Self-Coaching: Develop the Confidence to be Vulnerable

Working with or without a coach, you can ‘embrace greater wisdom and understanding’ on your own. The key to personal growth, and happiness, is self-awareness. The four strategies for Emotional Intelligence include Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management (1), each factor contributing to your perspective of the world around you and how you want to participate in your own life.

Experience shows that working with a coach is an effective way to reach your goal by relying on a professional to introduce you to new concepts and approaches for everyday activities.

Coaching has been a part of human evolution for thousands of years, and is a natural result of our human desire to explore our limits, to grow and to improve, viewing feedback as the core of coaching…For me, coaching implies and reminds us that no matter how good or great we get at what we do; there always exists the possibility to do it better”.  (2)

There are some elements of self-development that require personal commitment, whether you are guided by a coach or seeking continued learning on your own. To determine the effectiveness of whatever path you choose, my council is to consider how you define ‘true success’.

True success is never determined by factors beyond your control.  True success is in the process: in making the effort. The following will
provide a few steps you can take to bring self-coaching into your daily activities.

How to Self-Coach
Self-coaching is not a new concept. You have probably self-coached yourself your entire life and may be very good at it. Working from the
premise that we can always improve, I suggest you examine how you have been self-coaching.

Today’s life style is fast-moving. We make fast decisions, knowing that the situation will change and another decision is imminent. Employing a consistent, systematic approach allows you to assess the breadth of information available before you make a decision. Better decisions make life easier for you, and enable you to gain the trust of others

There are three steps to self-coaching (3)

1. Consider what you did that worked well in the past.

  • What worked before in analogous situations?
  • What experiences involved similar events, resources, outcomes?

2. Identify what you would like to do differently now.

  • What actions will achieve the best possible outcome?
  • What new innovations and creative ideas can be applied?

3. Seek outside sources for new information/perspectives.

  • Where can I turn for advice, counsel, or additional knowledge?
  • What else can be learned to better understand all options available?

You may be surprised to learn that the results of a significant majority of personality assessments capture a single consistent response. The fact is that when we do something well, we tend to continue to do it –even to the point of abusing the skill or approach. For example, we may be good at making people laugh, offering witty sidebar comments that reveals an intriguing perspective of an issue, possibly relieving group tension. Abuse of this skill occurs when it is used too often, in the wrong situation, or when there simply is not adequate time for a sidebar.

Gaining Insight
All too often in my experience, the third step in self-coaching is the one most people tend to miss in their hurry to react and move onto other concerns. We tend to rely on what we know worked in the past.

This type of reactive thinking is often the bane of new leaders seeking to highlight their knowledge gained from past experiences (4).

Former practices


Developing the Confidence to be Vulnerable
By Dr. L. Maddalena
rarely work with a new team and new situations. We have all encountered the short-sighted person who bases all ideas of a previous job or situation, failing to investigate the current unique environment.
How about you? How often do you use the expression “I know…” –or
how often do you hear others use that phrase or other filler words — to avoid
having to listen to what we assume is tired, well-worn information? Maybe it
is time to listen to yourself, and be certain that favorite expressions
interspersed in your conversation have value. This is where self-coaching
can be a valuable tool.
The most effective action to take when facing any situation is
embedded in self-coaching: objectively evaluate a situation spurred by the
opinions of others and all available data. Invite colleagues to share their
perspective and approaches to a situation, engage in open discussion to view
all alternatives before selecting one to rally behind.

Consistent Self-Coaching
Calling to mind the three simple steps of self-coaching allows you to pause before you respond to a situation, to challenge your first impulse, and to choose a path that you have researched and discussed with others.(5)

Self-coaching will help you make the best decisions in any environment. For example, when engaged in a difficult conversation, you can
employ a structure to stay focused and prevent distraction from your self- coaching.

The STOP – CHALLENGE – CHOOSE(6) process encourages us to be mindful of our responses, how we invest our time and our energy to achieve our personal goals.


  • Stop: Breathe, Observe
  • Challenge: What is real?
    o The worst possible outcome?
    o The best possible outcome?
    o The probable outcome?
  • Choose: what is in your long term best interest?
    o What can you control?

Fear of Vulnerability
Do you think it is easy to be happy? Why do you think people protect their bitterness, anger, fear, weaknesses and past traumas

Energy must be expended to avoid activities, people or situations that could possible cause physical danger or mental cruelty. In the same way, the pre-occupation of carrying past hurt and reliving previous disappointments is exhausting and debilitating, creating walls that hide easily obtainable joy.

It may seem easier to place a little bit of the blame for a situation on someone or something else, to describe someone as an “jerk” rather than admit that you may have missed obvious signs of different values. Perhaps in the short run it is harder to choose celebration over blame – you have to take responsibility for your own bad outcomes.

In the long run those little easy choices make life so much harder. When you’re cumulatively pessimistic or fundamentally negative, you’re actively choosing to accept a lower allotment of joy.

When you feel wronged and angry and you’re awaiting revenge or repercussions to teach someone else a lesson, teach yourself a lesson by choosing joy. It is important that in this moment someone got the best of you and they may never know or care about the extent of your hurt as they continue to bounce and tumble through life? What is important is that you accept that all joy in your future will have to be of your own making.

Optimism also demands that you greet new people and situation with an open mind, instead of just lumping them into some lazy category of Things You Already Know. When we prejudge, we close doors.

To have an open mind though, we have to assign ourselves to the role of students in life, and to not knowing the outcome in advance. It’s trading the secure (if false) sensation of being wise to everyone and everything, for the possibility of surprise, be it pleasant or unpleasant.

Choosing optimism is choosing vulnerability and humility on an ongoing basis. Self-coaching and awareness of what we want to be and do in our life prepares us make the best choices for a positive future.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born
and the day you find out why.”—Mark Twain.

Lucille Maddalena, Ed.D. is an Executive Coach and Leadership Development Consultant providing management skill training, team building, meeting facilitation, conflict resolution processes, and group coaching programs. More than 6,000 managers have successfully completed her popular TRANSITIONS TO LEADERSHIP series of seminars/group coaching.

Dr. Maddalena holds an interdisciplinary doctorate in Labor Education and Human Communications from Rutgers University. Visit for additional articles.

©L Maddalena, 2017 Contact us for permission to reprint
1 Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves, EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2.0, TalentSmart, 2009.
3 L. Maddalena,
4 Marshall Goldsmith: WHAT GOT YOU HERE WON’T GET YOU THERE, 2014
5 Larry and Hersch Wilson. PLAY TO WIN, 2015
6 Larry and Hersch Wilson. PLAY TO WIN, 2015
7 Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 2016

Where Corporate Culture Lives

The Competitive Advantage of Empathy
By Dr. Lucille Maddalena

construction crew

Every day corporate leaders announce plans that will revolutionize their organization, move them forward and provide the environment to successfully take on more challenging work.  The process can be likened to a business owner at the turn-of-the 20th century writing his hopes and dreams for the company on paper, placing the paper in a sealed tube, and dropping the tube down a pneumatic series of pipes to reach the first floor of the building. At its destination, the paper is removed from the tube by a clerk before being passed along to the general manager who opens the document and reads the wisdom of the leader.

The most elaborately developed plan, finely turned strategy, or clearly stated goal faces an immoveable force that will shred the patience of even the most experienced executive. Just what is this barrier to success?  It is the company’s own culture.

In my article Why Middle Managers Matter, I offer the reader examples of how firms such as AT&T implemented grand plans to reorganize and restructure during the latter part of the 1980’s. In many of the efforts implemented by US firms, leaders found they did not invest in seeking the input and support of middle managers. As a result, existing cultural habits caused a push back,  confusing and misdirecting well-planned initiatives.

This paper will examine how mid-level managers are at the foundation of a company’s culture, and why push back occurs. It is with this level of staff and those who share an equal responsibility for the welfare of the organization that maintain the culture.  Given the importance of culture to successful achieve our strategies, it is now is the time to understand the factors that make up the organization’s culture.


As a graduate student in the Rutgers University Department of Labor Studies I was able to work with Union Leaders at union training centers, preparing union representations to assume leadership responsibilities.  The most difficult task of those assuming the role of union rep was how it affected their personal relationships with their peers.

Considering the often-conflicting roles of union reps it is easy to envision a situation where friendships, reporting responsibilities, and personal values are questioned.  Addressing these invisible barriers and bumps to open communication requires an open forum permitting trust and mutual respect. Our world today is much more populated than when our early 1900’s business owner sent his message down a pneumatic tube. The sheer immensity of population size becomes even more amazing when we recognize how many people in this busy, fast-paced world feel lonely.

