Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's Not You

Speaking with a wise old career coach a couple weeks ago, I was struck by his bracing point of view about the reality of today's job market. He said:

"It's not you. You're doing all the right things. You're not the problem. It's the market right now. There are very few openings in your field. Companies are moving very cautiously on hiring. And tons of competitors, with skills like yours, are vying for the same few spots."

So what do I do, I asked.

His answer: "There's nothing you can do. It's the market."

Not being the "do nothing" kind of guy, I received his wisdom with gratitude, but decided to continue doing a few things, especially networking.

At her blog Your Search Lights, coach and consultant Janice Lee Juvrud writes about the importance of networking:

~ "...many of us have learned an awful lot about networking. Now we know that continuous networking is essential to our professional development. I've learned networking is enriching for my professional and personal life."

I agree that networking is a good thing. It's a skill that we need when we are in transition. And who is not "in transition" these days?

The latest development in networking, thanks to the economy, is the wave of self-initiated networking groups, where people are reaching out to other people in their localities to co-create support structures in this time of need.

Janice has a note on the margin of her blog that says "Let's develop a community of transitioners gaining wisdom from each other."

I second that motion.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Body of Work

Lately, I've been pondering the lessons that Life is trying to teach me right now at this stage of my life.

One of the questions that has been sounding in my head is, What is your body of work?

In graduate school, back around 1980, my adviser suggested I read a book called Love's Body by Norman O. Brown. I think I gave my copy away years ago. But not until I had read and re-read it.

Love's Body is a strange and wonderful reading experience, like hurtling through a landscape of fragments, aphorisms and quotes on a tour of history, Freud, politics, philosophy, the soul, poetry and mythology, in a quest for . . . the meaning of life.

I'm not sure I understood what Brown was ultimately trying to say, but I loved following along with him, and listening to him paint his vast mural of ideas.

Thinking of what I have accomplished this year, and what I have contributed to my unfolding body of work, I would have to say that I have added a few brushstrokes to the mural of my life, including:

- consulting

- writing

- contributing

- coaching

- blogging

- helping

- facilitating

- engaging

Fellow blogger and tweeter Terry Starbucker just tweeted:

~ "What shapes our lives are the questions we ask." - Sam Keen

Quite timely, I'd say.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, October 30, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Striptease Job Search and other exotic ideas for job hunters

Kenny Moore has some decidedly different ideas for job hunters.

Yesterday, during his talk at the St. Matthias Employment Ministry mini-retreat, he was asked for his recommendations on resumes. Well, if you read my prior blog entry, you'll understand that his first response was, "You're seeking answers to something that is less a problem, and more a predicament."

Appreciating the need of many in the audience for some takeaways, Kenny relented and offered some unorthodox ideas for job hunters. Here are a few:

Use The Striptease Method - Kenny asked the audience, "In the old burlesque shows, did the stripper take all her clothes off at once?" The audience answered No. His point is that as job applicants, we should never reveal all, about who we are, all at once. Instead, give one little strip at a time.

Use A One Page Resume - As a former HR manager for a large utility company, Kenny used to get thousands of resumes. His advice: keep your resume to one page. With the Striptease Method as a guide, only reveal just enough about you to get the hiring manager to invite you in.

The Three Things - So, what does Kenny recommend you focus on in a one page resume that would be tantalizing enough for a hiring manager to invite you in? He recommends The Three Things. What are the three things about You that you are naturally great at? Ask yourself:
- what are the three things I've always been good at?
- that I love to do?
- that energize me?
- that others have said I am good at?

And in today's difficult economy, don't put all your eggs in the basket of traditional job search methods, Kenny warns. Pursue a mix of traditional and non-traditional methods. The way to land your next job, Kenny says, is via the hidden job market. What is that exactly? In Kenny's view, it's knowing someone on the inside who will think of you. And recommend you.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Specializing In the Impossible

For me, it's always refreshing to spend a couple hours with Kenny Moore. Yesterday, I had another such opportunity.

The St. Matthias Employment Ministry had invited Kenny to be the guest speaker for a mini-retreat called "Keeping Your Sanity, Your Sense of Humor, and Your Soul in Today's Workplace." Attracting an audience of the unemployed, as well as some who are employed, Kenny shared his wisdom. Here are a couple of his points that deeply resonated with me.

