Coaching Does Not Work!

Well now, that’s a hell of a thing for a coach to say. But I mean it.

I encounter people who are looking for a magic wand, and they think coaching might be the one they need. They have an expectation that somehow, talking to a coach is going to be the wish-fulfillment event of their lifetime, and everything will be fixed.  I really don’t want to take those folks’ money.

What does work, then? Something must, or I wouldn’t still be coaching, right?

Then answer is simple. Clients work. Coaching is a tool, but a tool, by itself, doesn’t work. In the case of coaching: the coach and client are working a two handled saw. Coach is working, client is working. The saw is just being a saw.

Am I putting too fine a point on it? I don’t think so. I’ve seen clients totally transform during the time they worked with me and shortly thereafter. But the COACHING didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it. The client transformed. Through work, and commitment, and taking seriously the discoveries that we make together, and being willing to take new risks. I have huge respect for my clients. They grab hold, and they work. and they make amazing changes happen.

Coaching is not magic. If that’s what you are looking for, I can save you time and money. In that regard, coaching doesn’t work.

If you want to investigate, please be in touch! I am always happy to do a free sample session.


Resolution? Or Revolution?

So, it’s that time of year again. Resolution season. For a coach, this means the calendar will be filling up. And that, of course, is a good thing– for me.

But is it good for you? Not necessarily.

Don’t get me wrong– I want to help you transform your life in wonderful ways.

But I am not a huge fan of resolutions. They tend to fade before the last of the Christmas trees hit the curb. Why, is that, do you suppose?

In my opinion, resolutions melt away like spring snow because they are often superficial, pre-recorded answers that you don’t really resonate with. Resolutions aren’t about the deep, real answer: they are about the “right” answer. The “right” answer, it turns out, often isn’t responding to the right question.

Resolutions are like a boring old relative, endlessly telling you what you “should” do–guilting you. Guilt, it turns out, is a lousy motivator.

OK, yes. sometimes, resolutions work. What’s your track record with them? If they work for you, great! But I am guessing that they maybe don’t, so much.

I much prefer revolution.

Revolution doesn’t come from a “should” message. It comes from a wild, wise place deep inside. It must be lovingly discovered, and that’s where I do my job: not by coming up with answers, but by asking questions.

Questions that make you stop cold, and really think. Questions that make you giggle, as though there’s a guilty pleasure in even considering the answer. Questions that are out of the question, questions that piss you off, questions that are stupid, questions that you wouldn’t have thought of, questions that I am surprised that I thought of, but thought of because of what you blurted out in response to a previous, (stupid) question. I like questions that you can’t believe nobody ever asked you before; questions that lead to answers that are so obvious they are a huge surprise.

The right question can change the story you’ve been telling yourself, and that can change your world. Questions lead to revolution.

Isn’t revolution dangerous?

If a coach-client relationship is properly designed, no, personal revolution isn’t dangerous. Scary? Hell yeah. Real, deep, transformational change can be scary. Our job is to  co-create a relationship that lets the scary stuff happen, safely. (By the way, the typical resolution scenario, which may feel safe, is often fraught with danger (ask an ER worker how many serious injuries they see every January as a result of resolutions!)

So, one has a choice. Scary, unknown, exploratory adventure, or–check the usual boxes. Quit that bad habit, do that exercise, yada yada yada. You know, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

What would happen if, this year, today, you choose revolution?

I am happy to offer free sample sessions on the phone, or, if you are local to Schenectady, in my office. Get in touch, and we’ll see what kind of wonderful, creative, transformational trouble we can get into.


Dog, bone, foot, saboteur

A cousin of mine recently shared a video on Facebook that has been going around for years. In the video a dog is apparently convinced that its own foot is trying to steal its bone. The dog alternates between gnawing at the bone, growling a warning towards its leg, and snapping at its own foot.

The video is either funny or appalling, depending on what one brings to it. As the years have gone on since its appearance on the web, many threads have sprung up discussing whether it is funny or cruel, whether the dog is just dumb or being manipulated or neurologically impaired or needs immediate treatment or…Many opinions, passionately stated on multiple threads. The internet is a place of many passions.

This post does not attempt to solve the controversy. Rather, I’m most interested in the excellent metaphor for an inner saboteur that the video presents. I imagine myself as the dog. Here I am, curled up with a nice big bone to gnaw on, and something…is…in my peripheral vision…threatening my safety, enjoyment, and relaxation. Obviously it is an enemy! I growl: the enemy doesn’t retreat. I snap: ouch! Now I have proof that the enemy has bad intent! My foot hurts! The enemy has bitten me!

A bone is only enjoyable if I feel really safe to gnaw at it in peace. If I essentially do not feel safe, my enjoyment of the bone is impossible. Even my own foot becomes a threat. In case you are wondering what the term saboteur means in coaching, this is classic saboteur!

