Easy As Pie …


At least, so it would appear to some.

Coaching is seen as one of the “easy” careers by many … adding it to a list which includes teaching, counseling, and consulting.  I find it morbidly interesting that so many jobs I have done fall into this category.

For several reasons, people in general often perceive these helping professions as ones that are simple and easy to do, hardly requiring any work or preparation at all.

After all, look at how people who are really good at these jobs act … like it is no big deal to help a person or an organization change, learn, or heal.  When you really know how to do what you do, it does look easy.

During my therapist period, a good friend once said to me “Well, all you do is sit around and talk to people.  That’s not very hard to do.”  

I wish I had a dollar for everyone who has ever said to me, especially about being a counselor or a coach, something like “I‘ve been doing that all my life and I’ve never needed any training”.    Usually said right after I mention the rigors of completing a degree program, certification course, or licensure process, this admission only tells me that the person has little or no understanding of the change process.

Off the top of my head, here are some reasons why this might be:


Change is partly behavior, which is visible, but more so emotional and cognitive, which are less visible and more open to misinterpretation by others.   If you stop smoking, you are visibly not smoking, although you might be visibly more “edgy” or “tense“.

Emotions can be reflected physically, as when body parts quiver during times of high stress or we perspire more than normal.  However, we cannot truly know the emotion that another is experiencing.

Cognitive changes are displayed directly by our words and indirectly by our behaviors.  Words and behavior can be congruent or not congruent, and identifying which is occurring is key for any effective change process.

We cannot know how another person is changing, unless we know what to look for and how to evaluate what we see or hear …


Talking is something everyone does, more or less, on a regular basis.  Since most of us talk every day, we tend to see talking as “no big deal“, something that does not require special preparation or focus.   

If we think that chatting with someone provides therapeutic outcomes, we are half-right.  Sometimes a person derives great value on one level from simply talking with another person.  This is why we encourage people to visit the ill or lonely and reach out to others.

However, chatting is not change …


Here’s where it gets interesting.  A client may leave a meeting sounding positive and looking confident, without having created either a plan for change or commitment to that change.  

A relatively long discussion can represent empty minutes without any valuable content or progress, while a short interchange might mean significant shifts are occurring.   A trained person, be they a teacher, counselor, coach, or consultant, has been educated to sense deeper levels than the superficial. 

If a coaching sessions looks simple, it could be either a master coach doing what they do apparently effortlessly OR a couple of people just passing time while talking.

So, in one obvious way, coaching without being trained IS easier … but not particularly effective or professional.

By the way, have you ever baked a pie?   Ain’t all that easy to do:)

Unexplainably feeling rather hungry for something sweet in the Heartland ….



Interesting article via Fast Company …

Interesting article via Fast Company about some organizations that appear to be doing their employees right.

Three items for reflection and action as you read this article:

1) Read the article and then research the companies to find out what makes them so different from other companies.

2) If your organization is NOT like these and you wish it were, either change it or look for other opportunities.

3) Consider what YOU bring to the table – it’s not always the organization that is either good or bad.

These are the top small and medium-size companies for employees by @lydiabreakfast via @FastCompany

REWIND: I Pledge Allegiance To Uplifting…


NOTE:  originally posted on March 10, 2014, but still just as pertinent now.

Want to be known as a leader who is …



All about service?

All about significance?

You are a current or future leader who want to be of service to others through your leadership, and whose leadership makes a positive difference.  You want your efforts to uplift others.

You are not alone … Continue reading

Encore Review: Leadership and the Art of Struggle: Tension Points

Leadership and Struggle 4Originally published March 14, 2013 – one year ago, but the words have aged well:

There is much to like in like in Steven Snyder’s new book Leadership and the Art of Struggle, but one section really has my attention.  It’s all about tension

To summarize Chapter 4 (my words, Snyder’s concept):

Life is full of change, which leads to tension, which we experience as struggle. 

Learning how to deal with the tension positively and specifically is essential.

Makes sense to me … however, this is just the start.