Stop looking for answers - Most of us have been trained in problem solving. And we are good at it. We know how to find solutions. Trouble is, however, that the situations we are facing in today's economy (such as protracted unemployment) are not problems that have clear solutions anymore. Now we face predicaments, dilemmas that are ambiguous, uncertain. Stop looking for answers, Kenny says. They don't exist. Instead, look for movement.

Ask better questions - So what to do in the face of predicaments? Ask better questions, Kenny recommends. Not small questions. But rather big, bold, game-changing questions. Questions that may never be answered in our lifetimes. Such questions will generate innovative thinking and movement forward.

Specialize in the impossible - Kenny shared a quote from the poet Theodore Roethke: "What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible." That is, people who are comfortable (at least somewhat) with the ambiguity and uncertainty of predicaments. People who have the courage to abandon the search for answers. People who ask big questions.

In todays' world and workplaces, Kenny says that often we are faced with nothing less than Mystery, an ancient word rooted in the idea of closing one's lips in the presence of something enigmatic, unknowable. Perhaps even the working of the Divine in our lives.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Posted October 25, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Change One Thing

In the comedy City Slickers, the hapless hero Mitch(Billy Crystal) learns an important life lesson from the grizzled old cowboy Curly (played by the incomparable Jack Palance):

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [pause] This. [holds up one finger]

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.

Mitch: But what is the “one thing?”

Curly: [smiles] That’s what you have to find out.

Great scene.

Fast forward to another gem from Peter Bregman, whose recent blog entry about change says:

"Everyone has one thing. Typically, people overwhelm themselves with tasks in their eagerness to make a change successfully. But that's a mistake. Instead, they should take the time up front to figure out the one and only thing that will have the highest impact and then focus 100% of their effort on that one thing."

Great point.

But like Mitch from City Slickers, how do you find out the one thing to focus on?

Bregman offers an interesting example from a retail organization that had identified the ten "Gold" behaviors of excellent salespeople. After awhile, when sales didn't improve, Bregman helped the store to realize that there was one behavior that all the salespeople were avoiding. When they shifted focus from the nine and put laser focus only on that one, sales improved.

The lesson for figuring out Your One Thing that, if you focused on it, would lead to a breakthrough?

Step back from everything you are doing. Ask yourself, What is the thing I am avoiding? Isolate it and capture it as clearly as you can. Then, do it.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, October 17, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Highly Engaged Parishes

Have you ever wanted to boost the engagement level of the people who belong to your church?

What would do it? Better sermons? Better building facilities? Greater use of technology? More (or less) music? Shorter services?

I've been asked by my pastor to work with him, his staff and other lay leaders on a parish-wide engagement initiative. We are tackling a huge question:

- How to energize and mobilize more of our parishioners to get in the game and contribute more of their time, talent, and treasure to the mission of the parish

To help get everyone's thinking juices flowing, we are all reading a book called Growing An Engaged Church by Rev. Albert L. Winseman, published by Gallup Press. The book's subtitle is good: How to stop "Doing Church" and start Being the church again.

The other day on the ODNet listserv, I was reminded of a humorous old saying about involvement and commitment:

"Question: What can you learn about "involvement" and "commitment" from a chicken and a pig?

Answer: In a ham and eggs breakfast, the chicken is involved. The pig is committed

I've always smiled at the truth in that good old chicken and pig saying.

Distilling the body of knowledge on engagement from Gallup, Winseman suggests an engagement strategy that includes three pillars:

1. Clarify the expectations for membership

2. Help the members discover what they do best

3. Create small groups

In the Roman Catholic Christian tradition, we talk about conversion. In this case, we are seeking a conversion of the heart, one that would be an awakening to the meaning of discipleship.

In one scripture passage, Jesus is asked "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

His answer: "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

Sounds to me like Jesus is asking for the pig, not the chicken.

As St. James famously said, You can't profess to truly have faith unless it's backed up by works.

