Going Back to the Office? Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself

As we head into Fall post-Labor Day, there is a rise in the number of stories about employees returning to the office, some full-time. As we migrate to more familiar work patterns, let’s not forget what we learned during the pandemic.

Bartleby, the workplace columnist for The Economist,  writes about the virtue of commuting, partly because it provides separation from home and work,which is hard to achieve if, as she writes, your office is your kitchen table. In addition, she likes the concept, as many do, of using the commute a means of planning your day.

So what can you do plan your day, whether you work in an office or from a non-office location?

Get Your Day Organized

Shorten your hours. Planning your day means being mindful of your schedule. “It’s time for us all to take back control and take a step back from the back-to-back meeting culture we’ve created,” says Morag Barrett, CEO of SkyTeam and co-author of You, Me, We: Why We All Need a Friend at Work (and How to Show Up as One). “Set your calendar link to schedule the start time at five past the hour and finish at ten minutes to the hour,” she says. “That way we all have a few minutes to transition between calls.”

Expect to be interrupted. Know what you are doing, and do it as best you can—working off-site presents fewer interruptions unless you work in a coffee shop or poolside. Still, interruptions will occur. Knowing they will happen will enable you to adjust accordingly without being overly frustrated by them.

Interrupt your day. Morag Barrett developed a habit during isolation of taking a walk around her neighborhood. It was not a formal exercise, more a mental break. Today she continues the concept by “blocking a lunchtime break where I make it a point to leave my desk and don’t sit and work.” 

Exercise your mind. Read, reflect, recharge. Donald Altman, a psychotherapist, lecturer, and prolific author on mindfulness, advises taking regular pauses during the day. A pause can be as involved as walking outside or as simple as taking a moment to look out the window. Stand up when you can. Keep the blood flowing.

Exercise your body. Make time to exercise when you can. Do it regularly. During my career, I have begun my workday with an exercise regimen. It creates separation for me from home to work. You can also fit in exercise with walk-and-talk phone calls, something Morag also advises.

Keep your mind tuned

Keeping fresh is essential for any employee. Work can be drudgery at times. The challenge is to keep your mind fresh so you can accomplish the little things to tackle the big projects. 

Here’s a musical analogy. Musicians practice scales daily to keep their fingers and sense harmony in tune. Practicing scales – at least for this amateur pianist – is not joyful, but I do it so I keep my fingers flexible and my musical mind nimble. Doing so allows me to sight read more effectively and play familiar pieces more adeptly.

“Getting ready to leave for work in the morning involves an element of planning—sometimes even anticipation,” writes Bartleby. “Stepping out of your home, and your comfort zone, you feel more alive by default.” Good advice, and one you can practice – withbreaks, exercise, and reflect — even if you are working from your kitchen table.

First posted on Forbes.com 9.7.2022

How to Be the One Everyone Wants to Work With

You will be lucky to work with her. She is a gem.

You will love his work. He’s a total professional.

You can trust her. She’s the very best.

These are the types of off-hand comments we hear about colleagues or friends. These informal endorsements are worth their weight in platinum. These statements affirm the value of an individual and position them as resources you can trust.

We all want people to say such things about us. So how do we do it?

Do the work. Perform the task you are asked. On-time and within budget. Listen well. Be responsive to change and flexible in your work attitude. That is, flex to the organization’s needs as long as it meets your capacity to do the work well. 

Do more than the work. Go above and beyond what is required. Look at the job as a springboard to innovate, creating additional value.

Affirm your value. This statement might strike one as odd. It is not bragging per se, but it is letting others know what you have done and why. It is also your opportunity to include others. Mention what they have accomplished and pointed out the value of what they have done. We call this being a team player.

Three factors to build trust

All of these come down to three factors I have written about: competence, credibility, and confidence. Competence means you can do the job. Credibility means others believe you can do the job. And confidence implies others have faith in you to do a good job.

What all of these add up to is trust. It is the bedrock of any relationship, personal or professional. Stephen M. R. Covey writes in his book, The Speed of Trust, “There are no moral shortcuts in the game of business—or life. There are three kinds of people: the unsuccessful, the temporarily successful, and those who become and remain successful. The difference is character.” 

The root of character is trust. As Covey writes, “Trust is equal parts character and competence… You can look at any leadership failure, and it’s always a failure of one or the other.” 

