The Question Matters


Are You Willing to Work So That You Can Work to Live?

 

Texas Rangers (baseball)

It's Time.

 

I am the master of my schedule.  If an opportunity to spend some extra time with my family comes up, I will often take it.  If the Texas Rangers are playing (hopefully for a while longer) I’ll cut off work a little early to make sure I can catch the game on TV.  If I’m behind on paperwork at home, no big deal.  I’ll just get that done before I start with my work for the day.  Need a long lunch?  OK, I’m not on the clock.  I’ll take an extra 15 minutes and watch a favorite show on DVR.

My work is too often the master of my time.  If the iPhone is in my pocket, I’m always tempted to pick it up even at family activities.  If I’m watching that Texas Rangers game, it may be with my MacBook in my lap dong a little busy work that didn’t get done.  Did I take a longer lunch?  That probably means I’ll close up shop at 10 that night instead of 9:30.

The notion that we can work to live, not live to work is monumental mental shift.  It may be the biggest shift in workforce dynamics since the labor unions a century ago.  In that time, workers stood up for their rights to a decent wage, vacation time, respect in the workplace, and legal force they did not have alone.  Today, workers are standing up for their rights to choose the times they’ll work, how they do that work, and where they do that work.

James Townsend:

For those of us in Generation X and those in the Baby Boomer generation, we’ve been known to say we “live to work” and often connect our self-identification with our job/occupation.  For those in the Millennial generation, they “work to live” and value time with friends, family over time spent at work.  This generation is more likely to tell their boss when they plan to come to work and when they plan to leave, as there are important things to do outside of work – yoga, exercise, movies, etc…Balancing work and life is vitally important to this generation but not as much for the current generation of office managers and organizational leaders.  The challenge for the Millennial employee is understanding and respecting the structure of the organization

I want that balance in my work life, too.  As a business coach with a passion for younger entrepreneurs, I want them to achieve that balance.  And it must be achieved. It won’t happen by brute force or unreasonable demands.  If the under-30 workforce wants work/life balance, it will have to be earned, either by the slow but steady change of large organizations or by the re-invention of the workplace on your own terms, in your own business.

Either way will require a lot of work.

Ashly Torian, Body Balance

Posted in Coaching,Entrepreneurs,Generation X,Video by treyfinley1008 on September 22, 2010

Many thanks to Ashly Torian, a client for the past six months, who provided this testimonial.  You can learn more about Ashly’s personal training business at http://www.ashlysbodybalance.com

Are Millennials Too Narrowly Focused on Achievement?

Posted in Coaching,Generation Y,Leadership,Next Generation Leaders by treyfinley1008 on September 14, 2010

I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Dr. Guy Litton, who teaches at Texas Women’s University in the English department.  Dr. Litton spends part of his time working with first-year students at Texas Women’s, and I asked him recently about this generation of students that are now attending our universities.  Over the next couple of posts, I’ll share his thoughts with you on how well prepared our next generation of college students are for life beyond high school, along with a couple of great stories that present a contrasting picture of how Millennials are occasionally portrayed.

In many ways related to my post about the pragmatic nature of the world into which Millennials are entering, Dr. Litton made the following observation of the Millennials he encounters:

They have a stronger work ethic, BUT they are so narrowly focused on achievement (David Brooks calls it the “Achieveatron” machine that is the school system today).  They are focused on merit badges, extra points, gpas, filling up the resumes with little gold stars.  They are not reflective, contemplative, deep, or sincerely seeking to better themselves.  It’s a mad dash to employment without a thought for intellectual or cultural or philosophical fulfillment.

Pragmatism, indeed.  My question: is there a connection between their “mad dash to employment” and the economic circumstances?  Or perhaps, is the pragmatism simply an idea embedded in them by their years in school?  Again, Dr. Litton:

We seem to have winnowed education down merely to math and basic reading comprehension/vocabulary.  There’s no incentive or encouragement for students to learn things for their own sake.  We always seem to send them the message that learning is important for “getting ahead.”  What do you do with your life once you’re “ahead” though?  It’s an education treadmill that’s dialed up at ever faster speeds where the runner is still stationary.

As a parent with a child starting school this year, I have pondered the pros and cons of the school system in the United States more than at any other time in my life.  What, exactly, is our school system designed to do?  What kind of student is it designed to turn out?  To hear Dr. Litton describe it, our education system is designed to turn out myopic achievement that misses out on the greater value of learning.

