Showing posts from 2010

The King's Coach

The new film The King's Speech, starring Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, and Geoffrey Rush, is a lovely and touching true story of how Britain's King George VI, struggling with a life-long debilitating stammer, ascended to the throne on the eve of England's entrance into the second world war.

Not only is this a worthy movie for any who enjoy a high quality film, but this is one with particular relevance to those in the field of coaching. In fact, you could easily rename this film The King's Coach as it centers on the efforts of one Lionel Logue, a speech therapist from Australia, who is enlisted to work with "Bertie" (as the King was known by his family).

Late in the film, when Bertie is informed by his handlers that Logue is not a doctor and has no credentials, the King is enraged and accuses Logue of being a fraud. Then, in one of the film's most moving sections, Logue explains himself. He never called himself "Dr." Logue. He never claimed to…

Three Wishes for Workplaces in 2011

As we swiftly glide toward the end of 2010, many of us in the blogosphere turn our thoughts to the changes we wish would come true in the New Year ahead. In this post, in keeping with an age-old tradition, I will make only three wishes. At the same time, I will keep in mind the saying "Be careful what you wish for..." because you might get something you did not intend at all.

Wish 1 - That more workplaces will become truly great places to work, i.e., ones where management understands their stewardship role that putting Purpose, People, and Planet ahead of short-term Profit is the true path to sustainability.

Wish 2 - That more workplaces will become Results Only Work Environments (ROWE) where people are expected to produce, are supported to excel, and trusted to do what needs to be done to serve the customer.

Wish 3 - That more workplaces will become high engagement systems that bring out the best in people, leading to extraordinary results for customers and for employees.

As …

The Employee Engagement Equation

Even though many organizations demonstrated clearly by their recent decisions (i.e., downsizing) that they see people as costs, I still buy into the saying that "people are an organization's most important asset." Why? Look at the research emerging in the past twenty years or so around the Employee Engagement Equation:

~ the more engaged your workforce = the more productive and profitable your company

What many had believed for so long is now evidence based. Trouble is, do business heads know it? Do they get it?

The challenge before HR and OD practitioners is to do a good job of convincing our clients in the C-suites that investments in people will grow the business.

Recently fellow blogger Lance Haun posted his thoughts on the reasons why CEOs don't care about employee engagement. I added this thought:

"Good post, Lance. If I may add my two cents, one of the blockages that some CEOs have is that "they are funny that way." Meaning, they are wired to focu…

On Being Humble

During a recent supervisory skills class that I was teaching, the group agreed that an effective boss is humble. Now there's a perspective you don't run into a lot. So let's take a closer look at the meaning of being humble.

My wife Joan is an avid gardener. Someday I hope to see her earn the Master Gardener certification because she is certainly a good candidate. For one thing, she is not afraid of getting dirty. In fact, if she is having a good day outside, you'll find her covered from head to toe in dirt. And loving it!

As a child, I too was really into dirt --digging in the backyard, exploring gullies that fed into the Raritan River, or tunneling in sand at the beach-- much of it in search of rocks, old coins, fossils, and shells for my collection.

Last year, I saw a science news story that said how important dirt is for our health. Dermatologist Professor Richard Gallo, of University of California at San Diego, said: “These germs (present in dirt) are actually good…

When the Going Gets Tough

Why do employees hate their bosses?

Is that question stated too strongly? Is "hatred" too strong a term? Recently on LinkedIn, someone asked a similar question. And most of the first twenty or so replies reacted to the word "hatred."

Having worked with many diverse organizations for thirty years on management and leadership development, I've got a take on this.

Sometimes the boss becomes the focal point for employees' "hatred" because they see him or her as the source of their unhappiness at work. In some cases, the boss may indeed be a contributor; being "boss" is not a job for just anyone. In other cases, the boss is simply the conduit or messenger of pressure from higher levels.

There is an old expression "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." While there is truth in it, we need to create some new sayings to accompany the first one.

- When the going gets so tough that the pressure starts to make employees crack under …

Little Monsters

A client of mine remarked that coaches have to be careful because, if they push too hard, the result can be monsters rather than good team players.