Sense of belonging

Working with others is essential to any endeavor, and people feel something powerful: a sense of belonging when there is trust. The bedrock of belonging is the feeling of psychological safety, knowing that you can contribute not merely by going along to get along but by adding to the whole, even when it means going against the tide. Innovation thrives from such dissonance. However, dissonance can only be productive when it is regarded as a contribution, not a threat. When people feel safe to voice alternative ideas, they think they belong. 

People will want to work with you when you are perceived as competent, credible, and confident. And along the way, they will even say good things about you.

First posted on Forbes.com 00.00.22

Finding Your Own Tune

A senior HR director, now retired, once told me that if there were one proven business model, everyone would use it. If so, there would likely be little need for strategy consultants because companies would be able to implement the same model. Unfortunately, upon reflection, we can say that state-controlled economies have one model, and as a result, most, if not all, fail.

There are also work style models, that is, how we do our work and approach it. For example, recently, I found a novel model borrowed from a book written for guitarists by Don Brown, a consultant author and guitarist. The book is titled, Travels with Uwe. The title refers to Uwe Kruger, a German-born, Swiss-raised immigrant to the U.S. now based in North Carolina who performs widely with brother Jens and teaches prolifically. Brown himself is a student.

After spending his first session with Uwe, Brown told me in an email interview, “I was so transformed in so many ways I’d never expected that I just wanted to get the word out. I went for a musical experience; I left transformed in music and life!” The following model is a result of Brown’s “awakening.”

Play – finding joy in the music you produce;

Practice – sharpening your skills so you can bring out the best of your talents;

Create – Learn to experiment, innovate to develop your content and style; and

Perform – get on stage and show us what you can do.

Lessons for non-musicians

The application to work off-stage and away from a guitar or musical instrument is solid. “Even non-musicians attending the Academies over the years experienced the same transformations as their musician partners and left with the same burning desire to better seize their day. Every day.”

Let me explain how it applies to managing teams.

Play at work. A manager wants his team engaged, and they do it by creating conditions for them to succeed, chiefly by providing resources, training, and support. This approach enables the team to “play together” in harmony.

Practice together. Work is work. Application of skill to task requires training and practice.

Create your style. Each of us is different. A savvy manager understands the talents and skills of those on his team. It is up to the manager to enable the employee to do the work in ways that facilitate how well they add to the task and contribute to the mission.

Performance is production. Output is product or service delivered. It is essential to do it on time, within budget, and in ways that delight the customer.

Building confidence

Teams that perform build upon the skills of one another. They learn to coordinate resources and collaborate to create better results. The net outcome is the team builds confidence.

Or ask Uwe Kruger would say, “To perform, you have to have a certain confidence, and you have to gain that confidence in front of an audience… every time.” Sounds like good advice for any manager, any leader, anywhere. And Don Brown adds, “A path to being happy ‘now’ is through the power of music in life.”

First posted on Forbes.com 10.05.2022

David Gergen: Heart for Leadership

There is a story that David Gergen tells in his newest book, Hearts Touched by Fire, about having to let people go. Now that layoffs are occurring, it is an apt story for today. Mort Zuckerman had bought U.S. News and World Report and installed Gergen as editor in chief. Zuckerman wanted to clean house, and he instructed Gergen to begin the layoffs. It was not a job Gergen relished or rushed into. 

Gergen got to know the reporters first; then, he had his conversation with those about to be let go. “I am afraid we have to end our relationship, but we also need to protect your reputation. It will not be helpful to you in finding a new job if word gets out that you were fired. So here’s what I propose: We keep this secret between the two of us. You spend the next ninety days quietly looking for another job. When you find one, we will announce that you have decided to accept a new post at a different publication, and we will have a big, festive going-away party.” 

Gergen notes that nearly everyone found a new job and left with pride intact. It was a win for the publication, which today remains profitable, and for the individuals. Gergen, as a leader, exemplified the title of his book, a heart touched with fire.

A familiar to presidents

My favorite anecdote about David Gergen comes from one of his old bosses, Ronald Reagan. On a return trip to Washington, Reagan said his plane swooped over the monuments and famous sites, and there in the White House, he could see one of those monuments—David Gergen, still working in the White House. 

Gergen, as is well-known, worked for three additional presidents, Nixon, Ford, and Clinton. In short, Gergen has been a close observer of presidential power, a topic of his first book, Eyewitness to PowerHearts Touched by Fire casts a broader lens on leadership. It can be read by those just cutting their leadership chops, those in leadership positions now, or even those like me who have made the topic our chosen field of exploration. 

