A Coach Looks at 50


January 31st, 2018 was a significant day in my house.

I turned 50 that day and I thought I would share a few reflections from hitting this monumental age. What did I do that day…I helped get our 3 kids that live at home to school. Checked in with our daughter in college. I went to an 8am coaching session with a client. I then traveled about 1 hour to lead an offsite with a new CEO and his executive team. My wife met me at the site and we had a nice dinner and evening of real, adult conversations. We did not celebrate with the kids until a few days later but that was by choice since they had basketball practice, church activities, etc.

What struck me was that this was a pretty normal day (except for the special dinner.) I woke up the next day, got a run in, did normal work and led another offsite that evening. Sounds almost boring, right? Except I loved it. I got to work with clients who I respect and admire what they are trying to do. I got to spend time with my fantastic family and I found time to get a run in. This led me to some interesting insights. This milestone birthday has touched more deeply than any other milestones. 18 and 21 seemed normal. 30—happily married; expecting a child; good job; 40-happily married; 4 children; busy lives but in the right place; 50-happily married; 1 kid in college; life moving fast; first time realizing that I may have lived more life than I have left to live…hmmm?!!

Other insights:

·       I do not think I will ever own a briefcase again

·       I am pretty sure I am done playing racquetball

·       I do not think I will ever own a 3 piece suit

·       I wonder how long I will continue to run 4-5 miles a day. If you had asked at 18 if I would still be running at 50, I would have thought you lost your mind!

·       How have I not gone to Ireland yet? (lots of Irish ancestors!)

·       I do not spend much time caring what others think of me

·       I feel pretty confident in almost all situations

·       I am so blessed to have my parent’s and my wife’s parents alive and in good health. I know this will probably not be the case at 60.

·       I love the work I get to do and will always do some form of this work

·       I spend more time on things I love to do vs. spending times on things I think should or ought to do (coaching sports with kids is great; serving on another volunteer board feels like a should right now.)

·       I am blessed with many friends and I wish I had time to see them more. I will work on seeing them more in my 50’s.


So what does this mean for you? I have found it helpful to sit on the back porch and reflect on my life. It has made me intentional in what I say yes to and what I should stop doing. I encourage you to take some time this year to pause and reflect on your life.

·       What activities are serving you best?

·       Who helps you be your best?

·       What blocks you from being your best?

·       Who is an energy vampire for you that you need to distance yourself from?

·       What are some things you would like to do in the next 2-3 years?

I love books and it is hard for me to let them go. However, the clutter was also making it hard for me to concentrate at times. I donated over 75 books and passed on another 50 to colleagues. It was really hard but I love having a clean bookshelf to fill up with new treasures. Another thought is, can you combine 2 things to help gain more efficiency? I love to run and I do not get to see my friends enough. I go on runs now with friends. I release the speed we are going and just enjoy the time to connect. They normally make me talk during the run, talk during lunch or with a beer afterwards. It works out well for us. How about you…what are finding in your life? Let me know and have an awesome 2018!

Creating Life Margins


We recently conducted a Team offsite.  It was what many organizations do in preparation for a new year.  Our leadership director, Jennifer Owen-O’Quill, did a fabulous job in leading us through the thought process for focusing on things that help drive success.

During our discussion, the topic of life margin came up.  For those who were familiar with life margin, this resonated highly.  Those that were not, it needed some further explanation.  In short, it was about the real vs the ideal.  In other words, how do we make the big things happen without getting excessively overwhelmed? We work on creating margin in our lives.

Scott Eblin in his excellent book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative,
reminds us that we need to be mindful of what our best looks and feels like. My experience has been that the resolution to almost all our professional / personal challenges is linked to how mindful we are of the balance between these four areas:

                                         Time, Energy, People and Communication

Tips for creating life margin:

§  Define the ideal vs the real and intentionally sculpt time to move life towards the ideal.

§  Actively manage personal energy in addition to managing time on the calendar.

§  Set tactful boundaries around people and limit exposure to negativity or toxicity.

§  Know our default personality wiring and that of the important people around us.