We thrive in an environment that buoys us between loneliness and isolation to connections and relationships, freely falling and rising with our dreams and hopes, as our fears and stresses. Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy writes in Work And The Loneliness Epidemic: “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.”

In our private lives we recognize that it is the social contact, support networks and connections that enable us to work through a day of stress, pressure or worry.  Consider how difficult it is to cope with the many day-to-day demands without the assurance that someone ‘has our back’.

Liz Ryan begins her article How Important Is Corporate Culture? It’s Everything, by stating:

“Fear and trust are the chemical currents that power every good or bad thing an organization does, but we seldom talk about them and it hurts us not to.

We pretend there are no currents. We focus on particles instead of waves. We are obsessed with numbers in cells on spreadsheets and with graphs and algorithms, while the real energy that powers your success (and without which you are going nowhere fast) has nothing to do with particles!

It is an energy wave. As leaders we need to turn our attention away from the particles that we love so much to measure, and focus on the waves instead.”

Seeing the ‘waves’ requires a special lens, a view point not on the water, but on the horizon and the changing winds that fill our sails to guide our ship. An organization’s ability to be agile, to respond to internal as well as external pressures will inevitably dictate its success in our volatile business climate.


Relationships and good communication flow are just two elements of a strong organization culture. In his book Connection Culture, Michael Stallard poses that firms embracing an environment of shared identify, empathy and understanding at work realize a competitive advantage.

In a very real example a client recently expressed concern over how one of the top leaders was performing. The individual had risen to a prominent position and was known to provide answers to questions before they were expressed, shutting down the speaker and closing the door to discussion. As a result, staff from his key directors down the ladder to team members refrained from offering ideas or suggestions.  The executive became isolated and was now seen as a ‘firefighter’.

Interviewing a cross-section of team members, I discovered that after repeatedly being told by the Exec that he knew best, they stopped informing him of any issues between staff and subcontractors or of minor production/distribution blocks.  His tardy awareness of situations too often occurred after small de-railers bloomed into full problems, demanding his full attention to put out the fire.

Repeated actions by the Exec to members of the team gains the Exec a reputation among the middle-managers whose actions and responses in turn contribute to the evolving culture of the organization. Taking the time to listen to a team member’s full story and allowing a team member to acknowledge the problem as well as present options to move forward builds a strong working relationship. Leaders who have the confidence to flip the pyramid, to employ a servant-leader approach, benefit from an environment of trust, rapport and respect with his/her team. Stallard describes the impact of showing empathy:

“Mutual empathy is a powerful connection that is made possible by mirror neutrons in our brains.  Mirror neurons act like and emotional Wi-Fi system (Goleman 2006). When we feel the emotions of others, it makes them feel connected to us.”

By role modeling and living these foundation elements, upper levels of management build a much stronger tie to middle-management., Stallard offers guidelines to build connections and avoid disconnections by focusing on how a firm can support all staff to develop their personal values, vision, and voice:

“Vision, value, and voice are the core elements of a connection culture. The people who bring these elements to a culture and make it happen are the enablers of the connection culture model and are called committed members and servant leaders. Committed members are committed to task excellence, promoting the connection culture, and living out character strengths and virtues.  They may be senior managers, receptionists, salespeople, engineers, information technology experts, or customer service representatives. Servant leader are committed members who have the authority to coordinate task excellence, facilitate the connection culture, and model and mentor others in character strengths and virtues.”


Viewing culture as ‘residing’ in the framework of middle-management presents corporate leaders with the opportunity to acknowledge the power of all staff to influence the success of the organization.  Engaging the body of the organization along with those at the top empowers members to share a vision, embrace the,  values and provide a voice in support of a connection culture.

Committed leaders who understand they can set a course, inspire commitment and encourage contribution from all levels of the organization will share their vision, live true to their values and inspire others in the company to voice their goals.

Change is felt as an emotional process containing both wins and losses.  By connecting with others to support their contribution we break down barriers and create an environment of caring while gaining the information to make better decisions and the agility to carry out our vision for the benefit of all.

Jody Gearson of Universal Studios Talks About Teams

Jody Gerson of Universal Music Publishing Group on Trusting Teams
SEPT. 29, 2017
Credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

This interview with Jody Gerson, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music Publishing Groupwas conducted and  condensed by Adam Bryant.

What were your early years like?
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. My dad and my grandfather had a nightclub in Cherry Hill, N.J. That was my childhood. I grew up seeing Frank Sinatra and Richard Pryor in our living room.

I learned a lot from seeing things done the wrong way. I was exposed at a young age to very adult themes, like people who had issues with drugs, and I saw the insecurities of artists. I think I seemed like a grown-up from a very young age.
Read the complete article on the New York Times web site.


Leaders as a Role Model, Mentor and Coach

Want to be a Leader?
Learn to be a Role Model, Mentor and Coach
By Dr. Lucille Maddalena

Assuming a high-level management position puts you squarely in the eye of every employee below you. The bright up-and-comers want to know how you succeeded, what they can learn from you, and how they can encourage you to support their goals. Whether you want the scrutiny or not, everything you do is observed as others seek to emulate your actions. The wise leader recognizes these new responsibilities and prepares for it.

Among the many hats worn by upper-level managers are the three that may be difficult to separate: Role Model, Mentor and Coach. To help you establish yourself as a leader, to build the followers necessary to assume the mantel of leader, you must understand the difference between these actions essential to an effective leader. Learning how you are viewed, what others expect from you and how you can identify new and potentially valuable contributors to your team will benefit you in many ways.

When selecting a Role Model, the young employee is seeking skills and actions that they recognize as effective in specific situations. Role Models are not chosen or necessarily made aware that their actions are closely monitored. In most cases, not all actions are worth modeling of someone who may be referred to as a Role Model: only some reactions, approaches or techniques may stand out as examples of best practices to be emulated.

Leaders interested in continued advancement in a large corporation know that it is important to build a network of supporters to move forward. You can’t be a leader without followers. The most effective way to inspire someone to want to follow you is for you to show respect for their need to develop and make an effort to assist them to achieve their goals.

Martin Webster states in his article HOW TO BE A GOOD LEADERSHIP ROLE MODEL:
“To motivate the team you need to start seeing yourself as a role model. As a good example to others. A good leadership role model sets high standards of accountability for themselves and their behaviours. Before motivating your team be sure to motivate yourself. Be the sort of person others can get behind and support. Be a good role model.” 

Webster describes the attributes of a good Leadership Role Model:
1. Practices self-reflection – They set exacting standards for themselves and others.
2. Is self-aware – They are open to learning and new ideas.
3. Shows empathy – They think carefully about the impact they have on others.
4. Has vision, courage and integrity – They communicate their vision and expectations clearly so people know where they’re heading.
5. Is ready to lead – They lead by example. They are honest, sincere and practice what they preach.

Mentors are volunteer for the role because they acknowledge the importance of dedicate the time to guide a someone new to the task. A Mentor will openly share personal experiences that contributed to their growth and development, invest the time to listen to the plans of the Mentee, and develop a plan to work together during a set period of time. Mentors are rarely the Mentee’s direct manager, although the Mentee’s manager should be a critical part of a successful Mentor program.

Mentees benefit most from working with the Mentor’s network to gain a broader understanding of the job and the company. A Mentor often assumes the role of Advocate for the Mentee as Mentoring can help improve career development, simplify increased responsibility, build confidence and help individuals learn and grow within an organization.

Chip Bell states in his book MANAGER AS MENTOR:
To grow is fundamentally the act of expanding, an unfolding into greatness. And so expansiveness is the most important attribute of a great mentoring relationship. Mentoring effectiveness is all about clearing an emotional path to make the learning journal as free of boundaries as possible. Change is a door opened from the inside. But it is the mentoring relationship that delivers the key to that door.

Mentoring typically falls into two categories: non-directive mentoring, where the mentor acts as a sounding board, catalyst and role model, and sponsor mentoring, where a senior executive will promote, oversee and control a protege’s career. Often, a mixture of both models can provide the most effective support for organizational talent


In an Harvard Business Review article, Monique Valcour recommends every leader to practice the basics of coaching.

 If you have room in your head for only one nugget of leadership wisdom, make it this one: the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is making progress at something that is personally meaningful. If your job involves leading others, the implications are clear: the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work.

To do so, you must understand what drives each person, help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, provide timely  feedback, and help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis. Regular communication around development — having coaching conversations — is essential. In fact, according to recent research, the single most important managerial competency that separates highly effective managers from average ones is coaching.”