There is an instructive story about how James Baker, an outsider, became the Reagan’s chief of staff and eventually the first among equals along with longtime Reagan associates Michael Deaver and Ed Meese. Baker was known as “the velvet hammer” because he maintained organizational discipline by gaining Reagan’s trust, “consolidating power,” and building a strong team that could execute. Baker was a master at leading up, around and with others.

Gergen, a former communications director, journalist and commentator, has an easy way of telling stories. Each of his points is accented with personal observations or as likely by women and men whose examples of leadership are worthy of exploration. Familiar names include Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, and Katharine Graham and Greta Thunberg. In addition, there are cautionary tales of leaders who overstepped boundaries, including Richard Nixon and Raj Gupta of McKinsey.

Teachable moments

What enhances this book is Gergen’s work as a professor at the Harvard School of Public Policy, a role he has fulfilled for more than two decades. There are sections on personal development, peer-to-peer leadership, leading up, and what it takes to lead in times of crisis. Gergen has a knack for imparting what people need to know about leadership in ways that make the lessons accessible and actionable. Gergen cites the works of leadership theorists Jim Collins and Warren Bennis, framing their research alongside readings from historians such as Doris Kearns Godwin and David McCullough as examples of what those who study leadership can teach us.

Reading Hearts Touched by Fire is an exercise in what it takes to lead in challenging times and a thoughtful look at how leaders accomplish their goals by bringing people together for a common cause. The book’s prologue concludes with a quote from Martin Luther King. “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve.” King adds, “You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Indeed the best leaders serve because they are focused on service to others and a cause greater than themselves.

First posted on Forbes.com 00.00.2022

Singing the Truth

Emily Falvey with the author

Songwriters are storytellers. And behind every song, there is a story. Often a very good one.

Kent Blazy, Pat Alger and Emily Falvey demonstrated that fact during a performance at Belmont University’s Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Their stories behind the songs were a mixture of romance, comedy, laughs and tears. Just like the songs themselves. 

Two songwriters, Kent Blazy and Pat Alger are Nashville legends, having written seven and nine No. 1 hits, respectively. Both are in the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Emily Falvey is only 26 but already has a publishing contract and has had more than a few hits.

The old saying — “three chords and the truth” — gets to the heart of what country music represents – the longing, the caring, the soul of what it means to be alive. But, the musicianship of these three goes well beyond three chords with their beautiful melodies and rich harmonies. Their lyrics resonate with honesty. At times funny, other times wistful, their music reveals what it means to be human.

Facilitating connection

Music enables us to connect with our memories and others in a way that words alone cannot. The lyric – which often tells a story, be it country, rock, show, or opera – outlines the narrative. The music carries inspiration. Together melody and lyric awaken us to thoughts and emotions that might lie buried within us or, in many cases, not yet discovered.

Stories awaken the spirit within us. Just as songwriters do, leaders who share their stories with others demonstrate a sense of vulnerability. Knowing what a leader has experienced – both good and not-so-good – makes them more understandable as people. And when times are confusing and present challenges where there are few clear answers, those stories — just like songs — can keep us centered.

Singing the truth

It is a leader’s job to sense what people are feeling. When they are up, focus on reinforcing their joy. When they are down, provide them with a path forward. Music gives us hope, which coincidently is also a leader’s duty. Address the truth always as a means of illuminating the way ahead, no matter difficult.

We need to hear the truth and feel it in our souls. Kent Blazy, Pat Alger and Emily Falvey reinforced that concept with songs reminding us to laugh, love, and remember. Their songs reflect the human condition, and we are better for such great reminders.

Louie Anderson: Laughing in the Face of Pain

“I love to do standup comedy still. It still makes me really happy… I’ve worked so many hours to make sure that when you’re there, you are not burdened with this performance. You are hopefully forgetting every bit of your troubles. That’s my goal every night. Hopefully, at some point in my act, you have forgotten whatever trouble you had when you came in.”

That one statement, taken from an interview Louie Anderson did with Terry Gross in a 2016 episode of NPR’s Fresh Air, tells you all you want to know about what it takes to make people laugh.

One, you hone your craft. Two, you polish your act to make it seem natural and “unburdened.” And three, you make the audience feel special. All these things Anderson, who died recently at age 68, mastered.

One of eleven children, Anderson’s family was poor, and his father was an alcoholic. Louie suffered from obesity and depression. These conditions did not overwhelm him; he used them as material. As a performer, Louie saw himself as one who could alleviate it, if only for the audience’s time in the theater. 

