundings comfortable for you and your partner. If you have the time and space, offer to take the meeting outside so you can be present even more fully without the distractions of the office and possible interruptions.
- Honor the time. Know that your colleagues, as well as you, have a million things to do in a day and that carving out a meeting time is sacred ground. Try to take it seriously and have an agenda or at least a set of things in mind that you want to discuss and accomplish. If things start to veer off course, politely remind your partner why you are meeting and what you would like to get out of your time together.
- Follow up. Have you ever had guests over to your home and been pleasantly surprised when the following day or week you receive a card or email thanking you for your hospitality? The same thing is true for a meeting with a colleague, where saying “thank you” as a follow up email or card can make such a difference. Even if you are following up on deliverables, make sure to include a separate paragraph thanking the person for taking the time to meet with you and being present. At the same time, log their business card or the hours worked together in your Rolodex so you can keep track of your meetings’ productivity. If it’s a meeting with someone you haven’t worked with before, put his or her business card immediately in your Rolodex should you have to call on that person again down the road.
It is also helpful to assign roles to members of the meeting and lay groundwork for mutual respect.
Read more from Cole Consulting on other useful meeting tips.
February 27th, 2012
It actually started years before I developed it as an intentional practice – taking on a ‘fear a year’ that is. In some ways I think I was hard wired for this, though not with any understanding of what it really entailed. For instance, I was afraid of telling my parents that I didn’t want to keep going back to semester after semester of college, racking up bigger and bigger loans, pouring all of my hard earned cash and quite a bit of theirs into an experience that wasn’t worth it, in my eyes at least. So, in 1972, at the end of my junior year at UVM, after three years of battling with my parents, I just did it. As scared as I was to disappoint them, deny them, confront them, I dropped out of college. To pursue my passion for life-long learning, emphasis on learning, experiential learning. My first of many ‘the road less traveled’ decisions.
It wasn’t until I was dealing with turning 40 (yikes) that I started an intentional practice of taking on a ‘fear a year.’ It was the early ‘90’s, I was wanting more from life, more from my career (right livelihood perhaps?), more from myself that I realized that since I was afraid to speak in front of large groups I should do something that forced me to speak in front of large groups. I combined taking on that fear with a current (and life-long) passion for public education and decided to run for our local school board. Running for office wasn’t the fear (although I did have to ‘mount a campaign’ it was not exactly heavy politics) it was the fear of public speaking.
Sure enough, four years on the Board and I was cured of that one.
By the time I was approaching my 50th birthday the stakes became higher. Much higher! For my 49th year I took on scuba diving. May not seem like much but it was a big one for me. I loved to snorkel. More than half of my Men’s Group were all divers and I was definitely envious of their annual trips to exotic locations to dive together. I tried going on one of the trips as a ‘snorkeler’ and it was fun but definitely not the same thing. So I did it. It felt great! Still feels great!!
For my 50th year it was really big. A 25 year marriage that wasn’t working anymore. We had been in couples counseling for months, tried a few big ‘relationship jump starts’ and had gone through many, many, many hours of processing all to no avail before we realized that it was over except we both were too scared to call it. So, after three ‘heaven sent’, painful-to-the-max but loaded with the same message experiences within a six month period, we decided to separate. In doing so, I realized that one of the fears I hadn’t even let myself consider until I was knee deep into it was that I had never lived alone before. In my whole life! Not a reason to stay married when a marriage isn’t working (and lots and lots and lots of work and effort to try to get it to work didn’t work), but so, so easy to do given all of the givens.
Last year, 2011, my fear was that I couldn’t take three weeks in a row on a vacation. I had never, ever done that, in my entire adult life. And for the past 18 years I’ve been self-employed as an Executive Coach and Organizational Development Consultant which seemed to make it even more impossible to even consider doing. But I knew that this was the fear I needed to take on and besides, I would find an excuse no matter what my job. Boy am I glad I tackled that one, as it proved to be one of the best experiences of my life!
The idea was to go to Italy with my lovely second wife Lisa where we spent three weeks in Northern Tuscany, in a sweet farmhouse in the Chianti region, just slowing down. Disconnecting from technology (mostly), matching our rhythms to the sun and the weather, taking time to just stroll, wander, read, wonder, write, read, hike, eat, cook, sit, do Tai Chi, stroll some more, do some yoga, hang out and just be. For three weeks. Not the somewhat recently discovered exorbitant practice of taking TWO weeks in a row instead of the usual and customary one week. Three weeks is to two weeks as two weeks was to one. Geometrically, exponentially, vastly different. Viva la difference!
A fear a year. I highly recommend it.
December 12th, 2011
Much has been written recently about the Women’s Movement – the accomplishments and failures of feminism in general and the relevance of some the movement’s leaders in particular. Growing up as a young kid in the 50’s I was right at home having a mom who would never have been referred to as a ‘stay at home mom’, though that is surely what she was. As a teenager in the 60’s, being the youngest of her three, it did seem that she was the ‘unusual’ mom when she went from volunteering at my elementary school library and started working part-time at the local Doubleday bookstore. The books may have been the same but the experience was totally different – all of a sudden I was a latch-key kid with all of the requisite perks and liabilities. And mom had the kind of self respect that comes from earning her own money outside of the home. She wasn’t earning as much money as her male counterparts (nor were any or her ‘female sisters’) but at least she was expanding her horizons and getting paid for it.