It is common today for a leader to have a professional Executive Coach for personal development. It is just as important to recognize when a member of your team or a new employee would benefit from a professional coach.

Leadership Coaches can be internal, often members of the company Human Relations team, or external, independent contractors with the qualifications and experience most suited to the individual to be coached. Coaching helps employees make the most of their potential and performance capabilities by developing skills competence and addressing identified issues. Coaching initiatives tend to have shorter timelines than mentoring programs, with more finite and tangible learning objectives

A typical Leadership Coaching program with an external coach is six months or 20-hours of coaching. Clear goals are identified typically following a 360 Review and professional personality assessment. The Coachee’s manager is engaged in the process by reviewing goals and providing feedback to the Coachee and Coach at critical points during the Coaching event.

Forbes magazine published an article William Arruda discussing Why You Need to Hire a Coach… stating that if you don’t have a coach,
“you could be limiting your career success. That’s because coaches help you identify and focus on what’s important, which accelerates your success.” 

According to,  the work of a good coach is to:
• Create a safe environment in which people see themselves more clearly;
• Identify gaps between where the client is and where the client needs or wants to be
• Ask for more intentional thought, action and behavior changes than the client would have asked of him or herself
• Guide the building of the structure, accountability, and support necessary to ensure sustained commitment.”

Arruda refers to The United Kingdom Coaching Strategy which describes the role of the sports coach as one that “enables the athlete to achieve levels of performance to a degree that may not have been possible if left to his/her own endeavours.” 

“Innovative companies understand that coaching can help career-minded professionals increase their performance at work. They invest in coaching for their senior leaders and high potentials.
Coaching also has an impact on an organization’s financial performance; according to an ICF and HCI study, 60% of respondents from organizations with strong coaching cultures report their revenue to be above average, compared to their peer group.” 

Advancement into upper management moves the emphasis of your efforts from the technical, tactical work, to strategic initiates that often require greater teamwork. These social skills are not part of the academic program in most engineering and high-tech programs. It is up to the new manager who has exhibited the technical skills warranting an advancement to know display the talent to build teams and developing staff. There is now a need for greater focus on interpersonal skills, relationship building, delegation and collaboration.

When conducting interviews to compile a 360 Review on a newly promoted upper-level manager I ask contributors to the Review to respond to the following question: “Does this person stay enmeshed in the detail, in the tactics of the work, or is s/he able to present the big picture, to inspire others to take greater responsibility and work independently by clearly explaining the strategy and benefits of long-term goals?”

The most common response to describe someone new to the role is that the individual is just beginning to engage in greater dialogue with team members, keeping them informed of the overall progress, while holding them accountable for assigned work.

To be a successful leader, invest the time to learn to recognize young talent, seek opportunities to allow new staff to test and expand their skills. You can do this by recognizing opportunities to shine as a Role Model, to serve as a Mentor or find a suitable Mentor for key staff, and utilize the services of a professional Coach to for yourself and those ready to assume a greater role in the organization.



The Power of Being Vulnerable


As an engaged member of a group, or as a parent or colleague, you value your network and seek connections to build bridges and to give and share information. Dynamic workforce leaders also recognize the importance of connectivity to effective planning and decision making.

In any environment, there are some who self-impose restrictions on their behavior with others, possibly through fear of exposure or perceived hierar-chal boundaries. In his article, “What to Ask the Person in the Mirror,” Harvard University Professor Robert Kaplan writes about a senior com-pany executive who is having trouble achieving consensus among his lead-ership team. The exec was asked if he had considered getting feedback from his direct reports. He responded: “Of course not; they’re the subordinates—it would be awkward for me to ask them for coaching. I’m the coach!”

Be vulnerable
One of the most difficult soft skills for many leaders to embrace is al-lowing themselves to be vulnerable. Edgar Papke wrote in True Align-ment: Linking Company Culture With Customer Needs for Extraordinary Results that feedback itself is the rea-son some people avoid coaching, because the idea of being reviewed by others—especially those in lower levels—causes consternation as much as the aspect of being singled out as someone who needs coaching. In fact, anyone who has been through coach-ing knows the reverse often is true: A thorough 360 review will highlight the individual’s strengths and identify her successes.

Of course, in any environment, we will make a mistake or react without thought, speaking inappropriately. Owning up to our actions has a grati-fying and often unexpected result: We gain self-respect and, in many cases, the respect of others. It takes strength to face ridicule. Acknowledging a lapse in judgment is a humbling, honest experience. Revealing vulnerability also reveals humility. There is no place for arrogance, judgment, or blame because those emotions are an empty means of self-protection and mere time-wasting distractions to the task of moving forward.

One of my clients offers an example of how to create an environment that encourages feedback and collabora-tion. Max received a promotion to his first management role, into a depart-ment formerly led by a self-described micromanager. The department had a reputation for poor performance, of-ten missing deadlines and failing to attend company-wide events. Max was confident he could elicit team-work and turn the department around.

Max spent his first few days at-tempting to talk individually with staff members, sharing his friendly, outgo-ing personality as he did so. His efforts were cordially accepted with limited response. When entering an employee’s workspace, he often noted signs of anx-iousness and discomfort. Silos persisted. Although cubicles were in close proxim-ity and work relied on the others’ task completion, each seemed isolated and unaware of what others were doing.

While failing to engage anyone in useful dialogue, Max nevertheless re-mained optimistic. He sought advice from his new peers. His initial impres-sion was confirmed: The staff did not consider themselves a team. The style of the former manager was described as “intense and to the point.” Data were shared formally through reports and in meetings.

Foster teamwork
Max realized that there was little per-sonal communication among the department. He resolved that he would inspire change by increasing social in-teraction. His goal was to foster a sense of teamwork necessary to build the working relationships to improve over-all department performance. To do so, he asked members of his team for help.

Because the staff were accustomed to exchanging information through documents, Max chose to create a feedback questionnaire to learn how his new staff evaluated his perfor-mance. The questionnaire included 10 questions that invited staff to rate his performance on a 1-5 scale, with a blank line for comments.

At the next department meeting, Max informed his staff that for him to succeed in his new role, he had to know what he was doing right and what he could do differently. He then explained that he created a two-page list of questions he would like them to answer, and all responses would be held in confidence and could be sub-mitted anonymously.

Show optimism
The first response to the question-naire from his staff of 27 resulted in five completed forms. All the questions posed were ranked, no comments were offered, and all were submitted anonymously.

One month later, Max shared the results of the questionnaire, describing his commitment to helping the team succeed. He informed the group that in a few months he would once again ask for each person’s help to improve his performance in any way possible.

Six months after the first ques-tionnaire distribution, Max repeated the process. This time he received 14 completed forms, three of which were signed. At the next monthly meeting, Max again shared the feedback and described how he was going to apply the insight to improve his manage-ment style by adopting new behaviors.

Establish a connection
After another six months passed—a full year since he started—Max distributed the form again. This time the results were surprising. Of the 27 on the team, he received 24 completed forms. Even more telling was that six individuals requested to meet with Max privately.

Several brought uncompleted and unsigned forms with them, sat confi-dently in Max’s office, established eye contact, and told him directly what they were observing. Max was thrilled and felt he had succeeded at his goal.

At the next meeting, Max discussed the comments he received without mentioning names. Another surprise occurred when a few contributors took ownership of their feedback by engaging in the conversation. The en-suing discussion encouraged others to share their ideas and feedback. With the enthusiastic support of staff, Max created quarterly staff roundtables, inviting all members to share a story of a recent event that best expressed their work experience.

With his staff taking the lead from Max, the work environment had changed: Everyone was more positive and open. There was greater sharing of current projects and, grad-ually, innovative ideas to streamline work emerged.

Today, Max is in a C-level position, continuing to encourage feedback pro-cesses throughout the organization.

Choose optimism
True success is in the process, in making the effort. Accept the risk by seeking to connect honestly to others. Develop trust by being consistent in process—we don’t know everyone and everything. Maintain trust by being flexible in implementation—life moves too fast and people change.

Choosing optimism is choosing vul-nerability and humility, anticipating a future that will bring pleasant and unpleasant unanticipated events. It is the systematic approach to a goal that offers you the opportunity for your personal development, and to inspire the development of others.

Lucille Maddalena is an executive coach and leadership development consultant;

Originally published in TD magazine, the monthly publication of the Association for Talent Development

Build Your Leadership Legacy

Pensive businessman
I recently witnessed the retirement of a Fortune 100 Senior Executive. In his farewell speech, he described the wealth of life experiences he gained during his years with the company. The next day when he gathered his final things from this office it was a sad day for those of us who witnessed his departure. As we watched him through the corporate lobby for the last time, his broad shoulders seemed to slump a bit with every step. It is not where he is going that we should be considering; where are we going without him?