Life as a comedy

As child number ten, Louie formed a close bond with his mother. So close that when Louie played the role of the mother to Chip (played by Zack Galifianakis) in the television series, Baskets, elements of his real-life mother seeped into the character.

As Anderson told Terry Gross, he would tell jokes, chiefly about his family as well as himself.

At Thanksgiving, my mom always makes too much food, especially one item, like 700 or 800 pounds of sweet potatoes. She’s got to push it during the meal. ‘Did you get some sweet potatoes? There’s sweet potatoes. They’re hot. There’s more in the oven, some more in the garage. The rest are at the Johnson’s.’” 

“My mom was a garage sale person, save money [to] save money. She’d get in that garage sale and point stuff out to you. ‘There’s a good fork for a nickel. Yeah, that’s beautiful. It’s a little high. If it were three cents, I’d snap it up.’”

“My mom ate every piece of butter in the Midwest, she lived till she was 90. And my dad, he smoked, he drank – we finally just had to kill him.” [“My dad quit drinking when he was 69,” Louie told Terry Gross, “and here was my mom’s response. She turned to me, and she said, ‘I told you he’d quit drinking.’”]

“My first words were ‘Seconds, please.’ Most kids in kindergarten napped on a little rug. I had a braided 9 x 12.”

“I’m a 7 o’clock act. My people want to go to a show, a dinner, and then go home and go to bed.” 

Keeping it real

Lessons managers can learn from Anderson is the commitment to work, continuous improvement over time, and a willingness to connect with others.

For all his stardom, Louie never lost the sense of himself. After his first appearance on the Tonight Show in 1983, he received a warm response from Johnny Carson, then the biggest arbiter of standup talent. Louie was on cloud nine, or as he says, “heaven.” 

The Comedy Cellar in Los Angeles held an after-glow party for Louie. “And a guy comes up to me and goes, are you, Louie Anderson? And I go, I am. And I put my hand out to meet him. And he goes, I don’t want to meet you. Could you move your car?”

First posted on Forbes.com 2.00.2022

How to Take Responsibility


That was the sentiment many people felt when Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellin’s admission about inflation. “I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take,” Ms. Yellin told CNN about her comments from a year ago that inflation would be “a small risk” and not “be a problem.”

Secretary Yellin added, “There have been unanticipated and large shocks to the economy that boosted energy and food prices, and supply bottlenecks, that have affected our economy badly that I, at the time, didn’t fully understand. But we recognize that now.”

Ms. Yellin was not alone in this belief, but as the Secretary of the Treasury, responsible for fiscal management, it was a stunning admission. Many citizens regard inflation as the nation’s number one problem. Every time they buy groceries or fill up at the pump, they pay more. As a result, anger and frustration with Ms. Yellin’s boss, President Biden, rises.

Therefore, it takes a person of solid character to admit when they are wrong, especially about a significant issue. The lesson for managers is to admit a mistake and find solutions. While it might be tempting to duck and hide – as many in our political class do regularly—doing so merely passes the buck, allowing the problem to fester and worsen.

What to do next

Everyone makes mistakes. Rather than deflect, the challenge becomes to own the problem and become part of the solution.

Admit the mistake. Address the issue straight on without making excuses. Take responsibility without prevarication.

Stake the consequences. Explain why the mistake occurred. Talk about the consequences of the error. Layout the case in full. 

Find solutions. Make yourself part of the solution. Invite others to join you. 

Own the issue

“When you make a mistake,” said legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant, “there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.” Owning a mistake requires the capacity to demonstrate vulnerability and the commitment to learn from it. Learning requires the capacity to determine the root cause of the problem, listen to those closest to the program, and then mobilize for action.

There are exceptions. Mistakes due to incompetence or ethical transactions deserve consequences. Those mistakes require discipline and often removal. Doing so keeps the organization rooted in solid values.

Stepping forward

When employees see their managers own their mistakes, they see the “real person.” One of the traits that followers like to see in their leaders is vulnerability. A leader who can stand up and admit a mistake reveals his limitations. A leader who works to find solutions by enlisting the support of others demonstrates that the organization needs to move forward, and such movement can only occur when people coalesce and work together.

First posted on Forbes.com on 6.02.2022

How Executive Coaching Facilitates Positive Change

Executive coaching is a journey of self-discovery; the coach enables the individual to see themselves in a new light. It is the root of behavior-based coaching; it focuses on performance, the choices, and the actions the individual makes. The results can be both transactional as well as transformative. There is a caveat, however.