Is it any wonder that Millennials find themselves in very pragmatic circumstances and, in my opinion, deeply in need and want of that which is more meaningful?

Next up, a couple of stories of Dr. Litton’s students that you’ll find impressive.

John Maxwell on Questions

Posted in Change,Coaching,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on August 2, 2010
Tags: ,

You can’t find the right answer if you’re asking the wrong question | John Maxwell on Leadership.

A quote from the blog post:

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a creative mind to spot wrong questions.”

~Sir Antony Jay

Myths about Coaching, Part 2

Posted in Coaching,Leadership,Next Generation Leaders by treyfinley1008 on July 23, 2010

Again, many thanks to Sheila Boysen-Rotelli for responding to some of the myths about coaching that are out there.  Part 1 was posted a few days ago. Sheila owns Professional Success Coaching.  Professional Success Coaching provides coaching to individuals and organizations that are looking to grow to the next level and achieve their desired results.

This time, I’d like to invite you to post a comment to this blog post, answering the question, “Which of these myths provided a new insight for me into coaching?”

Myth: People have a set of personality traits that are relatively unchangeable and so coaching must be limited in terms of helping people to change their behavior.

Reality: There are mixed studies on the extent that person’s personality can be changed. However, coaching can enable people to adopt different ways of thinking that in turn empowers them to make positive behavioral changes.

Myth: Coaching takes up too much time to be worthwhile.

Reality: An effective and successful coaching program can be conducted over the phone and can involve an average amount of three sessions per month, each lasting 30-40 minutes. This type of program can be tailored to fit in with a person’s busy lifestyle.

Myth: There doesn’t seem to be a clear definition of what coaching is.

Reality: There are numerous of explanations about and definitions of what Professional Coaching is. My personal favorite is the following definition that has been produced by the International Coaching Federation (ICF): “Coaching is an ongoing partnership that helps clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance and enhance their quality of life.”

Myth: Successful people don’t need coaching.

Reality: Testimonials show over and over again that successful people will actually increase their success by hiring a Professional Coach.

Don’t forget to post your comments about the myths you had that were dispelled!

Myths about Coaching, Part 1

Posted in Coaching,Leadership,Next Generation Leaders by treyfinley1008 on July 20, 2010

Connecting with highly competent and skilled individuals is one of the great things about being in a 37-member cohort for professionals learning how to coach leaders.

Sheila Boysen-Rotelli is a classmate from greater Chicago.  (Ever been to the western suburbs of Chicago?  Beautiful.)  Professionally, she is leading Leadership Development and Corporate recruitment at McMaster-Car Supply Company in the Chicago land area.  She also owns Professional Success Coaching.  Professional Success Coaching provides coaching to individuals and organizations that are looking to grow to the next level and achieve their desired results.

Sheila has written an article in two parts about the myths of coaching.  This succinct view of coaching will be helpful to those of you who are considering coaching, or know someone who is.

Myth: Coaching is for mediocre performers

Reality: Coaching is NOT for mediocre performers. The same reasons why they perform at a mediocre level (late for meetings, consistently unprepared, lack of passion, etc.) in their careers are the same reasons why they would not deliver a strong return on investment with a coach. Professional Coaching is for top performers who want something more in their life (better balance, a bigger title, larger salary, more responsibility, higher level of effectiveness as a leader or presenter, etc.) and want to work with a person outside of the organization to assist them in getting there.

Myth: Coaching is essentially like mentoring, in which clients are provided with advice.

Reality: Coaching does not primarily involve giving advice. Rather, it raises individual’s awareness of their own abilities and capabilities and is based on the assumption that people are naturally resourceful, creative and capable of achieving better results.

Myth: Professional coaching does not produce results.

Reality: Professional Coaching is about getting results! The process of coaching involves goal setting and becoming accountable to the coach as well as to themselves in planning and implementing specific courses of action that lead to the achievement of their desired outcomes.

Myth: The coaching profession is unregulated so there is no way to assess the competencies of a coach.