The Women’s Movement aimed at shattering sexism, specifically by breaking through the glass ceiling, among many other worthy targets. Women do earn more than they did pre-feminism. There are more women executives now than ever before. And yet, when you dig into the lives of women executives (or women in general I imagine) you find ample evidence that the glass ceiling is more secure, and more difficult to penetrate, than ever. For those of you looking for some good advice on how to pierce that barrier, I recommend “Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth.” Author Mika Brzezinski, co-host of Morning Joe, takes an in-depth look at how women today achieve their deserved recognition and financial worth. As pointed out on Amazon (where you can go to buy the book) “it’s no secret that women have long been overlooked and under-compensated, and while great strides have made in recent decades, the value placed on women versus their male counterparts is still consistently unbalanced.”
Before we move to the point I want to make as hinted to by the title of this blog, let’s consider that while compensation is important, in oh-so-many ways (survival, recognition, self worth, organizational influence, etc.), it’s not what we’re going to hear eulogized at our funerals. If you are a working (outside the home) mom and you’re interested in that kind of fullfillment, and I’m hoping you are, take a look at “The Working Mother’s Manifesto: This is How We Do It”. This piece opens the door on the ‘less is more’ theory by recognizing that a) money not only isn’t everything, it’s not even close, and, b) when you’re willing to negotiate getting less money (for less time worked) you can get more of what you really want, time for yourself and time to spend with the people you love. This is where Carol Evans, the author, and CEO of Working Mother magazine, encourages working mothers (and fathers) to ask their organizations for what they need to attain a healthy balance between work and family.
So, that last parenthentical phrase “(and fathers)” is where I’m heading. Yes, we had a Women’s Movement, and much progress was made, certainly not as much as we’d have liked, especially when it comes to equity in compensation, but progress nontheless. What’s been missing is a movement of equal size and weight for men. About men. By men.
Now I’m going to say something that many of you will rail against. You may even curse, and moan, and some of you will want to throw things and some of you will definitely want to stop reading. Please don’t! Bear with me a minute. Here it comes…
Men are the oppressed gender. There, I’ve said it. Ok, please put down whatever it was you were about to toss in my direction. You may even want to take a deep breath. Let’s take a look. Together.
When it comes to what really, really matters in life, what are we talking about? Yes, money and the attending comfort and security that it brings are huge. But let’s face it, how many eulegies have you heard that focused on how much money that person had? Or that even mentioned money? I’m guessing none, or at least very, very few.
What we do hear, and not just at funerals but at retirement banquets, testimonial dinners, toasts at family events is how much love people had in their lives. How much love they gave and how much they were loved. It is in this category that men are culturally at a severe disadvantage. At least through my generation (Boomers) we were told not to cry (“be a big boy now”), not to be ‘weak’ (“suck it up”) or even talk about our feelings. We were expected to be the bread winners (at least that’s changed generationally) and though we could help change diapers and share in the household chores it was the rare man who elected to be a stay-at-home dad while mom brought home the bacon. Yes, many of us did break a few barriers, mostly through the requirements necessitated by being a dual income family. But in the end we were not encouraged to go the extra mile to ensure that we’d have the time and energy to secure the kind of deep, spiritually based connections with our kids, our friends, our families, our communities that women just naturally fall into.
I’m hoping that it’s not too late. For a Mens Movement or, better still, a Peoples Movement, where we all get to focus on the things that really matter. Time with our loved ones (and I’m not talking just a weeks vacation a year), time to reflect, time to connect, time to feel.
August 5th, 2011
This is a guest blog by Alexa Cole, associate of Cole Consulting.
Alexa with mentor/aunt Janet. Janet and Alexa currently live on opposite coasts.
In this age we are living in, where knowledge is free and if there is ever a doubt we throw around the now household term “just google it”, I am constantly wondering: where are our mentors? Our teachers of the old crafts, the wise elders, the parents you don’t just visit on holidays but who share with you real-time skills for a better life — how to balance a check book, sew a button, grow your own food. Those that teach outside of what is taught in school curriculum and help us find our true path in life.
I’ve recently been looking to change fields within my career and this has involved 4 months of vigorous searching for something that feeds me. There have been many nights recently where I make vision boards and eat ice cream, trying to quell depression. There have also been many coffee dates with people I don’t really know, trying to glean some kind of sign about what I’m meant to do next.
One such date, with my second cousin’s wife, Natalie, was more of a family visit turned social networking meeting. Natalie is beautiful, strong, and has a way of saying things like they must take no effort at all; “You should really talk to my friend Pam. She lives in Oakland and is very involved in the women’s health business and could probably help you find a job.” Natalie’s not the only sweet soul doling out names and places to me like sides to my dinner dish, “no problem at all.”
I respect the advice and appreciate hints on my path, but what I am really after is: How can I find a great career path like you, that feels fulfilling and pays decently? To this, Natalie replies, “I had this amazing mentor about 15 years ago and she got me this great job and helped me.. and showed me…, introduced me…” on and on. I was still hanging on to this term “mentor”, wondering how I could get one and how much they would cost. Just a week before I had reached out to my old college counselor via facebook to say, “Hope you’re loving Maine. xoxo. I’m losing my mind. Can you still counsel me pretty please even though I’m 3000 miles away now and already have my degree from your institution? xoxo”
I haven’t heard back from her yet and wouldn’t expect anyone to take a time out from summer vacation to help an alum who should have figured it all out after the $40k tuition. But I haven’t figured it all out, and frankly, even my friends who seem to have it all together don’t have it figured out. So where are our mentors to guide our way? Where are these connections between hearts and minds — old and young — where valuable tools and resources can be passed down?
Maybe they’re teaching about farming, or being an astronaut, or some field I am not often passing between. Or maybe I’m supposed to find the path by myself, listen more closely to the signs and friends around me. Sure would be nice to have a little extra guidance, that’s for sure. If you know of any mentors who are looking for a disciple, please send them to 1800GETAJOB, where I’m currently forwarding all of my calls. Until then, thanks for reading. And may we all find the path we are seeking, with help or without, for all of our days.