Category Archives: Growth/Learning

The importance of coaching for meaning and purpose

work gives you meaning and purpose

“Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life.” Viktor Frankl

“Self-actualizers seek meaning and purpose and very often find it by contributing to others, to their community, or to society at large. More and more people are demonstrating that they care as much about fairness and the plight of others as they do about themselves. These emerging altruistic tendencies are also causing them to question corporate ethics and values as well as the profit motive.

“…ordinary people want more say in how they are treated at work and by business. It is not surprising that the issue of meaning and purpose is being raised more and more often stemming from the desire to escape from what many see as a meaningless corporate world and to go independent. On the other hand, coaching is an invaluable tool for helping staff clarify their own thoughts and remove the confusion and frustration that makes it unlikely that they will give their best effort. Countered by the need for security, some people may well choose to stay put for a time, but dissatisfaction is likely to haunt them. Others may leave the organization anyway, but most can discover how to find meaning in their existing work, or in part-time charity or community activities outside of work, and thereby maintain their performance with greater willingness and satisfaction.

“Meaning and purpose are spoken of as being joined at the hip, but they are not identical and they need to be distinguished. Meaning is the significance we ascribe to an event or an action in hindsight, while purpose is our intent to embark on a course of action. Meaning is mainly psychological, whereas purpose is a spiritual concept. To be more precise, we should specify either meaning or purpose or both when coaching others.” John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance

The importance of coaching for meaning and purpose cannot be overemphasized as gen-Xers become more altruistic as they age  and move out of the workforce and millennials seeking the “why” behind everything move into organizations. Employee engagement and loyalty, high productivity, innovation and creativity, great customer service…and, finally, profit are the outcomes of coaching for meaning and purpose, yet it’s still all too rare in organizations of all types and sizes. Why not give it a shot? You have little to lose and a lot to gain…and you’ll learn a lot in the process.

Thoughts on Leadership and Success


Everything moves so fast now that it’s easy to lose sight of the basics, to forget the principles and practices we know to be true. For that reason, I regularly take time to reflect on the fundamentals of leadership and success. This helps to ground me, get my head out of the clouds, and keep my ego in check (We all have egos…pretty large ones in fact.).

Here are a few thoughts that help guide me back to reality and toward making a meaningful contribution. They apply universally to any organization, department or team. Therefore, I suspect they will ring true with you as well. Use them in good health. Share them with your peers and your managers. Infuse them into your organization so they won’t be forgotten.

Most of the  decisions in life motivated by greed have unhappy outcomes.

Focus on what you can give back to society, not what you can extract from it.

The best corporate growth comes from putting the doing of things for the client ahead of meeting earnings targets. Growth must be organic and synergistic rather than forced simply for growth’s sake.

Trust is everything because success depends upon customers’ trust in the products and services they buy from you and your employees’ trust in you as leader. If you do not have integrity, no one will trust you…nor should they. (There is a strong likelihood that fewer people trust you than you think.)

Your purpose is to create value for your customers, your employees, your stockholders, and for society, rather than extract it for yourself.

Institutions that survive and prosper must have values and a purpose beyond just making money. They will also require managers and leaders who infuse vision and character into every element of the organization, men and women who bring not only their heads but their hearts to the challenge.

“Authentic leaders genuinely desire to serve others through their leadership…are more interested in empowering people they lead to make a difference than they are in power, money, or prestige for themselves…are as guided by qualities of the heart, by passion and compassion, as they are by qualities of the mind…lead with purpose, meaning and values…build enduring relationships with people…are consistent and self-disciplined. When their principles are tested, they refuse to compromise.” – Bill George

Organizations for Masochists


“Thinking about it the other day, I realized that some of my unhappiest moments have been in organizations. Someh0w it seems to be quite respectable to do things in organizations which you would never do in private life. I have had people insult me to my face in front of my colleagues. I have had my feelings rammed down my throat on the pretext that it would do me good and have been required to do things which I didn’t agree with because the organization wished it.

