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Tuesday Morning Coaching
Eight Simple Truths to Boost Your Career and Your Life
By David Cottrell
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2013David Cottrell
All rights reserved.
The First Tuesday
No Matter What!
It was a beautiful morning when I drove to Jeff's home for our first meeting. He had moved out of the city to a pristine lakefront community, and the 45-minute drive gave me time to think. But that wasn't necessarily a good thing. The thought that these meetings with Jeff might be a waste of time haunted me. Of course, I reasoned, if things were great, I would have never called Jeff in the first place. The truth was, something had to change.
As I pulled into Jeff's driveway, I could not help but notice the freshness and perfection of his property. The house itself was not huge, but everything outside his home was immaculate. The smell of blooming flowers drifted on the breeze off the lake. The walkway leading up to the spacious porch perfectly matched the pavers of the driveway. The grass, still sparkling with the last of the morning dew, provided a crisp contrast to the well-tended and manicured shrubbery. Jeff's place mirrored the way he used to run our organization—everything was in its proper place.
I had arrived about 10 minutes before our scheduled 7:00 a.m. meeting time. I remembered from my days working with Jeff that he was a stickler for starting and ending any meeting on time, so there was no way I was going to be late for my coaching sessions with him.
"Hello, Ryan!" Jeff said, meeting me at the door and extending his hand. "I'm honored you called and asked to come see me. It's been awhile since we've seen each other. You look terrific!"
Look terrific? I thought to myself. I felt like I'd been beaten up physically and emotionally for months.
Jeff invited me in and then laid down the book he was carrying on a nearby table. When he asked if I'd like a quick tour of his home, I enthusiastically accepted. The home also reflected Jeff's personality. The hardwood floors and classic furniture looked like they should be featured in an interior decorating magazine. Everything was first class.
When we reached the library, an incredible room filled with books and memorabilia, I immediately noticed he had set aside several pictures of our team from the time we had worked together. The pictures reflected good times ... really good times. We couldn't help but smile, laugh, and reminisce about the good ol' days. It had been a long time since I'd experienced the feeling of success. It was good to remember how it felt.
As I followed Jeff into the kitchen, I was reminded of some of the characteristics that I had always admired in him—his positive attitude, striking confidence, and zest for life. As he poured a cup of coffee for each of us, I asked about his wife. "Is Susan around? I'd hoped to say 'hi' while I was here."
"Unfortunately, she's not," Jeff said. "She goes to one of those early morning boot camp workouts at the gym every Tuesday and Thursday. But she did want me to tell you 'hello' and that she's sorry she missed you."
After a few more minutes of catching up about our families, he looked at his watch and said it was time to get down to business. "It's a gorgeous morning. Let's sit out on the deck. Is that okay with you?"
"Sure," I said, as we each grabbed our coffee cups and he led the way outside.
Jeff's home sat on a small bluff directly above the shore of the lake. Spanning the entire length of the back of the house was a covered deck artfully arranged with outdoor furniture and planters filled with flowers and ferns. My guess was that Jeff often held meetings out here on the deck. And why wouldn't he? The view was spectacular.
"I appreciate you reaching out to me, Ryan," Jeff said, as we settled into two cushioned chairs. "Seeking an outsider's advice is a good and courageous move. I could tell from your phone call that you needed someone to help you sort through your issues, and I'm honored you chose me.
"I believe I'll be able to help because I've been right where you are. In fact, a few years ago, I reached out to a friend, Tony Pearce, who helped me work my way out of a leadership slump. Everyone needs a coach occasionally ... someone who can provide new perspective on issues that may seem overwhelming.
"I like the term that you used on the phone to describe your situation," Jeff continued. "Do you remember what you said?"
"Sure I do. I told you I needed to reboot my life and career, just like I have to reboot my computer occasionally when it gets cluttered and slows down. But right now, I'm burned out and, quite frankly, tired of working hard but going nowhere. The reason I'm here is because I'm ready to move forward."
Jeff took a sip of coffee and sat silently for a moment, staring out over the lake. Finally he said, "Everyone gets burned out occasionally. Burnout is created by stress—a constant level of stress, in some cases. When this happens, it can be devastating to your job performance, but more important, it can destroy your physical health at the same time.
"When you're burned out, the first thing you need to figure out is if the situation is a long-term challenge or merely a short-term inconvenience. From what you've told me, you are well beyond the short-term inconvenience stage. Am I right?"
"No doubt. I'm definitely on the long-term side," I answered. "In fact, this has been going on quite a while. I've tried to address the situation on my own. I just haven't had much success."
"If it's not a short-term inconvenience, then you need to talk to someone about it ... and I'm glad you called me," Jeff reassured. "Holding the stress inside only creates more stress. By sharing with someone you trust, you will discover that there are things you can do to improve the situation.
"One of the keys to getting back on track is to not overreact. You see, when you're in burnout mode, everything is exaggerated. If you're in a rut—and this is where you are right now—you need to stop digging and making the rut deeper. In times of stress and/or ambiguity, you should never make long-term, life-changing decisions. However, this also is not the time to just sit there and hope things improve. Never, in the history of mankind, has any situation improved on its own while people sat there doing nothing."
"I understand," I said. "That's why I'm here."
Jeff reached for a small notebook that was on the table between us. "Before we get started, I think we need to set some ground rules so we can make the best use of our time together. With that in mind, I took the liberty of drawing these up. Tell me what you think."
He pushed the spiral-bound notebook titled "Tuesday Morning Lessons" across the table to me. As I opened it, I saw where he had listed four simple rules on the first page:
As I read through the rules, Jeff offered, "Let me go over each of these so we completely understand our commitment. First, we need to honor each other's time by being prompt and consistent in our meetings. Second, I will ask you to do some 'homework assignments.' These will usually involve you meeting with people who are outside of your normal sphere of colleagues and peers. Completing these assignments will be crucial if you're going to reignite your life.
"Third," he continued, "one of the most important aspects of this process is for you to discover the truth. It's also one of the most difficult. But very little that is worthwhile comes easily. In fact, 'difficult' almost always comes before 'easy.' Most people focus on what they want the truth to be. In our sessions, we will focus on the truth as it is.
"Socrates once said, 'Knowing thyself is the height of wisdom.' It appears to me that you may not have been completely
Excerpted from Tuesday Morning Coaching by David Cottrell. Copyright © 2013 by David Cottrell. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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