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My flash of insight: Why I coach

This post from Marshall Goldsmith about flashes of clarity prompted me to take stock of how I came to coaching and where I am now.

The clarity that Marshall speaks of came for him during some very dramatic events in his life: Breaking his neck surfing, being involved in a near-plane crash and observing the plight of starving children in Africa first hand are certainly experiences that will make one look at life differently. The point I took away is that sometimes there needs to be a trigger to help you take stock.

What I decided to look at in my life are a few events that sparked an interest in leadership and coaching for me. These events revolved around my evolution as an adult and leader.

For me it started with my first real, “adult” job. I was working for a railroad in Chicago for a while when I was tapped for promotion to foreman. While it seemed like a plum job, the reality was quite different. Having had no preparation for the position, I learned really quickly that there was a lot I didn’t know about working with people, and it was up to me to figure out what to do through trial and error. Looking back, I doubt I was a terribly effective leader at the time, but it gave me a taste of leadership, and I liked it.

The second clarifying period of my life was when I stumbled into writing software. The act of writing software is solitary, but the real joy for me at the beginning was working with my customer to deliver something that really helped them in their day to day work.

The final event that clarified an interest in helping others through coaching arrived after I had become experienced in Information Technology. Along the way I’d been presented with many roles as a worker bee and a leader, seizing the opportunities as they came up. Coder, systems analyst, team leader, project manager and department manager. They all offered a great deal of technical challenge, which I liked, and the reward of helping to solve a problem. But there was something missing.

As I moved up through the ranks I noticed that I yearned for something more beyond technical skills. I wanted to become more adept at the “language” of leading, and to help other leaders become their best.

That is what brought me to coaching. Combining what I’ve learned in coach training with continuing education and life experience has helped me to help others grow as humans.

And now that I’m here, it’s a pleasure to report that helping others through coaching is all I thought it would be, and more. The “more” is that it’s a continuing journey of learning and honing my skills, both as a coach and a leader.

No Fooling, Sherlock

This years’ IdeaFestival is off to a roaring start with a presentation from Maria Konnikova, author of a book titled Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

Ms. Konnikova suggests that one way to solve problems is to mimic the techniques of observation that Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes used. Studies show that active attention provides more results than being a passive observer. This mindfulness or presence is difficult in practice in our modern world where we have become slaves to constant bombardment of information from different sources.

The thread that ran through all of the days’ IdeaFestival presentations for me was seeing all possibilities.

Alex Stone’s talk on Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind shared the idea of being guided by assumptions, and finding patterns where none seemingly exist.

In his afternoon session, comedian Chris Bliss talked about how every act of communication is actually an act of translation, and it is wise to view failure as another point of information that can be used positively.

Juxtaposed with this was marine biologist Rafe Sagarin, suggesting that it’s as important that we learn from successes as it is from failures. He pointed out how we can observe and learn from about complex systems from nature, and that biology trumps politics.

The day was closed with presentations about different approaches have been taken to solving what appear to be big challenges.

Sandwiched in the middle of all this was a lunchtime talk by Calvin Johnson, who endured a horrendous experience and wrongful incarceration, about his long road to exoneration, thanks to the Innocence Project, and admission of DNA evidence in his case.

An excellent, and a bit exhausting day.

New Ideas, New Learning

We’re often asked why we moved to Louisville from Maine, and the reasons are many.

The weather here is much more moderate than it is in Maine. Yes, there’s still a snow shovel in the garage, but it doesn’t see much use here. Oh, and the summers can be wicked uncomfortable, but air conditioning helps through the worst of it.

But there’s more.

Culturally, for a reasonably-sized city Louisville represents a richness that has many facets. It starts out with a diverse population that we missed in the years we lived in the northeast. There’s more to the equation: From live theater and dynamite restaurants to champion-level college sports and a minor league baseball team, to beautiful parks and walkable neighborhoods. Our fair city ticks most boxes for us.

But the cherry on top of the sundae for us is IdeaFestival. It has become an event that we look forward to every year about this time. You could say it’s Louisville’s TED or PopTech!, but that would just barely scratch the surface of what we have here. IdeaFestival, which bills itself as “a celebration for the intellectually curious.” Bottom line is it presents world class speakers through a local lense to deliver what I can only describe as just mind expanding.



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