I was teaching a class on managerial coaching and we were talking about our own life experiences of coaches and coaching. The client's comment about creating monsters sparked the entire group into a lively conversation about the impact that coaches can have on children, and perhaps on adults as well.

He told us the story of his son who is a champion swimmer in high school. When this swimmer was much younger, there was a certain swim team that he competed against, a team that was so driven to win by its coaches that they were the meanest and most feared club in the league. When they won, they triumphed. When they lost, you did not want to be there. At one such match, the silver medal went to one of this team's swimmers. The child angrily threw his medal to the ground and stormed off to the parking lot, cussing as he went, his haples…

On the Meaning of Work

My old friend, who is passing through New Jersey on his way to Virginia to visit his grown children, told me at dinner the other night that he plans to build his daughter and son-in-law a work bench in their garage and a cabinet for their TV.

My friend is retired. And has been in retirement for years since leaving AT&T after a long career.

I'm often amazed at the industriousness of some retirees!

For my friend, these projects he will undertake are not "work." To be sure, these projects will require planning, measurement, and skillful execution. But they are not a drudgery for him. In fact, he looks forward to them with great anticipation and can't wait to see the delight on his kids' faces when they behold the final result. For him, this work is a pleasure.

Have you ever felt that way about your work?

What is it, sometimes, about work that doesn't feel like work? Recently at my church, St. Matthias in central New Jersey, we explored this question.

Our Emplo…

5 Practices of SMART Job Hunters

Since starting this blog back in 2004, when (according to my friend and fellow career blogger Alexandra Levit) I was one of the first voices blogging about career issues, the blogosphere has exploded with a plethora of wonderful career experts and resources.

In fact, it's somewhat overwhelming. How do fledgling job seekers sift and sort through it all to discover the most reliable voices and the best ideas that will help them find meaningful re-employment?

First, let me list a few voices that I admire and follow. Then, I will outline five practices that I frequently recommend to job hunters.

Some reliable and generous career experts:

Alexandra Levit = her blog is called Water Cooler Wisdom

Abby Kohut = her blog is Absolutely Abby

Hannah Morgan = her blog is Career Sherpa (I love that metaphor!)

Nick Corcodilos = his blog is Ask The Headhunter

Donna Svei = her blog is Avid Careerist

And the Career Realism blog

Note: There are many many more that have a lot of good advice for today'…

Leading In Chaotic Times

"May you live in interesting times." A curse, right? According to wikipedia, it may derive from a Chinese saying. That saying is itself interesting:

~ "It's better to be a dog in a peaceful time than a man in a chaotic period."

Chaotic times, eh? Surely we are living in chaotic times. A period of change, stress, ambiguity, even confusion, leaving many bewildered and lost.

What sort of leader do we need in a time such as this?

Lately, our federal leaders have been putting the emphasis on the need to communicate more clearly. While I would never disagree with that, there is another capability we sorely need.

Here's a true story. A "rising star" manager was at the front of the room giving a high-stakes presentation to a senior level audience when a slide came up with a typo on it. The word was supposed to be "new" but it appeared as "now." This young hi-po was so adept that he instantly incorporated the typo into his talk, delighti…

The Batting Coach Revisited: The Incredible Power of Coaching

Five years ago, I wrote a blog entry called "The Batting Coach" that it's now time to revisit. So, first a republication of the original post, followed by new material on the incredible power of coaching.

The Batting Coach (first published in 2005)

As a Little Leaguer, I was not much of a ball-player. A fact that bothered me, but also bothered my dad. My father was an uber-athlete, a champion in his youth, and a coach, referee and umpire in his middle-age. Sport was everything to him. And four out of his five sons followed suit.

The fifth son, yours truly, was the exception. More of an egghead than the others, I was best at academic performance, and a shambles on the ball field. I had no skills and little discernible aptitude.

My dad was encouraging but he tended to invest his energies in the other better players. One evening at baseball practice, an assistant coach named Ed approached me. I was pretty amazed that he was even speaking to me since I was a third-string…

Twentysomethings Go to Work

Recently at the Employee Engagement Network, Bob Wiebe of Enliven Consulting asked this question:

"Young people are given bad press in some circles for not meeting employer needs. Perhaps you have encountered the young person who is rude or inattentive or sloppy, or who has what (used to be) called a poor "work ethic". How does one engage the young person (teen, early 20's) in their work?"

