Category self management

Shame and wholehearted living

In The Gifts of Imperfection, shame researcher Dr. Brene Brown says there are 3 things we need to know about shame. Everybody has it [except those with no capacity for empathy or connection]. We’re all afraid to talk about it. And the less we talk about it, the more control we give it in our lives. She’s right, of course, and fortunately, she’s talking about it in ways that give the rest of us permission to do the same.

So if you want to trade your own struggles with shame for what Brene calls “a wholehearted life,” then buy or borrow this book. It’s anchored in cultivating courage, compassion, and connection, not as lofty ideals but as



I’m an avid fan of the cable television program Inside the Actors Studio. Each week, James Lipton, dean emeritus of New York’s Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University, interviews a famous actor or director. I love the passion with which these artists talk about their craft and the courage with which they tackle their fears and doubt. Yes, they are famous, but they are still mortals wrestling with the same insecurities as the rest of us. And the lessons they offer give a glimpse of the greatness in each of us that lies just beyond our doubt.

When Lipton interviewed Dustin Hoffman, the actor talked about the difficulty of

The way out is in

I recently got an email asking for an update on a coaching client, a woman I’ve worked with for about 3 months. Typically, I submit a list of coaching goals early in an engagement. But just a few days before this request arrived, I realized that the client and I hadn’t finalized any goals. So when the request came, I felt badly for letting this slip through the cracks. I began drafting a response. I tried to explain why the goals weren’t done. It was tough because I couldn’t violate the client’s confidential privilege, and I couldn’t adequately explain without providing details. I’d write and delete, write and delete. Then it hit me: the struggle wasn’t my desire to protect the client; it was my desire to protect me!

I had to laugh at myself. All the time I spent trying to craft a response boiled down to a simple truth:

Good usage, bad usage, and usage

In another life, I was an English literature major, which means I can drive family and friends nuts with my attention to language. Waiting for a client the other day, I was browsing through a waiting room copy of Life’s Little Instruction Book [1991] and was struck by instruction #459: “Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved.” It took me back to  Abracadabra‘s theme  and to a much more distant memory: a


When Bob took over as head of a large business unit in his organization, he inherited a chief operations officer, Mary Jo. Initially, he was reluctant to keep her. The unit had financial problems, poor morale, a toxic culture, and a lot of people blaming Mary Jo for the problems, so he was watchful. But he realized quickly that she was very good at her job, and decided to hold off taking any action.

Fast forward a couple of years. Bob is moving his unit forward. He’s a systems


As a follow-up to the “Quiet” post, this is an acronym I heard years ago. A client reminded me  of it recently. “When I learned the WAIT acronym,” he said, “that was a learning moment burned into my head!”

WAIT stands for Why Am I Talking?



Imagine the ladder’s gone

For years, we’ve read about the struggles of women in climbing the corporate ladder and reaching the top.  Much has been written about why it occurs and what we can do about it.  I offer a different view, namely that the whole notion of a career ladder is an assumption – a mythology – that can limit who and how we are in organizations.

When we assume that a ladder exists and that it’s the path to success – when we treat these assumptions as “truths” about “the way it is” — we can easily mistake ladder-climbing as our journey and a top rung

Bejeweled brain

My son Michael is in town for a visit, so gaming’s back in the conversation. When he’s riding the train in New York, he occasionally plays a game called Jewels. It starts with a screen full of colored shapes, like the one at left. When you match 3 or more, they disappear and new shapes drop down on the screen. He was consistently scoring 3000 to 4000 per game, and wanted to get better. Practice is the usual road to mastery, but Michael tried something else, with remarkable results.

Thank you, Eleanor

I came across a quote of Eleanor Roosevelt’s today: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

It spoke to the part of me that has always been afraid. A little research yielded a lot of discovery. This was a remarkably wise woman. If you’re hungry for food for thought, chew on one of these for a while.

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.”

Keeping score

Every week, I join several dozen people for a 90-minute tennis workout. We have five players per court, five courts, and a pro on each court. Rather than play regular games, we do drills: baseline shots on one court, overheads on the next, then one-up-one-back or volleys, through all five courts. The pros typically run the drills as fast-paced games: the first team to 5 or 7 points wins.

This week, a pro named Shelly was running us through a drill. After a long point, she called out, “Three-two.”

I said, “I thought it was four-one.”

“No,” another player said, “The score’s three-two.”

Shelly jumped into the air and yelled, “Yes! Yes! I’m right! I can’t believe it! I