Vision Quest

In May 2011, I wrote in my then monthly newsletter:

Smart people who dedicate themselves to achieving goals are capable of accomplishing amazing things in life. Act One for Elon Musk was being the co-founder of PayPal, which eBay acquired for $1.5 billion in 2002. That same year he began Act Two: SpaceX – a low-cost developer of orbital spaceflight vehicles. Two years ago NASA selected the company to fly cargo to the International Space Station. You may have heard about Act Three for the 40-year-old who said he came to America because “it is where great things are possible.” He’s the chairman of electric car company Telsa Motors. Stay tuned.

Two years later, this was my note:

Not content to grow old with his billions, Musk took over electric car company Tesla five years ago when it was about to go out of business. Over the past six months, super-charged by its Model S sedan receiving rave reviews, Tesla turned its first-ever profit and the stock price tripled.

In May 2016, I followed up with:

Turning 45 next month, Elon Musk wants to ultimately get to Mars – first, though, he’s trying to redefine the speed of land travel… suggesting levitated pods could reduce the 350-mile trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles to 30 minutes. Outside Las Vegas last week, the leading startup initiative – Hyperloop One – successfully tested its prototype: which some called a ‘Kitty Hawk’ moment. The company intends to move cargo within three years and predicts passenger travel will happen by 2021.

While the Hyperloop is still in testing phase, the gregarious Musk has, just this year: taken astronauts to the ISS; moved forward with his Boring company that is building a tunnel for electric cars underneath the Las Vegas Strip; announced plans for a battery that will ‘revolutionize’ Tesla; shared his intentions to travel people to Mars; and had his sixth child, with current partner Grimes, named X Æ A-Xii.

As I also wrote in 2013: Folks are daring to compare Musk to Steve Jobs: somewhat because he can be arrogant and strong-willed; mostly because he appears to be a marketing genius. Just keep in mind you don’t get to be Elon Musk by playing it straight down the middle.

If only I had put $1,000 in Tesla stock when I first wrote about Elon Musk. That would be worth more than $75,000 today.

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That’s Me

Over the years I’ve taken at least 15 different personality style assessments… those psychometric ‘tests’ that aren’t graded. Instead, they provide a view of our typical approach to how we see the world, how we behave and what we expect from others.

While I have no idea how the algorithms that make up these things work, each one nailed me, so there must be something to them beyond the power of suggestion. Still, I have debriefed several hundred clients on the one I’m certified in, and they often say, “Why did it ask the same questions over and over and what do those have to do with how I come across to people?”

“Would you rather work indoors or outdoors?”
“Do you daydream occasionally?”
“Do you sometime feel anger?”
“Do you sometime let your mind wander?”
“Are you mad on occasion?”
“Would you rather be outside or inside?”

At the end of each report-out session, I ask: “Did it capture you?” Over the past 13 years only one person, a graphic designer, pushed back. I told her that was a first… and a few months later – during our final meeting with her boss – she laughingly brought it up. Her boss looked at my client and said, “That’s your biggest problem. You are completely unaware of who you are and how you impact everyone in the office.”

At that moment, I remember wanting to climb under the table or disappear; however, the boss was on to something. The employee left the company a short time later, and said during her exit interview, “I’ve come to realize I’d be better off working by myself.”

While personality style assessments aren’t a tool to determine who to hire and fire – and, in fact, using them that way is likely illegal – they are instruments that bring to light our uniqueness. Understanding your natural style provides insight into ways you should continue to do things… and opportunities to adapt those traits that are getting in the way of your success.

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Never Forget

Today is the anniversary of one of our nation’s most tragic events… bombings of the World Trade Center and Pentagon and take down of UA Flight 93. As promised in the days immediately after the unthinkable, we pause each year on 9/11 and remember those who died innocently and those who gave their lives trying to save them.