As the proud parent of two twenty-something sons, one who has graduated from college and entered the workforce, and one who is a senior in college, I jumped in and made the following contribution to the discussion.

What do twentysomethings want at work? My 23 year old stopped by this weekend, so I grabbed the opportunity to put the question to him. He said:

- I'll work hard for you (the employer), but this job is not my life. I've got dreams and I'm going somewhere.

- Let me use my creativity and bring my personality to the work. Don't treat me with a cookie cu…

Now That's What I Call Leadership!

So much is written about leadership! Qualities of leaders. Traits of leaders. It's all interesting, to be sure. But, at the end of the day, you may be thinking: If you want to be a leader, what should you do?

There is wisdom to be found in the old saying "I'll know it when I see it." In other words, what do we see actual leaders doing?

The good news for students of leadership is that there are real life lessons all around us, each and every day. Take President Obama for example. He acknowledged the other day that he and the Dems took a shellacking in the mid-term election of November 2. He went on to say about leadership that:

"...leadership is not just's a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone. And making an argument that people can understand."

His main point (and his learning) was that his message did not get through.

Looking at his statement, it seems he is talking, at leas…

HR and OD - What Does the Future Hold?

Over five years ago, I published a blog entry, on the relationship between HR and OD, that has consistently been one of the most read posts on Here We Are. Now What?

Now the OD Network has released the latest issue of OD Practitioner devoted to the same topic. While my copy has not come in the mail yet, I've heard it has a great line-up including Ed Schein, Matt Minihan, and Dave Hanna.

So in view of this resurgent interest, I thought I should re-publish my take from 2005, plus add some current thoughts at the end. Enjoy.

Why HR and OD Don't Get Along

There is an article in the current issue of Fast Company magazine, called "Why We Hate HR," that is getting a lot of discussion at places like ODNET and HRNET. I have even weighed in a bit at those two discussions.

In this blog entry, however, I am going to look at a different angle, the relationship between HR and OD.

HR and OD are related functions in many organizations, where both are concerned about critical people proc…

Falling and Rising

Did you ever have the great pleasure of observing a baby learning to walk? Though she falls many times, she rises, going right back, trying, striving over and over until, on staggering legs, she takes that first step. Whoever has witnessed a baby's triumph knows the joy of that moment.

Learning to walk, you might say, is the first task we undertake. Our first job. It is filled with set-backs as the performer tries and falls, over and over.

For me, this human process, one that happens the world over every day in every land, is a paradigm of the meaning of work in our lives. What if we applied this paradigm to organizations? Would workplaces become more human?

Throughout our lives, we strive toward deeply felt aspirations, ones that we instinctively know in our bones. We fall, many times, but after every fall, we rise. We rise and continue to strive. Until we make it.

But there is one more vital component in this process: loving support. In the baby example, the parent watches closely.…

Listen, the Key to Engaging Others

6 months ago on linkedIn, Ayesha Habeeb asked, "What is the one thing you need to do to keep employees motivated and engaged?"

The one thing is Listen.

L = Lead by listening to employees and learning from them.

I = Invite employees to say their piece of the wisdom regarding improving their work process...and how to make the company great.

S = Stopping what you are doing so you can be attentive to them.

T = Taking notes on their ideas...and then taking action, doing something with what you heard.

E = Empowering them to implement the best ideas.

N = Never stop focusing on employees and what they need.

If you are a leader, you probably want to motivate people, to solve problems, and to better serve the customer. The key? Listen to your people.

Last week, on an episode of the TV show Undercover Boss, CEO Bryan Bedford of Frontier Airlines, demonstrated the power of listening as he spent a week inside his company's operation, listening to front-line employees. He got "down…

Change: It Can Break Your Heart

Yesterday, for more than an hour, I watched a team of tree cutters in my backyard, taking down a 200 year old swamp maple. Like an acrobat, the guy in the tree, working closely with his team on the ground, took branch by branch, until only a stump remained.