Reality: Despite the fact that the coaching profession is currently unregulated there are a number of questions that can be and should be explored to assess the competencies of a coach. For example:

  • What are the coach’s qualifications and Certifications as well as what kind of experience and professional background does the coach possess?
  • Would the coach be able to identify a clinical issue and in turn know when to refer a client to a therapist if necessary?
  • Does the coach subscribe to a professional code of conduct (i.e. the International Coaching Federation Code of Conduct)?

Thanks to Sheila for sharing her thoughts on coaching.  Part two coming in a couple of days.  Don’t forget to check out her website!

Listening for What You Didn’t Hear

Posted in Coaching,Family,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on June 14, 2010
Tags: , , ,

When I get up in the morning, there are certain sounds I’ve become accustomed to hearing.  I usually hear my basset hound beginning to stir.  She yawns as she stretches, shakes, and then meanders slowly to another part of the room to lay down, her collar jingling all the way.  I hear the fans.  Their whooooosh as they circulate cool air is like a soundtrack to our lives.  A few of them need balancing, and as such I occasionally hear the cords that change fan speeds and turn the lights off and on let out a soft click as they lightly knock heads.  And of course, I hear the tap tap tap as I type away at my keyboard.

That is not a long list.  There are not many sounds to be heard at 6:30 in the morning at our house, one of the reasons I enjoy writing at this time of day.  Hearing noise, though, does not mean that I’m listening.

Listening notices more details. If I listen to the fan, I may notice that it is running at a different speed that usual, thus softening the whooosh sound it makes.  If I listen to my basset hound, I might also hear her groan a bit more than usual in her yawn, letting me know she needs the supplement we give her that keeps her long back and short legs limber.

Listening requires a recognition of what I’m not hearing. What isn’t making noise today that often is?  For a change, my 5-year-old is still asleep.  Often, I can hear him playing in his room when I wake up to write.

Listening is hearing what others are not. Listening is more than hearing sound and words.  Listening identifies, marks, and contemplates the rhythm at which someone speaks. It evokes thoughtful comparison of the pace and tone in someone’s voice.  It provides clues to how that person sees the world.

Listening calls for action. Listening is not passive.  For the coach, careful listening provides the basis from which powerful questions emerge.  For the parent, listening provides solid ground from which to guide a child.  It serves notice of good habits and bad, words that build up and those that tear down, social patterns that are serving them well and those that aren’t.

In short, Listening is to Hearing as Leading is to Managing.

Getting My Arms Around Entrepreneurship

Posted in Coaching,Entrepreneurs,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on June 9, 2010

5:52 a.m.

That’s about when this blog post started rolling around in my head–a solid half hour before I wanted to be conscious of anything other than my dreams.  Truthfully, it’s not all that unusual for me to wake up 30-45 minutes before my alarm goes off, thinking of what needs to be done in the course of the day.  My mind is trying to get its proverbial arms around my day, my work, and my life.  Some mornings that begins earlier than others.

Like the man in this picture, the circumference of my world is growing, and my arms feel inadequate to the task of getting the leverage I need to hold it securely.

6:34 a.m.

I’m 20 minutes into writing this blog post, and it’s beginning to feel a bit whiny.  There are some very positive reasons why the circumference of my entrepreneurial world is growing.  I signed a contract yesterday with a training and organizational development company.  Alongside another coach, our efforts to take coaching into our denomination and to churches in general have taken large steps forward in the last ten days.  These are the culmination of my marketing, my networking, and my cultivation of relationships.  Through the hundreds of conversations I’ve had, I’ve cast seed far and wide, not knowing whether they would land on fertile soil and produce opportunities for me to be who I’m created to be.  These opportunities are answers to prayers.

As I’ve been writing this blog, another ball metaphor comes to mind.  When I was playing high school basketball, we would work on increasing our upper body strength–arms, shoulders, and core muscles–by throwing this:

Recognize it?  It’s a medicine ball, roughly 25 pounds and about the same size as a basketball.  Using only our arms and hands, we would throw these 25 pound monsters to a teammate who would stand further and further away as the exercise continued.  Back and forth, the balls would go, until our shoulders and forearms ached.

Grasping the exercise ball is a futile attempt.  My arms are simply not big enough to get there.  As a medicine ball, on the other hand, my entrepreneurial hopes are heavier still.  They will test my strength, at times outweighing what strength is left in my arms.  Like the 15-year-old basketball player throwing it cross court, they will occasionally land off target.  There will be moments, just like that drill from twenty years ago, when I loathe that ball.