“And then there are all those games which organizations play, the political battles over what we can spend, who works for whom, or who sits where or is paid what. If, like me, you’re not very good at fighting for your own corner, you can end up sitting in the little room at the end of a corridor, wondering what they’re talking about in those meetings you weren’t invited to, simmering with resentment and hurt.

“In my worst moments I have thought that organizations were places designed to be run by sadists and staffed by masochists — and I’m not just talking about business, some of these things happened in the holiest of places with the nicest people. Why is it, I wonder, that 90 percent of us choose to work in these odd communities if we have the choice? Why does it sometimes have to be so awful?

“Well, it doesn’t have to be like that. The best organizations to be in, it seems, are the busiest ones as long as they are being busy for someone else. The worst are those obsessed with their own innards.

“…The healthiest organizations are those which exist for others, not for themselves. Show me a business or a school or a church that is preoccupied with its customers or clients, determined to do its best for them and not just for the sake of surviving, and I’ll bet you that they don’t have time for too many committees, for forms, for politicking or for nitpicking about mistakes. Those are the organizations that are fun to be in, which give you room to be yourself, to express yourself, to grow.

“…It may sound odd for a professor of business to say this, but I reckon that our organizations could do with a good deal more loving, a bit more forgiveness, and a lot more faith in other people. Such things, however, in organizations as in life, are possible only if we feel we are in the grip of something bigger than ourselves and so can lose ourselves in others.

“‘Where there is no vision the people perish,’ said the psalmist. Quite so. And organizations too.”  – Charles Handy, Waiting for the Mountain to Move

Thoughts on being “just regular”


Here’s a thought that I’ll bet has crossed your mind many times…”I wish I could be like (insert your hero’s/idol’s/role model’s name here).” Am I right? Of course I am. Media, teachers, friends and even family members encourage us to “be like” someone else who is considered to have their act together and has everything going for them. We cut and style our hair, wear certain clothes, buy specific types of things, go certain places, watch sports, listen to the chosen genre of music, sculpt our bodies (naturally or unnaturally), and include the jargon favored by “our crowd,” all in order to be like someone else, to fit in, to be admired and accepted. Phew! A lot of time and effort goes into being “special.”

My wife, Kathy, and I have talked much about this topic over the past couple of years. We’ve discussed how we’ve fallen victim to the imitation game. We’ve also slowly discovered what it’s like to just be and do that which “sparks joy” in our lives simply because it resonates with us, because it just feels right and makes us more comfortable in our own skin. It’s not easy to go against the flow and chart your own path and we’re not always successful, but it has definitely been freeing and sometimes just downright fun!

Kathy recently wrote a “morning musing” titled “Thoughts on being ‘just regular'” and has given me permission to share it with you. Enjoy!

Thoughts on being “just regular”

“I read a lot…of others achievements…contributions to the world, creativity, athleticism, super parenting/grandparenting. And I aspire. Within that aspiration comes the creeping thought…others are so fantastic, so cool…look, look, I want to do that…how fun, how creative, how holistic, spiritual, helpful, inspiring…yet I am just regular. I am ‘past my prime’ as you say and cannot even remember exactly what I was doing in my prime besides spinning plates and trying to keep my head, and the six little heads that were mine, above water. It’s most likely a very good thing that I had less to compare myself to back then before social media, as the ‘thief of joy’ (comparison) was more limited and thus more subdued.

“I turned freaking 59 this year. Holy moly! I still weigh the same as I did thirty years ago but it is definitely not positioned the same. I am in good shape with the added ‘for my age’ — yada yada yada. I can do some cool stuff and I know it, but it is ‘regular’ stuff I think. Like making up a great meal from refrigerator and pantry misc., knitting crazy stuff, piano, art. I like to do a lot but I am pretty regular at it.

“Today I decided to be okay with that. No one will invite me to do a TED Talk or demonstrate anything on YouTube or publish me in the Huff Post…you name it. And finally my over-achieving, people-pleasing self has decided that this fact is okay.

“I shall quietly pursue my passions. Embrace my years and the good and the bad. Live and love large in the way that is true to myself, not some other woman who seems to have super powers.