Legacy Lost

What he worriedly confided during a brief meeting to prepare for his retirement dinner is his concern that the many efforts he championed were now in jeopardy. Who would pick up the baton, view issues with a broad and experienced vision to provide continuity as the business culture continues on its evolutionary path?

Wisdom Shared

As Susan Scott states in her book FIERCE CONVERSATIONS1 “When you leave a room, your image remains…”
Have you thought about what you leave behind when you end a phone call, leave a meeting, or retire after investing your life in your company? No doubt that your actions contributed to the current company culture, the traditions, and the foundation on which the future will be built. How wise it would be for you to take the time to consider what you will leave behind when you are ready to retire.
A popular television show has the villain cutting open the heads of those with skills he admires to draw their essence and assume their knowledge. How can we effectively “pick the brains” of today’s business leaders short of medically cloning our senior managers? How do we tap, retain, and deploy the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of those who currently lead our organization?
There are two ways to share your wisdom. One is to look forward by planning, teaching and engaging others: contribute to the development of staff on all levels. Another way to continue to impact the future of the company is to look back: preserve the history and traditions as a reliable and ethical foundation upon which agile change and new achievements can be made.

Delegate & Involve

The opportunity for a leader to share knowledge begins by delegating: training and mentoring younger staff. Of course, delegating does not remove the responsibility from you as those in the learning stages are bound to make mistakes you will have to correct. Inherent in this process is a remarkable learning opportunity to model how to handle frustration, possibly anger, the pressure of deadlines and the difficulty of moving past mishaps.
A leader is a role model. The way you respond, plan, and act is observed by those below you, and often quickly emulated. Much as parents influence their children—just as you most likely have shocked yourself by saying something using the words and inflection you witnessed one of your parents using—you will hear others repeat your statements. Because you are aware that your actions influence how current young employees will act when they are in your role, you have the opportunity to consciously choose how you respond, to model a professional and ethical approach to the situation. This might mean dropping a few old habits you picked up on the way into a leadership position and maintaining an awareness of your impact on others.
You can maximize the learning process by providing opportunities for the less experienced to observe you. Take them along with you to meetings with clients as well as others in your field. Give them some small role in the meeting, a short contribution to the discussion as they watch you to see firsthand how you work through complex business situations.

Tell Your Story

Stories and analogies can create a deep understanding of a situation or event, just as a picture tells a full story on one page. Whether it is a story told about you or a repeat of a story your shared with your team, stories live beyond the moment of telling.
One of my favorite clients is a constant story teller. When we first met it was because there were complaints from his staff that his stories often meandered, taking up unnecessary time and often lacking relevance to the topic he was attempting to address. Stories and analogies, like all good habits that get abused form overuse, can become a derailer for you. Be certain you have something short and to the point to offer by using these tips:

  • Ask for feedback. Be open and vulnerable by seeking comments from those you work with. Try to get their view of how often you hit the mark with a story or analogy.
  • Monitor yourself. Set a time limit for how long it takes you to tell a story or offer an analogy. If you are not confident that you can express your concept quickly and be understood immediately, don’t do it.  You do not need to continually provide information with the flourish of a story or analogy.

As we worked on my client’s story telling abilities, he developed three guidelines to stay on track as he endeavored to connect with his staff and effectively explain his purpose:

  1. State why you want to offer the story or analogy –its relevant goal
  2. Present the story/analogy in two minutes or less –just the facts without sidebars
  3. Sum-up the story – restate the learning moment in a short sentence

Or as my acting friends say: Tell them what you are going to do; Do it; Tell them what you did. The key is to be certain you are connected with those you are speaking with by telling them a story they want to hear because it has value to them.
If you are not confident in your story telling abilities, or wonder when an analogy would be more effective than attempting to explain a complex concept, there are several excellent experts in the field you can turn to for help.
Story telling will enable you to connect with others, preserve tradition and maintain the fluid culture of your organization.

The DNA of the Human Psyche

The tales of merger, acquisition, conquest, or convergence are timeless case studies for those seeking advancement, knowledge, success. Of course, not every senior leader is an orator, writer, or scholar. Peter Drucker and Jack Welch, for example, were not described as ‘polished’ speakers.
Whether you are drawing from natural talent or skill developed by necessity and passion, you must be ready to articulate your personal sense of values and life wisdom. Expressing your sense, your perspective, identifies your harmony with the latest business, social and cultural trends, guiding those who observe you to develop deeper respect and trust.
One of today’s leading researchers on storytelling, David Thornburg, Ph.D, states:

A key aspect of archetypal learning environments can be found in a tale….
One day someone sat at a computer keyboard and entered the following question: “Do you suppose that computers will one day think like humans?” After processing this request for some time, the computer displayed the following response: “That reminds me of a story…,”
…with the possible exception of certain marine mammals, we may be the only storytelling species in existence. This capacity of humans is so important that Jean Houston referred to myth as the DNA of the human psyche.

The roots of storytelling are in our elemental being, providing an essential channel to connect with others. How do you recognize events worthy to be preserved?
2 Two often referenced sources: Susan Scott. FIERCE LEADERSHIP, Berkeley Publishers, 2011 and Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS, McGraw Hill, 2011.

Examples of Campfire Tales

Whether the newer members of your company are quoting Machiavelli or the former CFO, what is important is that they have they are making a connection between an event and an outcome, between someone’s thoughts and their present: connecting now and then. According to Thornburg:

“The often tangential nature of storytelling, its use of metaphor, its indirect attack on a topic all combine to make storytelling an effective way to address topics that might be too confrontational to address head on. Story crafts its own helix around a topic. As Robert Frost said, “We sit in the circle and suppose, while the truth sits in the center and knows.”

Just as we are attracted to the campfire, we intuitively recognize the truth of a tale shared in that golden circle. Stories that resonate with your personal experiences cast new light on previous encounters and as the tale emerges, we empathize with either the speaker or the story characters.
Thornburg describes ‘campfire’ storytelling as an information-based tale relayed by the expert to the novice.

…the wisdom of elders passed to the next generation. Good stories have always embodied a blend of the cognitive and affective domains – in fact, in story, there is no separation between the two.
This quality of nuance and multiple interpretations is common to storytelling. It is one reason that adults and children can enjoy the same story together – each age takes from the story the elements that are appropriate.
The power of storytelling is so great that even in more recent times (c. 250 BC,) we find Socrates responding to his students on occasion with the Greek equivalent of “That reminds me of a story.”


It is critical for all leaders to accept their role and impact in the organization. Kris Finnin states:

“Your legacy will be defined by the passion and impact of the people you influence.
What do you want your legacy to be?”

To achieve your legacy a leader must invest in the development and growth of individuals on all levels. Share your power and passion to develop their skills, understand their role in the organization and prepare a talented bench of future leaders to call upon.

Stories can bridge gaps and form bonds – even between people who never meet or speak face-to-face – as well as between those of different levels in a corporation.
Larry Prusak of IBM’s Institute of Knowledge Management, identified ten categories of stories in organizations and offered the following perspective:

I’d say the most important thing you can do is to deal with the issue of connectivity….
If you can improve sense-making in any organization, by one percent, you’ve earned your salary for life. Sense-making is really more than information-seeking. It’s more than knowledge-seeking. It’s helping people make sense of their own organization for action.

Preserving the Legacy

Preserving the stories of your business’ founders and leaders is developing a warehouse of knowledge. You will be capturing the wisdom and insight of those whose decisions forged the environment you now occupy: Each story saved is one more connection between past and present, contributing to future decisions by sustaining awareness of the foundation for today’s beliefs, motivations, and commitments.
As you consider potential contributors to your new stock-pile of corporate stories, keep your goal clearly in mind. Your task is to gather and share existing wisdom: truth and experience serving as a catalyst to future action.

References and Additional Reading

  • Betof, Edward Betof. T&D Magazine. “Teachable Points of View for Leadership”. March 2007 ’Becton, Dickinson and Company’s Advanced Leadership Development Program acknowledges the role of story telling in leadership training.
  • Finnin, Kris. “Live Forever? How Ethical Leadership and A Legacy Definition Makes You Timeless. 2017
  • Mount, Ian. “America’s 25 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs” Inc. Magazine , 2004.
  • Prusak, Larry. Executive Director, IBM Institute of Knowledge Management. Presentation at the Smithsonian, 2001.
  • Thornburg, David, Ph.D, “Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphor’s for Learning in the 21st Century” in the October 2004 issue of Instruction Technology & Distance Learning.