Snyder goes on to dissect this tension dynamic and comes up with four distinct “tension points”, which we encounter as struggle.   Here’s a short description of each with some of my thoughts thrown in.

Tensions of Tradition  …

“… the implications of breaking with patterns from which they and others have become accustomed .. when some new element is introduced to the environment …”

A classic point of contention in many organizations, I would guess.   This is where the differences between the function of leading and the function of managing seem to be most stark and obvious. 

While change is inevitable, how we approach the change process, especially the communication part, is critical and many challenges have grown from what appeared to be a simple change from how we do it now to how we will do it into the future.

Tensions of Relationships …

When we cannot or do not build “… the type of respectful and trusting relationship that’s needed to endure the stress a crisis can bring.”

Sometimes it’s personal …

We have all experienced what Snyder describes as “positive energy” which comes from healthy relationships.  We have also experienced the toxic atmosphere that is present when trust and respect is lacking in a relationship or between groups.

Relationships always exist along a continuum …

Our movement should always be toward the middle, where relationships are based on fact and reality, unholy alliances and holy wars are both absent, and people act from that base of trust and respect, because they expect and experience reciprocal behavior from their colleagues.

Tensions of Aspiration …

“… arise as an organization mobilizes around a dream or vision for the future.”

Healthy organizations and leaders dream and make plans to change, to thrive, and to grow. 

We just don’t always agree within the key groups or individuals about the details of when, where, what, who, how, and why. 

This type of tension often goes hand-in-hand with tension arising from tradition and relationships.  When we look toward the future, we are implicitly and often also explicitly questioning the past, our heritage, our tradition. 

Change is difficult enough when everyone is in agreement and working within an environment of trust.   Change is almost impossible when that trust is not present between individuals.

Tensions of Identity …

“ … issues surrounding their (leaders) values, integrity, and authenticity.”

Snyder devotes the most time to this tension point and rightfully so.   Here is where things become intensely personal and move from the organizational to the individual.

When we struggle with tradition, we are engaging the past.

When we struggle with relationships, we are engaging (or not) with other people.

When we struggle with aspirations, we are engaging with the group dreams and hope.

When we struggle with identity, we are engaging with ourselves, in our deepest and sometimes most difficult to know places.

Snyder talks about three general resolutions to this tension:  through the leader developing a new understanding of the situation, through a shift in the leaders’ identity, and finally with the leader deciding the situation  is “no longer tenable”.  Each resolution has some validity and we are charged with determining which is the best resolution for a specific situation.

“Resolving tensions of identity is central to navigating through struggle …”

… and so saying, Snyder devotes much of his book to helping us understand and prepare to do exactly this.

In Closing …

I hope this piques your interest in Leadership and the Art of Struggle as a valuable resource for your leadership journey.

As with anything, knowing specifically what we are experiencing allows us to better understand why we are experiencing that specific tension. 

In turn, this leads us to more targeted and more effective responses to reduce or even eliminate that tension, as we move through the struggle.

Steven Snyder is performing a valuable service by drawing our attention to these distinct sources of tension.    We have experienced them all, I would bet, but Snyder gives us a useful framework within which to deal with the tensions of our work.

Using a fascinating story about a young man who experienced all of these tensions as he tried to lead a national theater organization, Snyder also provides us with some valuable guidance on how to successfully navigate each point … but you really need to read the book to learn that partSmile.

Listing and analyzing my tension points in the Heartland ….


Disclaimer:  As is often the case, I received a copy of Leadership and the Art of Struggle for review prior to its launch during the week of March 11, 2013.  I am free to like or dislike the book.  I happen to really like this high quality publication.  As is often the case, I plan to purchase several copies to share with some folks who need to hear Steven Snyder’s message.

Steven Snyder, Ph.D., is the founder of the Snyder Leadership Group, an organizational consulting firm. An innovator in thought leadership, Snyder has developed the breakthrough concepts introduced in Leadership and the Art of Struggle, based on years of leadership studies, intensive research, and data derived from extensive interviews with real-world executives from major corporations. He currently lives with his family in the Minneapolis area, where he remains actively engaged in philanthropy and community service.