As a coach, I have been taught that coaching the saboteur is impossible. Saboteurs are seductive. They want to draw both coach and client into dialogue and debate, because that’s their strongest place. They rewrite the rules of reality so effectively (that’s not my foot! It’s an enemy!) it is not possoble to reason with them. It is only possible to name and recognize the saboteur, and choose to ignore, rather than argue, with it. By doing this, we strip the saboteur of its power.

It’s important to recognize the actual saboteur. It may seem obvious, but needs to be noted: in this case, the saboteur isn’t the foot. A kiss is just a kiss, and a foot is just a foot. The dog is safe, warm, comfortable, and has a treat. Absolutely nothing is wrong except the perception that something is wrong. But that saboteur-created perception completely destroys the enjoyment of the moment. No, not the foot, but a voice in the head.

One of many things a good coach can do is to help sort out saboteur voices from feet, so to speak, and help the client learn to turn down the volume on the saboteur.When this happens, clients get to enjoy the gifts of life, really do the things they want to do, really soar, without wasting all sorts of energy attacking their own feet.

Interested in coaching? I still offer free sample sessions, and I still charge on a sliding scale. send me a message or set up an appointment using the green form on this page, and I’ll get back to you right away!

Sing Out, Louise!

I suspect I am one of the very few coaches with a theatre in the back room. (OK, technically, it’s a rehearsal room, but it has theatre seats, lights and dimmers, a piano, and a stage area, so everyone ends up calling it “the theatre.”)

A theatre is a great place to hold a coaching session because coaching can often be about visibility, authenticity, and performance.  We work together to reveal, then realize, your dreams. Together, we also reveal the ways you block them. And very often, realizing  those dreams requires you to be more effectively visible in the world. Life, after all, is a series of performances.

As a young actor I worked for a director who would shout: “It’s called a PLAY, people!” Coaching, like rehearsal, is work. And it’s play. As a coach, one of my jobs is to help you learn to not only invite scrutiny, but also to enjoy it.  By creating a safe space between us, we bring the uniqueness of you into focus.   As you get clearer about your own strengths and challenges, getting clear becomes an enjoyable part of the process, and the enjoyment reveals even more power and beauty you have always held inside, that you have resisted letting out. You become a conscious performer, and learn to instinctively bring the right energy to the performance at hand.

Finding the confidence and grace to believe that you can stand up for yourself and your knowledge in the room–that you can find that authentic, powerful performance– is at the heart of the coaching experience.  Holding your truth in a way that empowers you lets you own your own strength. When you face challenges,  you are then strong enough to accept the feedback and lessons that help you grow, while you let go of projected fears you may have of the judgements of others.

I’m not a consultant. I’m a listener. I forge an alliance with my clients to really see them. I’m a champion and cheerleader for my clients. One person calls me a “co-conspirator.”

There are few coaching sessions where I don’t want to pull out that old Broadway chestnut, “Sing Out, Louise!”   Mama Rose may have had her own issues, but encouraging others to shine in the world, to trust their own star power and be seen is never a bad thing.

We live in what is,
but we find one thousand ways not to face it.
Great theatre strengthens our ability to face it.
— Thornton Wilder

My coaching clients live in the real world. They face real challenges.   Co-Active Coaching helps you find your own courageous conviction, the power that lets you set and achieve your true goals.   My job is to to ask powerful questions, to listen and empower in a way that opens the skills and creativity that you already possess, rather than to instruct or advise.

I work to strengthen your ability to fully develop and use your own skills and creativity, your own power in the world.  And sometimes to remind you to “Sing Out, Louise!”

The fact that I happen to have a theatre in the back room can be one more tool in our path to finding the shining star you already own, your own personal spotlight. (It’s also a fun place to play.)

Interested?   I’m happy to chat.  Just contact me today!


Baby Ducks, all in a row…

I learn so much from my clients.

In a conversrubber-duckation just now, we were talking about getting all of one’s ducks in a row before launching an exciting idea. She said: “Ducks don’t really line up very well.” I blurted: “Baby ones do….but they don’t fly.”

We had a good laugh, and she basically demanded that I get that idea out there through my blog.  So here it is. The metaphor is yours, dear friends, to do with as you will…

On Celebrating Failure

A friend recently took me to task for telling improv students to “celebrate failure.”

“You don’t mean ‘celebrate failure,’ ” she said. “You mean ‘celebrate risking failure.’ ”

That conversation was a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Here’s my conclusion: I mean both.  Certainly I need to celebrate my willinglness to risk failure, because risking failure is the only reliable path to creative success. This part is easy, and is, I think, where I often stop in my thinking.  I have indeed often invoked the phrase “celebrate failure” when I really mean “celebrate your willingness to risk failure in pursuit of success.”  But actual failure? The result of the experiment that bombs? Do I really advocate celebrating that?

The answer is yes. It is very helpful to celebrate failure. The answer, if I am really truthful, is that I haven’t celebrated my own failures in life enough. But I am getting better at it.  Why do I think it’s helpful, and why haven’t I done it enough?  There are many reasons.