Mindful Connections

Anxious to get through a meeting, complete negotiations, or deliver bad news? Connecting subjects too quickly can create a threatening situation that will delay or prevent decision making. Learn which 3-letter words can derail any meeting.

Sometimes it is the small things that make the big difference: a pause in the conversation, a reassuring smile, the turn of a phrase. In this article we will look at how three-letter words cast big shadows, often preventing the effective exchange of ideas, hindering decision making and possibly creating adversarial relationships.
Corporate leaders often find themselves in stressful adversarial situations from contract negotiations to selling situations. Two common discussions that require an immense investment of time are PERFORMANCE REVIEWS and IDEA GENERATION. Often described as constructive guidance and brainstorming, these activities are embedded in our management development processes. What can be done to reduce the angst created and maximize the value of the time invested in these conversations? Perhaps applying a meditative approach will enable us to develop communication skills that convey the mindfulness and agility necessary for leadership and thus team success.
Michael Carroll, in his article MEDITATING YOUR WAY TO MORE EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP addresses the power of mindfulness:
For example, lawyers who practice mindfulness meditation speak to an ability to more readily drop adversarial mindsets, better comprehend the intent of a challenge, and self-regulate emotions during conflict. As Professor Leonard Riskin observes in his seminal study of practicing attorneys:

“Mindfulness can play a role in helping the lawyers… observe — without attachment — the thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations that typically make up and support (contrasting) mindsets. Consequently, the lawyer can adopt an attitude of curiosity, consider other options and make a discerning decision. Mindfulness can help the lawyer simply notice the manifestations of the feelings of being threatened…and decide to let them go and maybe learn from them.”

This lawyerly agility that Professor Riskin is observing here free from fixed mindsets is the very same agileness that thousands of business leaders are discovering through mindfulness awareness meditation: a poised yet flexible confidence that is ready to learn, reassess, and adapt in the face of novel problems, dissonant voices, and unforeseen opportunities.


Riskin’s point to “adopt an attitude of curiosity, consider other options, and make a discerning decision” contains a wealth of advice for us. When faced with a difficult conversation, we may attempt conflicting actions: reaching out to present the topic from our perspective, while at the same time installing conversational barriers to protect us from assault. We want to quickly move through the difficult part, make our statement and move on. Ignoring or minimizing the thoughts of others at this juncture blocks our ability to build a connection with the listener.

I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and
kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers. Khalil Gibran

Maintaining a one-way discourse, not giving the other person time to reply and speaking without regard for a shared perspective does give you the airtime to express your thoughts. The question is: are you being heard and will you achieve your goal during the time invested? Most often, ‘talking at’ someone only delays the full discussion to a future event when the listener becomes the speaker.
In any powerful interaction with one person or a as part of a group, you will benefit by being mindful of your use of the most common three-letter conjunctions, “and” and “but”….

(1) Connecting unrelated subjects with an ‘and’. You may not have all the facts or the information you have could be biased or outdated. A one-sided dialogue is stilted and lacks engagement. It is likely that you will be asked to revisit topics to hear opposite views or defend opinions, extending the amount of time before reaching a conclusion.
(2) The acknowledging/challenging “yes, but” statement. Agreeing to something someone said then offering a counterpoint minimizes the first point to emphasize the second. This discounting of what is deemed important results in the “manifestations of the feelings of being threatened” or assuming an adversarial position — as in “I acknowledge that you have that fact, now listen to how I interpret it”.
(3) Dramatically stating a positive to be overcome by a negative using ‘but’ or ‘and’. This well-abused technique briefly refers to a positive action before focusing in-depth on a negative event.

Mislabeled as ‘feedback’, listeners quickly learn to become alert when hearing false or weak praise and will tense for the expected punch. The commonly-used example is “Your work has been good, but it does not meet the required standards”. The speaker has created a threatening situation devoid of trust or mutual respect.
These three-letter words, and other conjunctions of various length, may seem to be a quick way to get the message out. As with any skill, abuse of the process can have a negative effect. You may have created a communication bad habit that distracts and adds irrelevant words that circle the issue rather than convey a message. When you combine disparate thoughts into one sentence, particularly both a positive and a negative message, you will derail your focus and confuse the listener.


Let’s apply Riskin’s approach to ‘mindfulness’ to the way you express yourself and your ideas. Start by envisioning a trail in the wilderness. You are confidently walking along the path, speaking your advice as you lead the listener to safety by dropping a trail of bread crumbs.
The spacing between the crumbs becomes important – too far apart and the listener may turn away, too close together and the listener may become confused by which to examine first. Seeking to move more quickly you connect two thoughts with an ‘and’ or ‘but’, creating a small pile of bread crumbs. The listener must now decide how to proceed: should the top layer be digested first or go to the bottom to examine the initial concept now buried in the pile?
You and the listener are not communicating until you both address the same topic. For the listener, too much content in one sentence is a pile of bread crumbs. Everyone’s mind is busy and distracted. Typically body language becomes stiff as the listener becomes defensive, guarded, uncertain of where you are leading, and what options are open to them.
You do not know which element of your message was received until you obtain feedback. As you fill the air with your thoughts and perspective, the receiver’s mind is absorbing, refuting or ignoring the messages delivered both verbally and nonverbally. Each phrase and gesture is evaluated for content, then assorted for relevance before being discarded, filed away for later attention, or selected as a subject for immediate response. Most often the ‘short cut’ of connecting subjects by inserting a small three-letter conjunction evolves into a multi-stage repartee lengthening the time required to achieve resolution or consensus.
To build rapport, take a moment to empathize by reflecting on how the information could be interpreted by the listener. Contemplate your motivations as well as the possible outcomes of the conversation.
As a leader and role model, continue to challenge yourself by asking yourself and the listener(s):

  • What is the purpose and value of the discussion?
  • What are my intentions in this moment?
  • What outcome do I seek for the long-term?

Grant yourself the freedom to be agile, to respond honestly and with good will as you seek to create an environment of trust for an open exchange of information.


Trained negotiators understand the importance of creating ‘dead air’: a pause in the conversation for the listener to absorb the message and evaluate alternatives. You can apply this technique by replacing a comma and inserting a period at the end of each phrase. The pause created in the conversation allows the listener time to think about the specific subject and possibly respond with information of value to the speaker.
Whatever was said before the ‘and’ or ‘but’ is ignored: the listener is focused on the action statement that follows. Take a moment to test this approach, to give power to each concept, and to maximize the impact of each thought by following these three steps:

a) Recall a sentence incorporating a ‘but’ and write it down.
b) Edit the sentence by deleting the ‘but’. Replace the comma with a period after the first phrase. Capitalize the first word of the second phrase, forming two sentences.
c) After each sentence insert a probing question that is relevant and significant to the individual. You have now expanded the initial concepts into separate paragraphs.

PERFORMANCE REVIEWS. You can use this technique when you in a performance review by introducing your perception of positive and negative actions in two separate paragraphs. First, state successful actions that should continue, then invite the listener to become the speaker and share additional noteworthy actions. At the close of that discussion, provide a summation. Pause for a moment before informing the listener that you will change tracks by moving the conversation to a discussion of issues that require improvement. Begin the second discussion by clearly stating each issue that requires change separately, providing and asking for examples to each. Invite comment and identify action steps before moving to a different issue or closing the discussion. During an open exchange you will gain relevant information to make a better decision. The interaction creates a supportive coaching opportunity to offer effective guidance.
IDEA GENERATION. Share in-the-moment reactions to a new idea while remaining open to other speakers. Removing distractions gives your message impact: eliminating unnecessary placating phrases before the ‘and’ or ‘but’ emphasizes the content of your message. Use the time you have to speak to provide greater descriptive depth of your concept. Evaluate the reaction you have inspired to identify and employ selected concepts, terminology, and approaches of others into your presentation. Your ability to be both mindful and agile in your response will enhance your communication effectiveness.


When you ask questions in the role of listener, you are displaying curiosity to learn the origins of the other person’s response. Exchanging roles of speaker and listener during the interaction creates a connection, a collaboration, as each person learns what is important to the other. You are developing trust, building rapport and showing empathy.
Being mindful and agile by listening and engaging will enable you to connect with others, to initiate collaborative discussion, to seek a mutually beneficial conclusion. Consider how you can guide potentially stressful adversarial situations to become productive sharing and learning experiences that conclude in a compatible outcome.