My wife and I are sad about the destruction of a tree we had come to know for over 20 years. We knew the tree was old and that it wasn't well. We once had a tree whisperer visit our yard. He looked at it and said, "It's old. And mostly dead. But it will still give off branches and leaves each year. Until it falls down."

So, our neighbor decided to reduce the risk of the old maple toppling over on his house.

It was the right thing to do. Although the tree had been here longer than anyone in my town, dating back to post-colonial times -- an historic tree, you might say -- it was time. The tree had become a worry. And a hazard. What if it fell in a storm and took out a fence or a back porch...or a person?

Sometimes chang…

The Power of HOPE

Imagine being buried alive under tons of rock, half a mile below the surface of the earth. That's the situation that the Chilean miners found themselves in. But 70 days later, the Miracle in the Mine happened: all 33 were rescued, in a flawless operation, shown on live TV, broadcast to billions around the world!

Their story proves the power of HOPE:

- Help each other - These rough and ready men realized that they had to support one another if there was any hope of survival.

- Optimistic Outlook - Though, for the first couple weeks, the outside world thought the men were lost, the miners stayed positive. Miner Mario Sepulveda said: "I have been with God and I've been with the devil. I fought between the two. I seized the hand of God, it was the best hand. I always knew God would get us out of there." Whether faith in God, or the thought of seeing a spouse or child again, they found a lifeline, a way to hold on and maintain a hopeful outlook despite their predicament.

Making Sense of Change

Sometimes things happen in life that leave us devastated. Losing a job, for example. Or losing a loved one. These sudden and drastic changes cause our life structure to disintegrate, leaving us perplexed and gasping for understanding, wondering Why this has happened to us.

As an organizational change consultant, one of my chief influences is the social psychologist Karl Weick who coined the term sensemaking. Making sense of our life experience is a core human activity. We are doing it all the time, but barely notice it. Except for times when things change dramatically.

For example, in the personal realm, look at the loss of a loved one. You spend months dwelling on why it happened. Trying to make sense out of it. But you really never can. Hopefully you subscribe to a belief system (e.g. a religion or a non-religion) that helps you to categorize the loss. So you can move on. And get on with your life.

In the white-water of today's change-filled organizations, sensemaking is in overdri…

On Natural and Un-Natural Change

These days, many are wondering about change. In the natural world, there's global climate change. In the political world, there's Obama's progressive agenda dubbed "Change you can believe in."

The Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius said: "We shrink from change. Yet is there anything that can come into being without it?"

For me, change is life itself. We live with change (e.g. getting older, losing a loved one etc) and we make change in our lives (e.g. moving out of our parents' house and getting an apartment, changing jobs, etc). With wisdom, we come to understand the natural role of change, our feelings about change, and the need to initiate change at times.

Change management professionals would do well to have a baby. (Or, if a baby is too dramatic, get a puppy. Puppies would be a close second to a baby.)

Having a baby says it all about change. They change your life. And you need to adapt. You now have a little life that you are responsibl…

Using the CASE Method: How HR and OD Can Improve Performance

On one of LinkedIn’s Organization Development groups, a member asked for responses on this question: “How do you determine the most critical priorities for OD and HR? What process do you use to ensure that your team is addressing the issues most critical to organizational success?”

I answered, use the CASE method:

C = Customers – All organizations exist to serve a customer. Take a good hard look at your organization. How customer-focused are you as a team? Do you know your customer’s business, including their goals and needs? Are you adding value? Are you easy to do business with?

A = Adaptability – All organizations must constantly adapt to their ever-changing environments. It’s Systems Thinking 101. To adapt continuously, they need to learn and change and improve. Learning and Change are two strategically critical processes that OD and HR can have a major role in via the Training & Development, and Organization Development, functions.

S = Strategy – Speaking of strategy, how strateg…

Cognitive Dissonance

Fellow blogger Jen Turi recently blogged about cognitive dissonance as it relates to customer service and organizational performance.

In her blog entry, Jen writes about a customer service rep who is trained to take good care of the customer, but at the same time, she is told to get customers off the phone fast. The faster, the better. And faster was rewarded vs really taking the time to listen to customers and determine how best to help them.