The results are measurable, but the coach is one step removed. 

However, it is practical to frame executive coaching in two different avenues. Transactional coaching is rooted in process—the how of what we do. Transformative coaching is anchored in discovery—learning the why of what we do. So let’s take them one at a time.

Change on the outside

Transaction coaching focuses on improving a skill. Michelle Tillis Lederman, executive coach and author of The Connector’s Advantage, says: “When there is a specific objective to accomplish such as, change an industry, get a new job,” transactional coaching is appropriate. 

Evelyn Rodstein, an executive coach with a background as a senior corporate executive, says, “The best coaching uses transactional skills as the foundation upon which to build the coachee’s transformational change into a leader performing at a whole new level.”

For example, a coach may discuss ways to become a better listener or avoid interrupting others. Listening is essential to effective leadership, so learning to do it better is valuable. In addition, listening forms the basis of connection. From that connection flows an ability to engage another’s interests as well as their aspirations. 

Change from within

Transformational coaching addresses behavior. Tillis Lederman says, “This is when we are seeking to make inner changes to how we think or act. Something is holding us back or not working for us, and we want to uncover the behaviors that are getting in the way.” 

Our perceptions of people are based upon their actions. Therefore, self-awareness is critical to personal growth and development. By gathering feedback from colleagues, the coach can present a picture of how they are viewed in the workplace. Using feedback can enable the individual to understand how their behavior affects others negatively or positively.

Fundamental to executive coaching, however, is the desire to change. No teaching or no feedback will change another. Instead, they must want to change and do the work necessary to make positive changes that facilitate more significant levels of engagement, performance, and self-understanding.

Transactional and transformational change

Many coaches mix both styles of coaching. Dean Miles, president of Bridgepoint Coaching & Strategy, says, “This idea of being either transactional or transformative I find to be limiting. If the goal is to motivate an unmotivated individual merely, you may need to acknowledge the limited amount of effort available. If, however, you have a motivated individual who needs inspiration with limitless effort available. Then use both in parallel.” 

Miles continues, “As an executive coach, and I must choose which path to journey I would take the client down the path of why (transformative). If there is a high willingness and the client needs to start fast, I feel confident to take a shortcut straight to the how (transactional).”

Rodstein also believes that transactional and transformational coaching can go hand in hand. She relates the story of a senior leader who was promoted to the C-suite. Early in his role, her client needed to learn to present to the board and negotiate with the CEO. Those skills are transactional. As the coaching progressed, Rodstein helped her client see himself in a new light to gain the confidence necessary for his expanded management role. That coaching is transformational.

“The best coaching helps the leader develop the transactional skill set to manage and deliver stellar business results,” says Rodstein.  “The best coaching also allows the coachee to expand his mindset, identity, and authenticity. It takes both to run a world-class business.”

First posted on CEOWorld magazine on 2/28/2022

Intuition in Coaching

My father, who practiced family medicine for more than 40 years, was a rigorous student of medical literature and was board certified multiple times. Yet Dad, who passed away in 2007, used to say that what he loved most about his practice was the “art of medicine.”

In medicine, the diagnosis may come from science, but it may also come from intuition. The same goes for executive coaching but first, let’s explore the role that intuition plays in medicine.

Art and practice

Anna Yusim, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist on the clinical faculty at Yale, believes that “intuition is important in the practice of medicine precisely because medicine is an art and a science. As physicians, our reason and rationality can help us delineate possible causes of a given illness based on our medical education, clinical experience, scientific data, and double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials.”

“Intuition,” says Dr. Yusim, is the still, quiet voice that can only be heard when the screaming voices of our thoughts and emotions temporarily cease.”

According to David Fessell, a retired physician, intuition in medicine “can show up when a patient looks sick’ even though their blood pressure, pulse, white blood counts are all within normal limits.” Yet, says Dr. Fessell, “An experienced nurse, physician, or other health care worker may have seen patients in the past who looked this way—before their numbers went downhill. So it can prompt a more thorough investigation that can save a life.”

Dr. Yusim adds, “Intuition can guide us when reason alone does not lead to a solution or cure. Intuition enables us to ask questions which may, at the outset, seem counterintuitive, but may ultimately lead to the proper diagnosis or treatment.”