Listeners quickly learn to become alert when hearing false or weak praise and will tense for the expected punch. The commonly-used example is “Your work has been good, but it does not meet the required standards”. The speaker has created a threatening situation devoid of trust or mutual respect.


Stay in the Moment

The day before Emmy-award winning authors and producers Chis Miller and Phil Lord spoke at Monmouth University, I was lucky enough to dine with the duo. Their creative work includes the LEGO MOVIE, 21 & 22 JUMPSTREET, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS and they will be the directors of the next adventure in the Anthology series of STARWARS films.

They shared experiences of their incredible journey, the successes, the stresses and the joy at seeing their ideas captured in brilliant new forms of media. Upon learning that I was an Executive Coach, Phil asked for one piece of advice as a ‘take away’ from our conversation. After considerable thought, I said to ‘breathe’.

Most weeks I send two or three texts to clients with one word: breathe. A proponent of Yoga, Phil immediately understood the concept and was intrigued by the application I recommend: to keep calm, provide oxygen to the brain by inhaling deeply through the nose with back straight and head held high. Hold the breath a moment then slowly exhale through the mouth.

There is another benefit to this simple process: it buys you time to think. If you are in an uncomfortable conversation with someone, you can use the out-breath to gain information before reacting, by asking a thoughtful open question. You will gain additional information useful in any decision making scenario.

The extra few minutes you take to breathe could make the difference. You may need to ask several questions to maintain your poise and contemplate the full issue at hand.

Today’s leaders are rediscovering how meditation enables them to more successfully build rapport, collaboration and consensus by phrasing questions in a mindful manner. Working with corporate clients, we discuss how these meditation skills, in the context of mindfulness and agility, contribute to individual and thus team success. Contemplative situations inspire decisions based on respect and empathy for others as well as providing important benefits for our personal health and welfare.

Phil and Chris described fast-paced project and contract discussions, negotiations and idea generation, emphasizing the importance of having private ‘down time’. Rob Asgar agrees in his article Why The World’s Best Leaders Want To ‘Meditate On It acknowledging mental and physical health “seems to be a bottom-line benefit to this ‘shutting up and sitting still’ business”. He then poses the question:

“Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself” –Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Steven Mitchell translation).

Asgar explains that Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s official ‘Jolly Good Fellow’ “…believes meditation, done right, doesn’t simply boost performance in some amoral fashion. It creates the healthy relationships that make for a better world. The brand of “mindful meditation” that Meng teaches to ambitious Googlers …isn’t just about silence or stillness. It’s about cultivating a certain attitude that changes how we see so-called intractable problems and so-called problem people.” Further, Asgar identifies three benefits of mindfulness:

  1. Mindfulness can turn office politics from a jungle to a garden. Meng has “seen how the way we mentally frame our work community improves how we perform. And it’s not about being passively nice. He favors healthy and aggressive competition, within a workplace or with other companies; and he favors competition in doing good things for customers or the community.”
  2. Mindfulness can build an environment for Aha! moments. “There’s a paradox of creativity. Just as you can’t catch a tennis ball if you tense up your hand too much, you can’t have a great idea if you’re spraining your grey matter while trying to force it. A practice of meditation helps considerably here.”
  3. Mindfulness can keep you sane and healthy. “Stockbrokers are three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general adult population,’ Yahoo News reported this year. ‘Excess stress is a leading cause of heart and brain disease.’ That’s one reason meditation is catching on along Wall Street.”

Few of us will be involved with Hollywood negotiations over major films like Chris and Phil. The lesson here is to think about how we can maintain our health as we pursue our goals to perform to a higher standard. What can we do to hold true to our course and forge our own trail? Take the time to step aside, contemplate and consider how you can ‘stay in the moment’ of reflection and creativity.

What The #!@$% Is Andragogy?

You Are Judged By How You ListenPedagogy for Grownups

By Lucille Maddalena, Ed.D.

June 2015

If you have not heard of the term andragogy, you are in good company.

The term andragogy[1] was coined in the 1800s by Alexander Knapp, a German educator, to refer to “methods or techniques used to teach adults” and was popularized in the 1960s by Malcolm Knowles, an American educator.  Andragogy is often compared to Pedagogy, the term used to describe teaching techniques for children.


The misnomer of pedagogy as encompassing all learning was acknowledged by Knowles in 1970:[2]  “…somewhere in history the ‘children’ part of the definition of pedagogy got lost.  In many people’s minds—and ev

n in the dictionary “Pedagogy” is defined as the art and science of teaching. Period. Even in books on adult education you can find references to “the Pedagogy of adult education,” without any apparent discomfort over the contradiction in terms. Indeed, in my estimation, the main reason why adult education has not achieve the impact of our civilizations of which it is capable is that most teachers of adults have only known how to teach adults as if they were children.”


The purpose for this paper is to highlight andragogy as an approach to learning that is a critical element of all learning. As I have Coached executives for 25 years I will focus on its application in the engagement of coaching.  Knowles’ work and other leaders in the field present a theory or set of assumptions about learning that when applied to coaching will guide our exploration of innovative approaches to encourage self-development.  Andragogy describes the unique adult learning experience that can be captured in a coaching relationship.[3]


A Coach manages or guides the process itself rather than lecturing ‘content’ as in traditional pedagogy,  employing an andragogical approach to achieve an effective intervention or successfully completed engagement. Across all disciplines applied in the coaching process, an evaluation of the initiatives to inspire learning will reveal the existence of an andragogical approach. As we seek new levels of involvement through our carefully organized multi-disciplinary events we are employing andragogy to unite social media, training, management development, coaching as well as organizational and academic research.  Awareness is the key to understanding: naming a concept and applying a definition enable us to better embrace and apply all facets of the approach.




I will use my work as an Executive Coach to illustrate how andragogy is a consistent element in an effective coaching event. My clients are top level corporate executives, successful people who may be experiencing some type of transition, promotion or organization change.


A useful example occurred recently with a talented Senior Vice President (SVP) at a global Corporation responsible for approximately 2,000 employees in his region. We worked together for about a year to seek ways for him to better engage with his new and larger regional team while creating a position of greater respect among his peers.  To accomplish this I elected to initiate and facilitate a Team Strategy Session with his newly assigned Regional Team Leaders. The regional HR staff member co-facilitated to allow the SVP to exhibit the new skills he mastered during our time together.  The event was extremely successful on several levels:

  1. The organization benefited with the implementation of the strategy the regional team developed in support of the corporate mission.
  2. The SVP benefited as he was able to present his mission in an inspiring manner, revealing his genuine commitment to the strategy his team would develop and dedication to the success of every member of his team. He also benefited by receiving immediate feedback from his team and he reestablished himself as a leader by confirming that he had followers — essential to the role of a leader.
  3. The Regional Team Leaders benefited by organizing into smaller teams required to interact to achieve stated goals, thus forming new avenues for communication and interaction within the region.
  4. Team staff benefited on multiple lower levels as mission and task were clearly presented and supported with opportunity for growth and increased recognition.

Note that I listed the value to the organization first: without the organization support we would not be able to fulfill our calling as coaches.  As a result of this event, the region created a model for developing strategy and effectively implementing their plan that has been shared globally.

The best part of the story is that it is not over. As we debriefed this event and reviewed our coaching discussions, the SVP gained the confidence to delve deeper into his reflections, perceptions, risks and fears.  During our discussions of feelings, judgments, relationships and personal as well as organizational goals, I guided the SVP to express his feelings about the tasks and people he worked with.

This endeavor culminated in further success for the SVP.  When required to make a presentation to peers and the corporate leaders about a LEAN[4] project, the SVP sought my help to prepare his speech.  Rather than the traditional approach we choose to not use power points, graphs and statistics, instead we decided to speak from the heart. We worked on a description of the process, the people, and how it felt to be involved in a continuous improvement program.  We identified words that reflected the corporate culture, the commitment, and the pride as well as job satisfaction that best reflected how employees talked about their work.

This description of ‘feelings’ about the project won the SVP a second round of kudos from all levels in the company.  He realized the extent of his success when the day after his presentation the global President used the same words and phrases we chose to describe his vision for the entire organization, explaining that to truly appreciate your involvement you must feel the value of your efforts.

The entire coaching event was deemed a success.  But was this coaching?  What else took place that dominated the agenda and brought the SVP to a new place in his career? The answer is Andragogy.



Andragogy appears to have enjoyed a much more rapid acceptance and growth in Europe than in the U.S.  In the US, the developing fields of management and organizational development as well as psychotherapy and social psychology have inspired new interest.  Addressing interpersonal as well as intrapersonal aspects of an individual’s level of understanding requires our awareness of how adults learn as individuals and as contributing members of a community or organization.