The goal is to create some margin for error and for the unexpected. For this to happen we really
have two choices. We can either work faster or accept that not everything will get done, (at least
when we think it should). Please understand this is not excusing lack of productivity, quite the opposite, it’s protecting it! If we can intentionally build in margin, we have some wiggle room and will become less stressed, healthier and more productive.

                            Living habitually in an overwhelmed state is a recipe for disaster

I will be presenting in an academic setting on Stephen Covey’s seventh habit, sharpening the saw. To sharpen the saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have--you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Stephen Covey points out examples of activities that create life margin and sharpen the saw below.

1)     Physical:                    Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting

2)     Social/Emotional:     Making social and meaningful connections with others

3)     Mental:                      Learning, reading, writing, and teaching

4)     Spiritual:                   Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through                                                           meditation, music, art, prayer, or service

Some of my favorite / memorable quotes from Mr. Covey:

§  Start with the end in mind.

§  Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

§  The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

§  The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule,
but to schedule your priorities.

§  Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication.
It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships.

§  There are three constants in life...change, choice and principles.

§  Live out of your imagination, not your history.

§  Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

§  The way we see the problem is the problem.

§  Effective leadership puts first things first. Effective management is discipline,
carrying it out

            So, let’s go out there and create some life margin then fill in around the edges. Cheers!

The 5 Stay Questions


I recently attended a professional meeting where colleague of mine presented some excellent and timely information.  As our economy heats up and job opportunities become more plentiful, it is incumbent on employers to fully understand why people stay in their jobs. Improving employee engagement and retention is more important then ever to keep high performing people on your team.

It got me thinking about a recent radio show that Voltage CEO Jeff Smith and I did on the topic of retention.  We used the term re-recruiting to describe how to keep valuable people from leaving the organization.

Jeff made the point that when a star performer comes to you, the leader, and says, “I’m thinking about taking an offer from another organization. What do you think my chances are for advancement here?” By that time, it’s too late.  The star performer has already entertained and turned over in their own minds the proposition of working elsewhere, (you are just the last to know).

Below are what Richard Finnegan, the author of The Power of Stay Interviews, calls the five stay interview questions. These may be very appropriate to incorporate into periodic re-recruiting meetings in 1:1 mode behind the manager’s closed door.

1. When you travel to work each day, what things do you look forward to?

The opening clause, “When you travel to work each day”, encourages the employee to imagine their daily commute to capture their everyday images in the here and now. Then asking them what they look forward to drives them to their positive images.

2. What are you learning here?

“Learning” in the present tense sends the compelling message that we want you to grow, to prosper for both yourself and our organization. When employees answer and hear their own lists, they
know they are developing and not standing still.

We encourage managers to engage employees in career discussions built around the word “skills”. For example:

“What skills would you like to build?”
“What skills do you think are required for that position?”
“What skills do you possess that are not being fully utilized on your present role?”

3. Why do you stay here?

The goal here is for the employee to drill down, identify, and then verbalize why they stay. The initial response might be something mundane like,” I have to pay the bills” or “Because its familiar and steady”. The manager may respond by saying something like “Of course, me too, but I really want to learn why you stay. Please take a few moments and let me know what you really think”.

The point is that few employees really take the time to consider why they stay and voice them once they have been challenged to think about them. This is a very “local” discussion, one that hits close to home. It needs to be done thoughtfully as the employee just might be thinking, “Yep you are right. I am so out of here.”.

4. When was the last time you thought about leaving our team? What prompted it?

This question gets to the core of retention issues. Everyone at some point in their tenure thinks about
leaving at one time or another. Some of the drill down questions are:

“How important is that issue to you today?”
“Can I count on you to come 1:1 if you ever feel that way again?”

“What’s the single most important thing I can do to make it better?”
“How often has that happened?”

5. What can I do to make your experience at work better for you?

This question is often seen a lip service or as a cliché. It is about building the trust bridge behind the manager’s closed door. It requires the manager to be comfortable in their own skin and not react defensively. The responses from this dialog often provide insight into regarding how the manager can adapt their leadership style with each employee.

 “Do I recognize you appropriately when you do something well?
 “How do you like to be recognized? Privately? In public?”

“Are my work instructions clear?”
“Are there times you don’t always understand what is expected?”

“Do I seem genuinely interested in your career here?”

“Am I with you enough? Not enough? Too much?”

