On Benchmarking

“Assess, don’t assume,” I often say. Yet what did I do when my coaching client, Jay, said he needs to learn how to consider ideas that he doesn’t like? I initially bought into his assumption that he doesn’t know how…before remembering to assess, not assume. “On a 1-10 scale, with 1 being low and 10 high,” I asked, “where would you peg your current ability to consider ideas that you don’t like?” Jay gave himself a 5. “In those situations at a level 5, what is going on in your head?” Jay shared his thinking. “This idea may have potential,” he said, “but if I do it this way, will I get what I want?” Notice the number of I’s in Jay’s question. “Now, remember a time when you changed your mind about an idea you didn’t like.” Jay described an interdepartmental scramble for diminishing dollars, when funding another leader’s initiative would mean nixing his own. “Is fighting for these resources the right thing for the organization?” he remembered asking himself. “On further consideration, I realized that fairness meant reallocating resources for the greater good.” Not a single I in his question.  Jay scored himself “at least an 8.” Benchmarking examples of his own behavior narrowed Jay’s developmental gap. It also taught him a lot about himself.  When I asked what coaching assignment he would commit to completing before our next session, Jay said this: “I’ll journal about some of the successes from my past so I can model my best behaviors.” Now that’s an idea worth...
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CarolLines: Now and Zen

Once there was a time
when I did not know.


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CarolLines: Agreements

A 747 filled to capacity pulled onto the runway at Chicago’s O’Hare. And stopped. For four hours. Delayed by unseen storm clouds. All 372 passengers sat perfectly still. All except for Brody, the three-year-old sitting directly behind me. “Brody, stop it!” cried his mother as he kicked my seat. “Brody, don’t push that button. Brody, give me those earphones. Now!!” I slid my pillow against the window and tried to sleep. I had just spent the week hugging 1,200 coaches at a convention. Hard to keep a positive attitude when you’re hungry and tired and catching a cold. Maybe I could dream myself home into bed. “Brody, NO!!” Before I could move my head, Brody yanked down my window shade and caught my hair. I eased the shade up and glanced at my seatmate, who was shaking his head. Normally — being the patient, child-loving air traveler I am — I would have glared at the mother and groused the whole flight. But something magical had happened at the boarding gate. While waiting an eternity in line, I felt a soft tiny hand take hold of mine. I looked down to see a cherry-cheeked baby in a stroller. Michael, I discovered. “Hi Michael.” I stooped down to return his smile. “He sure is friendly,” I said to his mom. “Babies don’t normally take to me.” “And he doesn’t normally take to strangers,” she replied. “I’ve never seen him do anything like this.” For the next few minutes, I chatted with Michael and he burbled back. Then the gate agent called my row. “Gotta go now, Michael. Bye-bye,” I said, waving.  To which he reached out his little right hand and gave mine a firm shake, just like a miniature businessman. Now here I was sitting  in front of Brody, who was kicking and yelling and yanking the window shade down and up, up and down. What could I do? I decided to don my coaching cap. Standing and leaning over the seat, I smiled at this red-haired kickboxer. “Hi, are you Brody?” “Uh-huh.” “Brody, I’m wondering if we might make a little agreement.” He looked at me, waiting — curiosity interrupting his pattern. “We can either leave the window shade up, or we can leave it down. Your choice,” I said, smiling. ” So, would you like to leave the window shade up?” “Noooooooooooooooo!!!” he wailed. “OK, then you’d...
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CarolLines: Personallergies

Kate is allergic to shellfish. Rita is allergic to Kate’s friend, June. Over lunch they wondered why. “One minute, June’s whining about money,” Rita complained. “The next, she’s bragging about her theater weekend in Manhattan or her upcoming trip to Turkey. How come it doesn’t drive you nuts?” Kate pointed her fork at Rita’s plate.  “If I ate one of your shrimp,” she explained, “I’d have a reaction that you don’t have. Maybe your reaction to June is less about what’s going on with her, and more about what’s going on in you.” Consider the adverse reactions you have to certain personalities. What about that person is driving you nuts?  How are you behaving in response?  Is something being triggered inside of you that warrants examination? Personallergies can often be cured with a good dose of...
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CarolLines: Learning to Lead

Leading is learning to:


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CarolLines: Cold Showers

“Mommy, mommy, this water is cold,” whined the child in the shower at the YMCA. “It’s not cold,” said the mommy. “It’s warm.” What message was being sent — and received? Experiences are not the same as events. Just as one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor, the same situation can be experienced by two different people in very different ways. Could it be that the mommy and child were both right? As adults, we’re told to trust our gut.  Yet we also keep hearing: “That isn’t what happened. I didn’t say that. That’s a terrible idea. You’re wrong.”  Throwing cold water on different perspectives can have a chilling long-term effect. The next time you’re engaged in a disagreement, get curious instead of doctrinaire. Ask questions and seek to understand how others experience the world. You just might warm up to some new ideas....
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