It is useful for today’s coach to review the six crucial assumptions[5]  Knowles developed to    base his premise describing characteristics of adult learners and possibly the same qualifiers we apply when considering an individual to coach:


  1. The Need to Know: Adults need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it. The decision to be coached is a choice of the individual; a self-driven initiative.
  2. Self-concept:As a person matures his/her self-concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human beingCoaching seeks self-awareness and acceptance.
  3. Experience:As a person matures s/he accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning. Coaching provides the opportunity to evaluate what we have learned, what we should retain or change, and what we could learn.
  4. Readiness to learn.As a person matures his/her readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his social roles. Coaching inspires the development of new skills and recognition of a full range of options.
  5. Orientation to learning.As a person matures his/her time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application, and accordingly his/her orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject-centeredness to one of problem centeredness. Coaching encourages a world-view, embracing new opportunities for continuous growth.
  6. Motivation to learn:As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal. Coaching embraces life-long learning and self-coaching.


These six assumptions are with us today, applied by coaching practitioners representing all of the contributing disciplines, employing an andragogical approach using new mediums as we seek to inspire leadership and self-direction.


Concurrently within business and industry programs such as LEAN promote continuous learning for quality production, academics pursue research and study to expand our field and technology is in a never-ending evolution of research, learning and exploration that provides a means to share our knowledge.







Early in my career I created and offered a training program titled TRANSITION TO MANAGEMENT[6], and later TRANSITION TO LEADERSHIP for higher level employees that applied the principles of andragogy.  The series of seminars were offered at sites in North and South America for a global pharmaceutical firm during twenty consecutive years as well as at other client companies during the same period, reaching about 6,000 executives.  Part of the series required selected high potential employees to participate in a group coaching program and some were targeted for individual coaching. This interaction helped the potential new leaders to identify their strengths and develop individual career paths for future success.


Every Coach understands the need to recognize the learner’s capacity, interest and present level of knowledge before beginning an event, utilizing an assessment or psychological evaluation instrument before beginning to coach.  The key components of today’s Coaching events as well as business training and development compose the foundation to the andragogical process.


Knowles refers to as the technology[7] of andragogical learning as a continuous circular application in the development, organization and administration of a program which can easily be applied to the development of a coaching event:

  • Setting a climate for learning
  • Establishing a structure of mutual planning
  • Assessing interests, needs and values
  • Formulating objectives
  • Designing learning activities
  • Implementing learning activities
  • Evaluating results (reassessing needs, interests and values

The organization itself provides the foundation for andragogy[8]:

  1. A climate for Learning
  2. A structure for mutual planning

This environment for continuous learning from personal experience recognizes the impact of the organization’s culture, the importance of evolving organization development and the agility of the organization to respond to the changing environment:

  • In small learning groups (teams) as a process to redirect risk and conflict issues through interpersonal activity
  • Self-directed learning to encourage continuous re-assessment of our own evolving needs as they emerge from the demands of the changing situation.





It is interesting to consider Knowles’ comparison of assumptions between pedagogy and andragogy.[9]  Below I have inserted the term ‘DIRECTIVE/CLASSROOM’ in our consideration of pedagogical learning and ‘SELF-DIRECTIVE/EXPERIENTIAL’ for andragogical learning.


Pedagogy (Classroom/Directive) Andragogy

(Experiential/                  Self-Directive)

The learner Dependent. Teacher directs what, when, how a subject is learned and tests that it has been learned outside of actual situations. Moves towards independence.  Facilitator encourages and nurtures sharing and involvement as situations unfold.


The learner’s experience Personal experience is not referenced. Teaching methods are didactic Stories and illustrations are shared as a rich resource for learning. Teaching methods include discussion, problem-solving etc.
Readiness to learn People learn what society expects them to. The curriculum is standardized. People learn what they need to know, so that learning programs organized around life application.
Orientation to learning Acquisition of subject matter. Curriculum organized by subjects. Learning experiences should be based around experiences, since people are performance centered in their learning

It may be of interest to some to note that in the U.S., the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers certification in levels of Human Resource Management, accordingly a directive field of study of organization and employee laws and regulations.  The Association for Talent Development (ATD, formerly ASTD), offers certification in self-directive skills such as facilitation, coaching, team building and of course training for employee learning.






A well-known quote credited to Confucius describes living itself as a learning experience:

“I hear and I forget,

I see and I remember

I do and I understand.”

Learning can effectively occur in a classroom, on a manufacturing floor, in a coaching session, or while walking down a hall way.  It is the individual’s capacity and receptivity to an idea or concept that when internalized becomes thought for possible future action.  Whatever medium is chosen to disseminate information, the critical factor is first knowing the audience.


Again, allow me to share my personal experience.  While a graduate student, and before I created the TRANSITION leadership series, I was chosen as the only outside consultant called in to work with a team of manufacturing executives who were in conflict.  The drug they produced had been tampered with while on the store shelf, resulting in several deaths.   The situation devastated members of the manufacturing group that produced the drug; a few became despondent, questioning themselves as to what else they could have done to prevent any type of product tampering.


This event was a learning experience for the organization, for the individuals, and for me.  The feelings, thoughts, reactions of those executives were acknowledged and served as a learning tool to plan the company’s future as well as their personal futures. During this coaching event the executives were able to express their pain privately and learn to balance emotions with action. When together they learned how to use their strength to develop and share plans and processes to prevent future attempts at tampering.


Learning cannot be ‘siloed’ to one person or one event, we are all connected and there is not one correct answer or response to a complex situation.  Conducting individual as well as group sessions with the team brings a collaborate focus to understand what had transpired and how to move forward.  Team building and conflict resolution workshops are as valuable to the development of today’s leaders and organizations as is private coaching. We must ask ourselves how much more effective each interaction could be if we consistently applied an andragogical approach by establishing a relationship between the learning events.


When we agree to coach corporate leaders we must acknowledge the complexity of the task.  Our work must be aligned with the corporate vision and mission, become a collaborative effort to support the individual’s goals and respect the existing corporate culture. The following is my ode to a leader using the yin-yang philosophy, which can be easily applied as a useful definition of a coach:


“A successful leader must be consistent and flexible:

consistent in process, flexible in implementation.”






Kurt Lewin[10] in the 1940’s offered a prescription for resolving social conflict through what he described as ‘reeducation’.  The term and its application comes very close to how we define Coaching today as it is extremely useful in the structured environment of a corporate workforce.


Consider that Lewin demonstrated that the processes for acquisition of normal and abnormal social behaviors are fundamentally alike, thus our perception of reality may at any time be correct or incorrect. Acknowledging this duality reinforces the importance of current non-directive coaching practices. By questioning norms and challenging assumptions for self-direction the learner becomes the teacher; the coach is the guide to inspire self-development.


Further, applying Lewin’s concept in a learning environment leads us to understand that perceptions of reality that steer or direct our actions requires changes in cognitive structure (facts, concepts, beliefs, expectations) as well as changes in values (attractions, aversions, feelings of acceptance and status). To survive and succeed, a leader must be able to transition from old values and ideas to new ones by internalizing new behaviors that reinforce the new values.


My preferred evaluative instrument is the Hogan Leadership Assessment because it provides a useful exploration of the individual’s values. From this data we are able to open the door for deep discussion into anger, reactions, judgments and especially risk.  Along with values and needs, an individual’s perception of risk is critical to the way s/he conducts meetings, make decisions and manage a team.

“Every meeting must have an equal amount of dissension and humor”




Coaching has brought a new dimension to learning.  What can we, as coaches, learn from these theories of education that will enable us to support the learning experience of those we coach? How do we contribute to the individual’s life-long, evolutionary process of gaining new concepts, challenging existing assumptions and seeking innovation?


When we consider that coaching is about learning and self-development, we recognize that as coaches we embrace existing proven processes embodied in our disciplines to benefit those we coach.  Whether we are deep in confidential discussion with our clients, conducting a group coaching session with key staff members, or facilitating an exploratory session with the leader’s team, we must respect our role as guide. We enable those we coach to examine all that is new as well as all that is old by reminding them of options and sharing our experience as well as interdisciplinary learnings.




Thus, coaching has earned its place as a learning tool in today’s corporations by engaging the individual to examine personal assumptions, historical preferences, and existing habits that may help or hinder future advancement. Perhaps what early advocates of andragogy were seeking was to reinstate the Socratic approach to learning, allowing the learner to direct exploration of the topic by responding to questions and uncovering truths implicitly known by all rational beings.