Link to executive coaching

Intuition can play a role in executive coaching. Dr. Fessell, who is also an executive coach, author, and speaker on wellness, resilience, and humor, advises his clients to “develop deep domain expertise. Talk about issues and scenarios with people who have more experience.” Dr. Fessell adds, “Consider discussions with people who have different domain expertise. Track your intuitions over time and see if you can pinpoint the factor(s) that are impacting it. This [practice] can help you have an idea of your accuracy. It’s easy to forget the times you are incorrect.”

Dr. Yusim, who is also an executive coach and the author of Fulfilled: How the Science of Spirituality Can Help You Live a Happier, More Meaningful Life, says, “We help our [coaching} clients optimize their functionality in all aspects of life. A key component of this is enabling clients to become more comfortable trusting their intuition… The more attuned [clients] become to their inner world, the more their intuition will expand in ways they could never have anticipated.” Such practices “gives them greater clarity, confidence, and competence [when making] important decisions.”

Limits to intuition

However, there are limits, says Dr. Yusim, “When you make an important decision based on intuition,” says Dr. Yusim, “it may be difficult to justify to your colleagues if this decision is not also the most ‘reasonable’ decision. In this way, reason and intuition can sometimes be at odds with each other.”

Dr. Fessell agrees. “Data and analysis, when available, are fundamental and the backbone of most successful strategies. Intuition can be a spice to add sparingly. If you use it, know your limits. Be prepared to be wrong so that you, and others, don’t get hurt.”

Intuition, therefore, plays a role in executive coaching as it does in medicine, but it should be used in tandem with science and experience.

First posted on Forbes.com 00.00.2022

Coaching the Inner Self

When Sam Waterston was preparing to play the role of Abraham Lincoln—one he has played several times—he decided to visit the Library of Congress while he was in Washington, D.C. While there, he had the opportunity to see and physically hold some of Lincoln’s letters. He even held in his hands the contents of what was found in Lincoln’s pockets on the night of his assassination. It was an experience, as Waterston explained to Dave Davies on NPR’s Fresh Air, that helped him ground his performance and ultimately connected him to his character.

Connection is essential in acting. Actors have many techniques for finding a link to their character. Often directors help them discover. In his bookA Sense of Direction, Willliam Ball, a noted stage director, talks about the objective. One could call it motivation, but labeling it an objective makes it more tangible. Ball argues that the operative word for actors in finding their objective is “want.” 

What does the character want in life – wealth, a family, peace in the world? Knowing that objective grounds the actor in the reality of his character. Knowing what the character wants enables her to learn to act the role and play specific lines or do a bit of stage business.  Directors, as Ball argues, should not give actors their objectives. Actors need to come to their own conclusions in their reading of the script.

Connection + objective

The link between connection and objective is essential in executive coaching. As with stage directors, their role is to facilitate self-understanding so that individuals come to their moments and levels of self-awareness. 

Some actors create their backstories, either doing it by themselves or, in certain instances, with two lead characters developing it collaboratively. Thoroughly knowing their characters prepares them to play the role with a degree of authenticity, something that resonates with audiences.

Similarly, coaches prepare individuals with tools such as assessments and feedback. Assessments enable the individual to uncover his tendencies and biases that result in behavior. Feedback is a kind of backstory; it observes what you have done and how you connect with others. 

There also is the technique developed by Marshall Goldsmith calls “feed-forward,” which is the process of the coach, together with trusted stakeholders, giving an individual “notes” (an acting term) about his progress through the coaching process. These notes enable the individual to determine his progress in real-time.

Cautionary note

There is a significant difference, of course, between acting and coaching. One is for pretend; the other is for real. And when the two become confused, that is, the actor believes he is his character, or the coachee “acts” his role, the outcome is inauthenticity, the opposite of what’s desired.

Discovering your character

A comparison between the two disciplines is helpful, however. They want an actor strives for is the same as the behavior change a coachee aspires to. Both require work, and here are some questions borrowed from the acting world that can help an individual discover herself more genuinely.

  • What gets you up in the morning?
  • What is holding you back from what you want to achieve?
  • What do you need to STOP doing to achieve your goals?
  • How can you enlist others to support you in your change efforts?
  • How will you measure the success of this coaching process?


These questions are only a starting point. Together with the coach, the individual can come up with other questions that will enable more significant degrees of self-awareness.

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart,” wrote a father of psychiatry and psychoanalysis, Karl Jung. “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Know yourself, and you know the world—and what you can accomplish in it—better.

First posted on Forbes.com 00.00.2022