Until seeing her posting, I realized I hadn't thought about cognitive dissonance in quite awhile. Coined decades ago by social psychologist Leon Festinger, the concept is simple: sometimes we find ourselves with two conflicting thoughts. When we experience this disturbing discord of thoughts, what do we do?

In his classic study, When Prophecy Fails, Festinger describes the solution hit upon by a group of people waiting for a spaceship to pick them up as the world comes to its end. When the date comes and goes, and they are still stranded on p…

Designing a Positive Workplace Culture

I recently had the opportunity to offer ideas to a large global organization on how to design a positive workplace culture.

Knowing something about the organization, I suggested that they establish a Positive Workplace Practices "center of excellence," i.e., a small team of internal consultants that would provide expertise on such issues as engagement, respect, and organizational justice.

At this point, I have no idea how far this idea will get, or whether it will ever see the light of day in that organization.

But I must say, I feel exhilarated. There's something so exciting (at least to me) about envisioning what an organization can be.

If you are interested in envisioning the best for your organization, let me know. I'd be happy to dream with you.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Sept 16, 2010. If you would like more ideas on visioning, culture, and ways to design a positive workplace, contact Terry and invite him to your organization.

This blog is now on alltop careers!

On 9/11.

On the morning of September the 11th, I am pondering whether we have learned anything about finding ways to live together in peace since 9-11.

Like many, I am following the news stories every day, such as the Florida pastor who intends to burn the Koran, the release of the American hikers in Iran, and the controversial Islamic center near Ground Zero.

Have we learned anything since 9-11?

Here are some examples of wisdom that I am pondering:

~ Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.- Martin Luther King Jr.

~ You can't shake hands with a clenched fist. - Indira Gandhi

~ Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. - Rumi

~ And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8

~ Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Take care of this place. - Motto of many peace schools

So how about You? What are you learning as a result of 9/11?

Posted by Terren…

Five Lessons of Leadership

Do you consider yourself to be a leader? I hope you do. Because being a leader is not something esoteric. It's not something reserved for a small elite.

Rather, as Stephen Covey once said, leadership is a choice. It's something anyone can choose to do, though it's not easy, and takes courage. And in choosing to lead, you learn what it takes, and begin a journey that unfolds throughout your life.

There are many lessons in leading. Here are five lessons from my leadership journey.

The Choice - Stephen Covey said "Leadership is a choice, not a position." But many choose not to lead. Rather, they look down at their feet and wait for someone else to stick their neck out. Yes, leading is a risk. It takes courage. Once my dad said to me, "You've got moxie." Moxie is the ability to face difficulty with spirit and initiative. I like that. When my dad complimented me, saying that I had moxie and was proud of me for a brave thing I did, I felt great.

The Vision - …

Lessons from the Van Cliburn Winners

I recently watched a documentary on TV about the finalists in the 2009 international Van Cliburn piano competition held every four years in Fort Worth, Texas. These young virtuosos were incredibly talented, the best pianists in the world from many countries including the U.S., Japan, Russia, China, Italy, South Korea, and Bulgaria. Extraordinarily competitive, hard working, and driven to be the very best, these world class musicians are top performers. And they thrive on performing, practice, coaching and feedback.

We have all known top performers. Some of us have even been top performers at one point or another. Top performers, such as the Van Cliburn pianists, your top salespeople, or a rising star with “hi-potential,” can benefit by coaching as much as anyone. Perhaps even more so if you look at the parallel to the world's top athletes, e.g. Olympians. Every skier, skater, swimmer and diver that competes in the Olympics has a coach and receives coaching. Although these athletes …

"I Just Graduated. Where's My Job?"

My eldest son graduated from college last year and went right to work for a media company. My wife and I were so thankful and relieved.

Unfortunately, there are many others, graduating with four year degrees (and more) from good schools, who are moving back home with mom and dad, unable to find meaningful work in the field they had hoped to enter.

While there are many reasons for this sad state of affairs, including the terrible job market in many areas, there are things that rising seniors can be doing right now to improve their chances come graduation day.

Recently, Wake Forest University published ten tips for seniors, including such good points as “Register with the university’s career office” and “Make an appointment with a career counselor.” Makes sense to use your school’s resources.