In the 1960’s, theorists began to recognize that the emphasis on growth through the tutor/mentor relationships as places too great a focus on cognitive development to explain what learning is really about.  Knowles writes: “[R. M.] Jones (1968) objects to [Jerome] Bruner’s under-emphasis on emotional skills, his exclusive attention to extra psychic stimuli, the equating of symbolism with verbalism and his preoccupation with the processes of concept attainment to the seeming exclusion of the processes of concept formation or invention.” [11]


Knowles further notes that Bruner “is moving away from the perception of learning as a process of controlling, changing or shaping behavior and putting it more in the contest of competency development.”  Knowles further describes “the most dynamic and prolific developments in the field of psychology, humanist psychology, has exploded on the scene…and carried his trend of thought much further,” referring to Carl Rogers’ five elements of humanistic psychology (1968).

Similar descriptions of learning during this period include: [12]

  • 1961 Harris and Schwahn: “Learning is essentially change due to experience
  • 1963 Cronbach: “Learning is shown by a change in behavior as a result of experience
  • 1965 Gagne: “Learning is a change in human disposition or capability, which can be retained, and which is not simply ascribable to the process of growth.”
  • 1966 Hilgard and Bower: “Learning is the process by which an activity originates or is changed through reacting to an encountered situation, provided that the characteristics of the change in activity cannot be explained on the basis of native response tendencies, maturation or temporary state of the organism.”
  • 1970 Maslow: The goal of learning is self-actualization. “The full use of talents, capacities, potentialities, etc.”

The common theme in these statements acknowledges the impact of change on human behavior.





By sharing my examples of applied andragogy, my intention is to make it clear that among my passions for my field of study I advocate continuous learning, the sharing of emotions, the exploration of feelings, and the awareness that life is evolving; in the work environment change is a constant often impacted by the dominating organization culture. For those we coach to be able to learn, function, and succeed in these sometimes clashing environments is a challenge.


Our skills as coaches can support even the most successful to continue to grow, achieve a new life goal or gain greater satisfaction from their career.


Storytelling has long been accepted as a tool for learning.  I often refer to my years working with unions, serving as an elected government official, or participating in the sport of dog sledding to offer analogies of risk when opening the door for this many-faceted discussion.  Whether we discuss the physical challenge of sports or the mental challenge of politics, the core subject is a means to open the door to a deep discussion of faith, confidence, privacy, leadership, negotiations, etc.  My sharing inevitably establishes a bond and increases the rapport allowing the client to offer personal experiences and explore deeper relationships and feelings, including work and life decisions that contributed to the current situation.


This self-exploration, one of the first steps in andragogy allows my clients to shed pre-conceived notions, historically repeated behaviors and assumptions that enabled them to be successful in previous situations. As a result of this decluttering, many of my clients describe an unexpected and highly appreciated found freedom.  They state they now have the confidence to move ahead in their careers by granting themselves the freedom to be themselves.


Personal discovery and release of behaviors formerly assumed necessary to achieve goals is a cathartic experience.  Many recognize that former behaviors often did not express their attitudes and approaches –and in some situations caused the individual to act contrary to their nature resulting in mental stress and physical illness.


Those who have successfully completed a coaching engagement have learned how to grant themselves the right to choose to act and respond according to their personal values, perceptions and needs.  Hearing a client express new excitement for their work and future with the self-commitment and confidence to be who they are, brings joy and satisfaction to my life.


A successful coaching event ends when the individual being coached is ready to continue the process through self-coaching.  One of my favorite statements to share is my definition of Self-Coaching:

“The process of self-coaching is addressing evolving transitions and change,             where innovation, imagination, and creativity are born.

This source of self-confidence is exposed in spontaneity, laughter and, ultimately joy.

As a person changes a life pattern, they evolve, changing life perspectives and expanding their acceptance to embrace greater wisdom and understanding.”

[1] The term andragogy (or andragogology) is a combination of the classical Green noun agage, which is the activity of leading, and andr, the word for adult.  Knowles, M.S., Holton III, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2005). The Adult Learner, 6, 15.   

[2] [W]hat we describe as adult learning is not a different kind or order from child learning. Indeed our main point is that man must be seen as a whole, in his lifelong development. Principles of learning will apply, in ways that we shall suggest to all stages in life. The reason why we specify adults throughout is obvious. This is the field that has been neglected, not that of childhood. (Kidd 1978: 17)

[3] The expanding field of heutrology may also have applications for coaching that should continue to be studied. “Heutagogy is the study of self-determined learning … It is also an attempt to challenge some ideas about teaching and learning that still prevail in teacher centred learning and the need for, as Bill Ford (1997) eloquently puts it ‘knowledge sharing’ rather than ‘knowledge hoarding’. In this respect heutagogy looks to the future in which knowing how to learn will be a fundamental skill given the pace of innovation and the changing structure of communities and workplaces.

[4]Lean manufacturing is a business model and collection of tactical methods that emphasize eliminating non-value added activities (waste) while delivering quality products on time at least cost with greater efficiency. See

[5]  Knowles, M.S., Holton III, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2005). The Adult Learner, P. 57-58

[6] See

[7] Knowles, M.S. (1970). Modern Practice of Adult Education.

[8] Ibid.

[9]Knowles, M.S., Holton III, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2005). The Adult Learner, 6, 57-58.

[10] Lewin, K. (1997). Resolving social conflicts and field theory in social science. American Psychology Association.

[11] Knowles, M.S., Holton III, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2005). The Adult Learner, 14

[12] Ibid.



3 Blocks to a New Year

3 Blocks to a New Year

Have you ever watched people simply stand and stare at the sea for hours? Mesmerized with the rolling waves, warmed by the sun and cooled by the soft breeze, the sounds and smells create a meditative environment.

    W e ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean.    But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.          —Mother Theresa of Calcutta

When you are at a transition point in your life, do you seek the familiarity of your current surroundings? How do you sort through the turmoil that accompanies change to discover your own revelations?

Smooth seas do not skillful sailors make. –African proverb

Recalling the first coaching session conducted at the ocean, I wasn’t certain when the useful dialogue began. The one thing I insisted on was that we walk.  We didn’t have to walk on the sand or to the water’s edge: staying on the boardwalk or heading to a seaside restaurant was fine.  As we walk, we talk: our pace moves us through time as we near the ocean.

On the first block we peer down the path to glimpse where the ocean meets the sky and hear a gentle rhythm. The conversation is light as we discuss our surroundings and living situations, exchanging private revelations that strengthen and bond our association.

On the second block the waves come into view and the volume of the breakers begins to increase. There is a slight tenseness to the conversation as petty annoyances rise to the surface then dispel. Each step is deliberate, expressing our earnest intent to address issues of burden.

By the third block, the graceful boardwalk beckons while partially blocking our view of the sand and sea.  Our pace quickens. Sentences are left unfinished with short, terse expressions of verbal release; speech patterns become fast and reactive.

Now we‘re on the boardwalk overlooking the full display of sand, sea, sky. The impact of the stunning view silences us.  It is impossible to talk or even breathe for that first moment, as we step up to the majesty before us. The breeze fills our lungs: magically, all trivial complaints are gone.

                Wide sea that one continuous murmur breeds along the pebbled shore of memory!  – John Keats

I feel my own stress leave as I inhale the salt air, and we comfortably assume our roles of coach and client.  We continue our path allowing the first flow of stressors to emerge.  Each item is presented, contemplated and marked for future action.

For my guest, it is the time to reveal the innocence, the vulnerable individual carefully preserved by layers of training, education, experience, loss and success.  We talk about those vague, soft topics that are too difficult or embarrassing to grasp in public situations:  values, ethics, passion, creativity, commitment, and dedication.  We slowly work our way to issues of seeming importance: expectations, professionalism, goals, obstacles and priorities as we seek balance.

The close to our conversation always comes down to choices. This is our conversation as we dine by the sea.  The task begins with all due gravity and seriousness; soon the natural flow beams with the joy of spontaneous creativity.  Decision paths, options and outcomes are laid as we resort to writing our designs and plans on napkins to preserve the treasure of unrestricted ideas.

Our environment is still in control as we select our path home.  Some guests prefer to walk barefoot to the water‘s edge unconcerned that we will return with seawater in our clothing and windblown hair.  Others choose to stand or sit on the boardwalk to look at the ocean, allowing private thoughts to pass in silence.  It is with a feeling of freedom and peace that we retrace our steps.

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul, if either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. – Kahlil Gibran

‘After the Storm” photo by Lucille Maddalena