“I feel the urgency of getting on with unpackaging myself and allowing obsession over things I desire to do. To be my best self, whether or not that self stacks up to anyone else.

“Regular is not bad.”


Leaders, Be Willing to Seek Out the Truth


The success or failure of a leader is largely dependent upon their ability to separate fact from fiction in the information that comes to them. Sometimes a leader’s ability to see the truth is colored by their own desires or fears or ego. To really lead, a leader must be able and willing to ferret out the truth in any given situation.

Some leaders discourage truth-telling. They “shoot the messenger” when the message is not what they want to hear. I once read that Bertrand Russell said that one of the reasons Hitler lost World War II was that he had an incomplete and inaccurate view of what was going on because bearers of bad news were punished. As a result, no one dared tell him the truth. Without knowing the truth, he could not make the right decisions and take the appropriate action.

Many of us, as leaders, are guilty of this same error. We don’t like to admit our mistakes or shortcomings so we kid ourselves and punish those who try to steer us in the right direction by telling us the truth.

A successful leader not only does not cheat or lie to others, he or she also learns to be honest with himself or herself. A good leader ranks high on the self-understanding and self-honesty scales.

Look for and seek the truth in all things, whether it is good news or bad news. “It doesn’t matter who’s right, but what’s right.”


Three Qualities…do you have them?


To fully benefit from questions of purpose and commitment, we need to be grounded in certain qualities that help us hold to our personal intentions when we engage with the pressures of the marketplace. These qualities are our capacity for reawakening our idealism, our ability to become more intimate in the way we contact the environment, and our willingness to choose depth in the face of the ever-quickening pace of modern life. The culture has forsaken idealism for cynicism, it has foregone intimacy for consumption and virtual experience. As a result, we find ourselves alienated and isolated, regardless of the crowd that we move in. Finally, in an effort to go fast, we sacrifice depth. When we lose idealism, intimacy, and depth, we function at a cosmetic level, pushed along by fashion, out of touch with our center, and we react as if we are the effect of the culture, rather than its cause. — Peter Block, The Answer to How is Yes

Have you yielded to cynicism? Do you feel isolated? Are you living at a purely surface level, simply responding to external presssures? The likely answer to at least one of these questions is “Yes.” So, what are you going to do about it? Be the cause  for idealism, intimacy, and depth in your life and in the world around you. It really is your choice.

A man is somewhat like a bicycle.


Functionally, a man is somewhat like a bicycle. A bicycle maintains its poise and equilibrium only so long as it is going forward towards something. You have a good bicycle. Your trouble is that you are trying to maintain your balance sitting still, with no place to go. No wonder it feels shaky

We are engineered as goal-seeking mechanisms. We are built that way. When we have no personal goal which we are interested in and which “means something” to us, we are apt to “go around in circles,” feel “lost” and find life itself “aimless,” and “purposeless.” We are built to conquer environment, solve problems, achieve goals, and find no real satisfaction or happiness in life without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve. People who say that life is not worthwhile are really saying that they themselves have no personal goals which are worthwhile.

Prescription: Get yourself a goal worth working for. Better still, get yourself a project. Decide what you want out of a situation. Always have something ahead of you to “look forward to” — to work for and hope for. Look forward, not backward. Develop what one of the automobile manufacturers calls “the forward look.” Develop a “nostalgia for the future” instead of for the past. The “forward look” and “nostalgia for the future” can keep you youthful. Even your body doesn’t function well when you stop being a goal-striver and “have nothing to look forward to.” This is the reason that very often when a man retires, he dies shortly thereafter. When you’re not goal-striving, not looking forward, you’re not really “living.” In addition to your purely personal goals, have at least one impersonal goal — or “cause” which you can identify yourself with. Get interested in some project to help your fellow man — not out of a sense of duty, but because you want to. — Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S.

Answer these four questions for yourself right now. The answers will give you poise, equilibrium, and a sense of meaning and purpose. After all, isn’t that what we really want?

  1. What is your personal goal?
  2. What project are you actively pursuing?
  3. What are you looking forward to?
  4. What goal are your pursuing that will contribute to the greater good…for the benefit of others?