If I don’t first accept, then celebrate my failure, I risk denying that failure, and I minimize the possible learning to be gained.  But if I say, in effect, “wow, yay me! I tried that new way to make crepes, and it was a train wreck!  Woo Hoo! I’m covered with pancake batter from head to toe! ”  a couple of things happen. First of all, my sense of humor is one of the most important tools in my personal toolbox, and I must be able to laugh at myself. When I can’t, even I can’t stand being around me. Secondly, that sense of humor often reveals analysis that is important. For me, honest humor is a big part of learning.

Babies learn to walk by falling down. They do not learn to walk by risking a fall—they learn by falling. The fall tells them what “too far in that direction with the center of gravity” is. So they fall sideways, and to the other side, and backwards, and forwards…imagine if a baby labelled himself “a failure” after just a few falls? They don’t, because babies are naturally celebratory beings. This is not to say that they don’t let us know that it hurts, dammit, when they give themselves a good clunk on the head during one of their trials. But they get back up. So perhaps in this sense, “Celebrate failure” means “I celebrate the me that continues to learn from failure. I celebrate the fact that I WILL learn this walking thing.”

A number of years ago I was talking with a friend about a very successful corporation. The friend, who had a bit of an axe to grind, referred to the CEO with some distain, and said “he collects failures.”  I asked what he meant? “He finds people who have gone down in flames, and hires them. Look at his management team. Every one of them had a big crash in their past. He does it because then he can get them for cheap. They feel so bad about themselves that they will work for way less than successful managers would.”  I didn’t buy my friend’s premise, though he listed several previous failures on the part of people on the management team.

First of all, my friend was nursing a grudge, and framing his remarks in a negative way.  Secondly, however, as I said, the corporation in question is very successful. I can’t imagine that it would be if it were led by someone who collected “failures” with such low self esteem that they would work cheaply. (How would he even do that? Is there a special headhunter that looks for people who  are full of self loathing?) I imagine that the CEO is wise enough to hire people that have failed for his management  team because he knows that failure can be  a great indicator of creativity, bravery, and dynamic, action-based thought. I further imagine that he doesn’t have much interest in the very safe individuals who have neither failed much, nor succeeded much, but simply exist to serve  a status quo created by someone more adventurous than themselves.

In the improv classes, the instruction we give that my friend objected to is that our students  take a “circus bow” when they try and fail. We use the example of the trapeze artist who fails in front of thousands….she falls to the net, flips onto the floor, and springs up, arms stretched out, in a gymnast’s bow. The very posture is celebratory–and we give her a huge ovation. Why? Because she was brave, and skilled, and she tried something we would never have the courage to try ourselves. We know that this time she didn’t do it, but she can. We know, from observing her failure, that she is inherently a success.

So why don’t I celebrate my own failures enough?

Back to the baby. It hurts, that clunk on the head. And that pain can drive any celebration out of the mind.  But in the baby’s case, there’s a step two. He says to himself (in baby language, of course) “You know, that last time, I felt a little catch in my stomach, like the muscles there were trying to hold my weight from going backward, just before I fell back and clunked this noggin.  So, if those muscles were a little stronger, If  I tensed them earlier…then  do that alternate the feet thing, and then…walking! Bob’s yer Uncle!” (Baby language is heavily influenced by 20th Century British slang.) “Yay, me!” says the baby. “I’ll get this walking thing in no time!”

In my own case, I sometimes stop at the “damn that hurts” phase.  I forget the learning part. And that makes me forget to celebrate. When I stop at the pain, I forget to celebrate. I open the door to the saboteur voice in my head. When I feel the pain, acknowledge it, and then celebrate, I learn. And then, lo and behold…I succeed.



Mr. Crankypants

Boy oh boy, Mr. Crankypants.  You don’t want to teach this morning. You don’t want to coach. You don’t want to walk the dogs through the glorious fall leaves. You don’t want to do the improv class tonight, do you?

Mr. Crankypants? Are you listening?  You don’t want to listen with all your focus and honor your scene partner, whomever he or she may be, and you don’t want to be creative and playful and provoke laughter and positive growth. I see you there, muttering to yourself about the bad people who stole your string ball…and I know something else.

You aren’t really mister Crankypants. I see you! Peek-a-boo!

That’s you, isn’t it, Mr. Lazypants? Oh, and your twin brother, Mr. Scaredypants!  Wait! There’s your sister, under that mask! Ms. Junk Food! How did she fit under that mask with you guys?

You haven’t fooled me. Mr. Crankypants is just a big old fraud. And so are you three  lugs.

But the problem is, even though I have seen through your disguise, you still effect me.


So I am going to take care of you.  I’m starting with a big, long breath,    in……out.

Now I am going to go look at the sky.  The rest will follow.  Mr. Crankypants, some days I let you win. Not today.