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 ….



Professional Development Army Style …

Flag US Army Chief of Staff.svgThis is no ordinary reading list …


“A sustained personal commitment to critical study of a wide range of readings constitutes an essential professional responsibility for members of the Army profession.”

From the foreword of the U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List

Published by the U. S. Army Chief of Staff and designed to help create educated and thoughtful military leaders, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List serves as a great example of an intentional learning activity. 

If your basic knowledge of the art and science of military affairs is shaped primarily by films or television, you have some catching up to do.  If you are serious about developing your leadership muscle, you would do well to consider both the use of a professional development reading list and this list in particular.  This list includes three major categories outlined below, along with my comments.

This is a deep dive into one of the primary vocations on our planet.

Armies at War: Battles and Campaigns

The Point:  Humans have engaged in armed conflict throughout our history … war is not going to go away, so we best get very good at understanding it.

Continue reading

Being Right …

File:Watts-galahad.JPG“Leadership does not depend on being right.”

Ivan Illich

We often have the image of the leader as the person who is helping us move in the “right” direction.   This image infers that the leader knows what they are doing and has made the right decisions … therefore, we are following the best path.

In some workplaces, leaders are considered “infallible” by virtual of their position.  In more hierarchical organizations, this tendency seems pronounced, at least in the attitudes of those who have the leadership role. 

I would observe that this tendency increases in strength as we rise through the structural levels.   Dismissing the influences of coincidence, human psychology, and just plain luck, some leaders believe that they deserve to be where they are.   This is sometimes true, but it’s not automatic.

Many young leaders fall into the trap of thinking that because they now have authority and responsibility, they somehow magically also have wisdom.   The role of continuous learning is either ignored or downplayed and the leader consequently makes mistakes.

However, leaders are human, and all humans have some degree of self-doubt, confusion over multiple options, and who make mistakes.   The person who claims to not experience any of these is fooling themselves and is not well-equipped to lead others.

The first question:

How accurate is this statement, in your opinion?

The second and more important question:

What should the leader do when they are wrong? 

Admitting my own imperfections in the Heartland ….



Quote sourceIvan Illich was into what we might call Liberation Thinking.  If you are familiar with Paulo Freire, another outspoken and erudite revolutionary of our times, you have an idea of how Illich approaches things.  If you do not know Freire, you ought to.

In an essay entitled “The People’s Priest”, Illich was described as “ … a remarkably penetrating social critic, a secular heresiarch whose marrow-deep analyses of contemporary institutions—healthcare, education, transport, and economic development—remain pertinent.”

Here’s the full text of Tools for Conviviality, one of Illich’s best known works.   In it, he takes on the domination of education by “technological elites”.  Not an easy read, but very interesting.

Image Source:  Sir Galahad by George Frederic Watts.  This is a detail of that painting, which is in the public domain.

ToolTime …

“The expectations of life depend upon diligence.  The mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.”   Confucius

“A workman is only as good as his tools.”  Anonymous

“Sharpen the saw.”   Stephen Covey

Get the message?  Well, I should hope so … “it’s not a subtle message”, as Greg Kinnear‘s character tells Jack Nicholson‘s character at one point in “As Good As It Gets“.  

The right tools, kept in condition, are essential for most of the tasks we face on an ongoing basis.  

Of course, we could spend the next year talking about what we consider tools.

Some see tools as only the mechanical devises which aid our work.  

Others view formal and informal learning and education in a particular discipline or areas as tools.  

What about our own ability to think critically, solve problems, and make decisions?

What about other people in our circle of influence?  

Would our physical environment be considered a tool, since it can dramatically impact our effectiveness?  

What have I missed that we might include in our list of tools?

Now that we have broadened our perception of tools a tad, we can think about their use in more complexity.   So three questions:  

1)  What tools do you have?  

2)  How do you decide which tools fit which jobs?  

3)  How do you make sure they are ready when you need them?

Scraping the rust off some of my less-used tools in the Heartland ….