Category stories

You can’t get there from here

My dishwasher died this week. It was installed 8.5 years ago and, according to the repairman, dishwashers now last 8 to 12 years. Eight to 12 years?? I’m thinking, Whatever happened to QUALITY!! My lawnmower was made in ’82 and is STILL plugging along!

“Planned obsolescence,” he said, reading my mind. “It’s alive and well.”

So I went online to do some comparison shopping, figuring if I’m going to spend 


My son Michael called this morning on his way to work. “Something just happened that I thought you’d enjoy,” he said. “I stopped at Starbucks on my way to work, and when I got to the drive-thru window, the cashier told me the guy ahead of me already paid for my coffee!”

“Wow!” I said. “You’re right. I love it!”

“So I paid for the guy behind ME.” That’s when the cashier told him that he was

Toads and transformation

I was coaching a senior executive who was second-in-command in a large organization but acted like low person on the totem.  It was costing her greatly in terms of credibility, effectiveness, and self esteem.

One day when she was struggling particularly hard, I told her this story.  A few days earlier, my son Michael and I were weeding my mother’s garden. Michael was working under some shrubs when he grabbed my arm and said, “Hey, Mom, look!”

All I saw was dirt and dead leaves. 

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

Tales from the heart

Our work – our lives – are built on and steeped in storytelling. It’s how we make sense of things, how we fill in the blanks to create meaning out of moments and commitment in the midst of chaos [remember Tom Hanks’ character in Saving Private Ryan?].

Of course, at work we don’t call it storytelling. We dress it up in professional language, like ‘case study’ or ‘discussion’ or just plain

Random acts

One of my colleagues, Bob Tschannen-Moran, has written a weekly newsletter for years. I enjoy it immensely. This week he wrote about kindness. He retold an old story with a new twist, which  he borrowed from National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones. It reminded me of how powerful little acts of kindness can be. Here it is [from provision #742 of Bob’s newsletter].

“Several years ago, there was a woman in San Francisco who

Refuse to be insignificant

Sometimes I hear things that astound me with their power. This is one of them: refuse to be insignificant.

I got it from one of my clients, a self-effacing man who adopted it as a credo when he was young. He has had a highly successful career and a challenging personal life. Both fill him with joy and happiness.

Are you willing to do the same?

Up on the roof …

My friend Jodi is curious and introspective, so we’ve had lots of conversations over the years about what goes on in the world behind our eyes. The other day she sent me a story, saying, “This happened yesterday. It’s titled ‘Judgments.’ I want to know what you think.”  Here it is.

I got on the elevator in the parking garage and a nicely dressed woman got on too. She was talking pretty loudly on her cell phone. I heard her say things like, ‘Please don’t raise your voice to me. I’m trying to help you.’ I figured she was talking to her husband and it was going to get good!

A revisionist history …

One of my clients, a career woman named Mary, wife and mother of two school-age kids, has been feeling so overwhelmed that she wants to request a 30% reduction in her workload. And she’s willing to take a 30% reduction in income. In the past few months, she has created several maps of how her life would look, less this 30%. She likes what she sees.

Here’s the hitch. Part of her just can’t say “No” when there’s work to be done. She’s always taking on more. Even when she has no energy for the extra effort, a voice deep inside is urging her on.

So she knows that unless she actually says no and does less,

Rage, rage against the dying of the flight

I was stuck in Chicago at O’Hare Airport one holiday season, along with thousands of other travelers.   We’d been delayed several hours by a fierce snowstorm blowing in from the plains, and then got word that several flights were cancelled.  People were up in arms.  The airline agents were stressed, passengers were starting to shout, and the whole mood of the place was turning black.  It was the closest I’d seen to mob mentality in years, and I was getting scared. In the midst of the shouting and fist shaking, a young gate agent walked from behind the counter, climbed onto a seat, and raised her arms in an outstretched Y.  She didn’t say a word.  She simply stood, motionless, with a relaxed look on her face.  It took two minutes, but the shouting began to subside.  One by one, people turned their attention to her.