Here are five more suggestions from a parent who has seen his son make a successful transition from school to work:

1. Start working while you are still in school. If possible, start working in your fie…

The Start-Stop-Continue Method

Somewhere long ago in my journey as an Organization Development Guy, I learned an old but evergreen model for initiating productive change, The Start-Stop-Continue Method, that tells us that "doing differently" can take different forms.

It's a practicaltool for leaders, teams, and coaches, easy to grasp, and easy to implement. It asks three empowering questions:

1. What's not working? These are behaviors that we can STOP doing.

2. What might work better for us? What new ideas should we try? These are behaviors that we can START doing.

3. What is working well now, that we should keep on doing? These are behaviors to CONTINUE doing.

Here is one application, focused on helping a leader to improve employee engagement:

- Start: What can You Start doing that would increase employee engagement?

- Stop: What should You Stop doing that would increase engagement?

- Continue: What should You Continue doing that is supporting engagement?

Here's a website where you can find a workshee…

How to Improve Engagement? Just Do It

The gist of this posting, that Employee Engagement Is What You Do, came to me the other day when I found Tim Kastelle's blog entry about strategy called "Strategy is What You Do."Kastelle says:

"...your strategy is not what you say, your strategy is what you do. Strategy is the set of choices you make about what business you are in, and how you’ll win."

As I read this wise posting, I heard myself thinking, Yes! And that goes for Employee Engagement as well. Engaging others is a choice to act in certain ways.

Having explored this topic for the past several years, I know there is controversy about the definitions of employee engagement. Trouble is, if you are a business leader, and you are waiting for consensus on a definition, that day may never arrive.

A better path, in my view, is to start engaging people. Here is a fast start game-plan for getting the engagement engine going in your organization.

- Start with your hiring process. Are you finding the best people to…


I learned about the Hebrew word "teshuva" a couple years ago. It means return and repentance. Here's the story of how I learned it.

In 2008, some friends from Germany were planning to visit us in the States for a joint 25th wedding anniversary getaway to Virginia.

A few weeks before, our friends reached out to us with a special request. Could we add Baltimore to our itinerary as we drove from New Jersey to Washington D.C. and Virginia?

The answer was Yes, of course, since Baltimore is on the way to D.C. No problem, we said. Why?

They said, We want to look up a person who once lived in a nearby town in Germany. She left when she was a child. She is Jewish. Her family fled the Nazis in the late 1930's. We want to tell her that her synagogue has been restored and that she is invited to come back for the dedication ceremony.

How wonderful! we thought. We sprang into action. My wife called her cousin, Fr. Bill, a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Baltimore, and he immediately…

Time Is Life

The Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset once said: “Living is a constant process of deciding what we are going to do.”

For me, there is no better opening thought for a Time Management seminar. “What are you going to do?” is the central question. At home. At work. In life. You have 168 hours in a week. What are you going to do with them?

With Ortega y Gasset in mind, here are a few of the things to think about that will help you manage time, improve your productivity, achieve success, and make the world a better place.

- What are you going to do today? – A central concept in time management is the Daily To Do List. The key is to sort out the trivia and nonsense (the “C” items in the ABC Priority System) from the few critically important “most do” things (via the 80/20 Rule). Ask yourself frequently: What do I have to get done today? Tomorrow? This week? The way to zero in on the “A” items is to identify and stay focused on your Goals and Values.

- What are you going to do next? - …

Questions for Coaching

Virginia-based HR Consultant Linda Ferguson asked this question recently on LinkedIn:

~ "What is your favorite coaching question?"

Now that's a good question, in my opinion. Already, a slew of interesting replies have come in, comprising a compendium of coaching questions. I hope Linda has the time to compile the best responses into a resource for the many coaches out there.

The reason I like Linda's question so much is that I believe that questions are among a coach's most valuable tools. Effective coaches ask questions that stimulate meaningful goals and unleash imaginative solutions.

Questions in a coaching relationship keep the focus on the client, and help a coach to avoid slipping into "tell mode" where a coach starts giving information, telling stories, and offering advice. As useful as those things (information, stories, and advice) can be at the right moment, they put the coach in the spotlight rather than the client.

So an effective coach is loaded…