~ "What good is it if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.." (James 2: 14-17)

If we want to change this place for the better, we can't merely sit and talk. Doing and Believing are both required.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, October 15, 2009

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Journey Coaching

In my preparation to teach a class on leadership for supervisors this week, I came across an old favorite, the GROW model of coaching. It's been around a long time, and even has a wikipedia article devoted to it, where the authors trace its lineage back to the book The Inner Game of Tennis by tennis coach Timothy Gallwey.

The GROW coaching model works like this:

G = Goal - Start with the goal. What is it you want to achieve?

R = Reality - Then look at where you are now, the present reality. Assess the gap between the reality and the goal state.

O = Obstacles & Options - In looking at the gap that you'll need to journey, identify, as best you can, any obstacles you can see or think you are likely to encounter. Then generate alternative options for ways to deal with the obstacles and successfully traverse the gap.

W = Way - Finally chart your course, the way you will go from where you are now to where you want to arrive.

Very simple and elegant. Just the kind of model I like best.

I've been coaching for many, many years. Both as a parent and in my field of Training and Organization Development, coaching comes with the job. (I even had the opportunity to develop a global coaching model for the world's foremost authority on management development.) And for the past several years, I've been doing quite a bit of career coaching, helping job hunters to find their way toward employment.

Now I have a quandary before me. Since there are a plethora of coaching flavors on the market today --executive coaches, business coaches, life coaches, sales coaches, and career coaches, to name a few-- What sort of coach am I?

In thinking about it for a long time, I'd say I am a Journey Coach.

Throughout my life, I've always felt drawn to the call of the journey. I like to take trips, and absolutely love poring over maps, looking for routes between point A and point B. Even while travelling abroad, say in Ireland or Germany, one of my favorite things to do is find back roads that would enable us to get where we wanted to go but see the local color along the way. (That's probably why I like travel guru Rick Steves so much.)

And now with Google Earth, I can zoom in and peruse roads in the Ukraine and figure out how to get from Kiev to Tarascha where some of my ancestors came from. Some day I hope to make that trip.

So, to net it out, I've come to the conclusion that the coach I see in the mirror is a Journey Coach, one who helps others to find their way toward their goals.

Maybe that's why I decided to call myself the learningvoyager when I started to blog in 2004?

As Alan Cohen has written, integrity is "when the life you are living on the outside matches who you are on the inside."

Update Added July 1, 2010: Adapting the Shared Wisdom model of Sr. Mary Benet McKinney, I have added a first step before GROW that I call WISE which stands for:

W = Wise Words: What is your piece of the wisdom on the topic at hand?

I = Internalize: What does it say to you? What does it call you to?

S = Share: Share with others. Seek their share of the wisdom.

E = Externalize: What does it mean to the team? the organization? the customer?

The WISE+GROW Journey Coaching model can be used with individuals and teams. It starts with sharing wisdom on a topic or issue. The client(s) and coach share and discuss their pieces of the wisdom, even bringing in wise external perspectives. This careful sifting is a discernment process that feeds and enriches the goal setting process.

This post written by Terrence Seamon on October 7, 2009. For more tips on journey coaching, sharing wisdom, and goal setting, check out Terry's website Facilitation Solutions and invite him to your organization.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Meeting With Kenny Moore

Blogger Dick Richards wrote a great book called Is Your Genius At Work?

Best-selling author, former Catholic monk, and present-day business consultant, Kenny Moore could write one called Is Your Soul At Work?

The answer, of course, is Yes. But for many people, there is a deep disconnect between their jobs and their spiritual dimension.

To help address this, Kenny is blogging, consulting and speaking all over the place, including at my parish, St. Matthias in Somerset on October 24. It's a free, interactive, and entertaining afternoon of reflection, designed to explore the spiritual side of earning a livelihood while living out one's vocation in the marketplace.

His irreverent perspective is refreshing, and his wisdom is insightful.

If you are in the central NJ area and want to attend, here is the info you'll need:

Where: St. Matthias in the school cafeteria - 170 JFK Blvd. Somerset, NJ 08873
When: Saturday, October 24, 2009 from 1:00 - 4:30pm
To Register: Contact me at

Posted by Terrence Seamon, October 6, 2009