"Three Clicks": What are realistic coaching outcomes?


The professional ranks today are filled with coaches of all kinds.  These include life coaches, career coaches, financial, spiritual, business and athletic coaches. In all coaching endeavors, it is wise to define desired and realistic outcomes at the beginning of the coaching process.

By beginning with the end in mind, establishing a common language and working backwards from desired outcomes, coaches are often able to add insight that the coaching client would not have obtained on their own, (or at least not as quickly)

For example, golf swing coaches are able to provide a unique perspective because of their objective external view. They enable their coaching subjects to get out of body to better understand what needs to be worked on in order to improve. And all golfers want to improve!

Likewise, management and executive coaches enable their coaching subjects to get out of body more quickly in order to improve, ie remove limiting behaviors. Very often we see people who are technically excellent at what they do. Almost always, the obstacles they may experience have to do with the people part and not the technical part.

What are realistic outcomes in professional coaching?

Ironically, the same things that made them successful in their careers to this point may be the same things that now limit their upward mobility. It is the wise coach who understands that their client subjects operate within a vocal range. All vocalists are born with a default vocal range that can be improved and expanded. However, it is very rare to expand their range beyond two to three octaves.
In other words, it is not realistic to expect an outcome beyond the person's range without damaging themselves.

Likewise, we in professional coaching we deal with people that have default positions with regard to personality and motivation. And it may be just as unrealistic to expect and outcome beyond that individuals range without unintended consequences.

Three Clicks:

In working with many management and executive leaders over the years, I have found that the most realistic and beneficial outcomes are those that move in a three-increment range aka three clicks.

The goal is not to take somebody from a 3 or 4 in EQ to a 9 or 10.  Doing so may take them so far away from their core capabilities that it is counterproductive, ie the unintended consequences of damaging their careers. However, when realistic and achievable goals are defined, the opposite is often true. And that is upward mobility as incremental movement has been demonstrated.

The goal is to move the individual who may be at 3 or 4, three incremental clicks up the scale over time.

        > Click one-  "Piercing the corporate veil", ie the initial understanding of the                                    current state during the first 30 days of the coaching                                                                engagement

        > Click two-  Ownership and transparent understanding of potential limiting                                   behaviors and co-creation of near-term goals, deliverables and                                                 accountability. Approximately within the first 60 days of engagement.

         > Click three- Demonstrable success in applying tips, tools and guidance                                          obtained in coaching mode. At least one or more "wins" to point to, ie feedback                       from reporting relationships, colleagues and peers. This is somewhat similar to                         when people notice something different about you as if you've lost 10lbs or have                       seem to have a new outlook.

In this way, our core strengths are maintained and we have demonstrated movement up the scale. The 4 may become a 5-6-7 and from the default position of 4 is quite noticeable indeed. In summary, please keep in mind that some of our most successful clients have walked this exact path to upward mobility.


These Steps Map Your Future Fulfillment. Are You Ready to Take Them?


In my recent blog article, Look Back to Move Forward, I encouraged a Review Process of the previous year before sitting down to reflect on the changes to make in 2018.  The review allows our vision to be tethered to reality, while simultaneously harnessing the energy of success.

Then, with clear eyes and a sense of accomplishment, we can look ahead to the coming year.  

With a clear picture of the change that has already taken place in our lives, we begin our thinking about the coming year with a sense of possibility:

I achieved.

I learned.

I am ready to do something new.

Something more…

You are ready for your Future Fulfillment Questions.  Here we begin to Imagine:

1.      What do I want to accomplish in 2018?

2.      What do I want to learn?

3.      What do I want to achieve?

4.      What new approach do I want to explore?

Jot all these ideas down.  Then go back and look at what was possible last year.

With that as your reality check, plan and prioritize.  Ask:

·        What can I really commit to accomplishing?

·        What habit could I add to my day that will best contribute to accomplishing my priorities?

·        What habit could I erase that will best contribute to accomplishing my priorities?

Now you are ready to Commit.

All you need now is a Habit App, and you are ready to go.

HabitBull, Productive, Strides and Habitica are just a few of the free apps that can help you make progress on a productive, rewarding 2018.

Cheers to your success as we ring out one year and ring in the new!