In my anthology released in June, Words Flow Through Me, I included the tribute I wrote after the death of my former employer, Bud Hadfield. Within is this paragraph:

My dad, with whom I had a terrific relationship, died suddenly four years before I met Bud, so it was natural he would serve as a father figure. When the first plane struck the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, I went into his office to inform him, and said, ‘I don’t know what to feel or think right now.’ My dad enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor, and I needed someone to add perspective. ‘When you’re attacked,’ Bud said, “you do what you have to do.

In the days, weeks, months and years that followed we did what we had to do. Things got better. Then came an unending war. Then the financial crisis. Then the stock market crash. Then things got better for a long time. Then Covid.

The slog is into its seventh month and the emotional meter rises with every promise of a vaccine and falls whenever an AstraZeneca tells us it’s a long road to approval. Yet, we must stay confident that one day, hopefully, soon, we will come out the other side… and in 5, 10, 19 years, we’ll pause to remember our shared experiences.

Bud died nearly 10 years after 9/11, so he’s not here to provide guidance to me. However, I’m confident that if I could walk into his office and ask for perspective today, he would deliver one of his favorite sayings: “Let’s go to work!”

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Be Curious

Part II of II

In order for a client to self-discover their real needs and the actions they’ll take to address them, it’s important for a coach to stay in inquiry – asking open-ended questions that allow the client to look inward for answers they haven’t yet covered.

Here are examples of powerful questions that work for me:

What do you need to focus on right now?
In the story you just told me, what led you to react that way?
What’s the impact on others when you do that?
What’s behind that?
What’s getting in the way?
What part of this do you control?
How would you prioritize the options you just told me?
How realistic is that timetable?
What If you decided to do it this month instead of next quarter?
Who could help you?
Who else is involved in that decision?
What else could you do? (pause) And then what?
What have you written down so far?
Which of these are you most committed to doing?
On a scale of 0 (low) to 10 (high), what’s the likelihood you’ll do it?
What would it take to turn that 7 into an 8?
How will you hold yourself accountable?
How will you know when you’ve reached that goal?

It takes practice to continue asking powerful questions and not slip into a disguised suggestion: “Have you considered…?” While you never want to make the other person feel they’re being interrogated, remaining silent and allowing them time to think often leads to better decisions than you might have offered.

My favorite coaching sessions begin when a client says, “I don’t have much today.” I’ll say, “What’s one thing you thought about this morning that’s still on your mind?” That opens up a dialogue and usually ends with a “Wow!” or “Who knew I had so much to discuss.”

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Clear Role

Part I of II

I ventured out this week for a much overdue, pandemic-delayed trip to the eye doctor. Afterward, while being fitted for new glasses, the optician asked what I do for a living. When I said, “I’m an executive coach,” he responded, “Oh, so you’re a consultant.”

This is a common misperception, as many people consider the two interchangeable. However, the big difference is consultants give advice, while coaches stay in inquiry – asking powerful questions that allow clients to determine their own actions.

[Note: There are some coaches who never answer a client’s question; however, I don’t draw such a firm line. If a client says, “What color is the grass?” there are coaches who will respond, “What color do you think it is?” That seems like a waste of valuable coaching time, so I say, “Most people think it’s green. What’s the reason you asked?”]

To help others better understand my profession, I’ll use the analogy of a six-year-old asking to learn to ride a bike… and include a couple of other disciplines for fun:

“A mentor would say, ‘Let me tell you about the time I learned to ride a bike.’ A therapist would say, ‘What happened when you were a four-year-old that is preventing you from riding this bike?’ A consultant would take the bike apart, put it back together, create a multi-page document, hand it to the kid and say, ‘That’s how you ride a bike.’ Me? I say, ‘What have you seen other kids do?’ and ask some more questions to discover what the youngster already knows – then give them an encouraging push.

Basically, a consultant’s role is to solve clients’ problems, while a coach works with them to explore what they want and discover from within how they’ll get there.

Next: Powerful Questions

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