But at least I’ll be able to get my arms around it.

Are Generational Descriptions Nothing More than Labeling?

Posted in Career,Coaching,Generation X,Generation Y by treyfinley1008 on June 7, 2010
Tags: ,

Getting back on the blogging horse this week, having been bucked off by what was actually a very encouraging week in my coaching business world.  I’ll start nice and easy with this warning: caution should be used when applying generational descriptions.

Bucking Myths about Gen Y in the Workplace.  If you’re supervising someone under the age of 30, here’s a quick read on some common misconceptions about employees under the age of 30.  Gen X supervisors–this article is an invitation to pursue coaching skills.

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same.  It’s a long read, but here’s a nugget from the middle that’s important to remember when you’re exasperated by someone under 30–chances are, someone said similar things about you when you were under 30.  Both this article and another by Neil Howe discuss whether Gen Y is less empathetic than other generations.  My two cents–the results of these studies don’t jive with my experiences with middle school, high school, and college students.

Labeling Can Do More Harm than Good. Here’s a cautionary post from a Gen Y writer about the dangers of trying to label an individual with a generation’s traits.  The author overstates his case, in my opinion. However, if someone had preconceived notions of who I am as a Gen X member (aloof, jaded, latch-key, etc.) and made decisions affecting my life based on those preconceived notions, I might respond in a similar way.  There’s a line between generational descriptions and labeling members of a generation.

Advocates for Millennial Workers Needed: Full-time Positions Available

Posted in Career,Change,Coaching,Generation Y,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on May 28, 2010
Tags: , , , ,

Troy Stirman, ACU

A final thank you to Troy Stirman, who has played the role of conversant this week.  I appreciate Troy’s generosity with his time and his advocacy for Millennials entering the workforce.  I hope to have an opportunity to collaborate with Troy again in the future.  Troy is a career coach at Abilene Christian University in the College of Business Administration.  He also remains a business owner and is a certified resume writer.

The final piece of the puzzle today is the person. We’ve reviewed the pressure-packed job market.  Troy described the prime directive of Millennials entering the workforce: work/life balance.  You read the story of one Millennial student’s entrepreneurial response to a job he neither enjoyed nor believed in.  Then, you read of the Millennial willingness to buck the odds of a tough marketplace and consider moving jobs anyway.

It’s easy to lose sight of the very human dilemma that is being a young and hungry businessperson in a job market with fewer openings and more experienced workers available who are also in the market for a job.  It’s a tough situation, and here are some of the responses that Troy is seeing to the uncertain job market:

Parental Pressure:  The well-intentioned parent who encourages their student to “just get any job you can” create the real possibility of stifling hope in a young businessperson.  In Troy’s words, they’re “setting them up for failure.”

Paralyzing Fear: “Fear is a major motivating factor with this group…I’ve had some students show up to a career fair–where hiring managers were eager to talk to them–only to watch the student-graduate talk themselves out of approaching those who would ultimately change their destiny.”

Blissful Ignorance:  “Those graduates who have unrealistic expectations about job offers without doing their homework have a pretty rosy picture of what might be available to them.  While they are eager to begin their careers, many have not spoken with their career services professional about what is reasonably expected in today’s environment.”

Realism: “There are those who have prepared who understand what is at stake prior to graduation and have put in their time both in the classroom and in the public sector through internships.  These students have a healthy view of the job environment and their search proces is better vetted through this knowledge.  They tend not to give up as easily and persevere when the rejection letters come.”

Those of us 5,10, 20 years or more ahead of the newest members of the workforce must become advocates for these young workers.

If you’ve read my blog once, you know one of my biases.  No matter the hand dealt your/my generation, we each have a responsibility to coach and encourage those who will follow us.  Failure to understand a different age group is an excuse many hide behind.  So take a young employee or business owner out for coffee, and ask them some of these coaching questions:

  1. What’s most important to you right now?
  2. If you could go to sleep tonight knowing something about business would be forever altered in the morning, what possible change is going to keep you awake that night?
  3. What can you teach me about the under-30 workforce?  What do I need to understand that I don’t yet?  What can I learn from you?
  4. What’s one thing that everyone is convinced can’t be changed, but you think it can/should be changed?
  5. Imagine a time when you’re living your business dream.  What’s had to happen between then and now to get you to that point?

Thanks again, Troy!

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