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3 Questions everyone should know: MOMA (per Peter Senge)

18 May

So how do you stay focused and calm in (almost) any situations, from conflict, to over-shopping?

That’s easy:  simply use Moments of Awareness (MOMA), which I first learned about in Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline Fieldbook.

Think of it as the ‘ginzu knife’ of life – it works in EVERY situation.

Plus, it’s easy to transport everywhere, including through airport security.   This is one of the most brilliant tools around and I”ve used in all my communication, conflict management, leadership, financial ‘therapy’, and everything in between, coachings and trainings.

Usually these are used when something is ‘wrong’.  But they can just as valuable when things are ‘right’ and you want to learn from and repeat something.

3 Simple steps:  Learn this.  Practice this.  Use this.  With yourself.  With your colleagues.  With your kids.  Ask yourself and/or ask others.

MOMA:  Moments of Awareness questions:

1.  What are you feeling?

Focus on the body:  the body doesn’t lie.  Think about if your body feels tight?  relaxed?  Are your hands clenched?  Is that smile natural or forced?  Do you all of a sudden feel sick to your stomach?  Feel your teeth clenched?

Focusing on your body will tell about real feelings that may not be expressed in words.

2. What do you want?

Here’s one way to think about your body’s message to your mind:  whatever is going on just isn’t working (for you).  This question will tell you specifically why it’s not working.  Bottom line:  you have a value that isn’t met.  Identify your values NOW.  Then when you are in a situation and your body is screaming it’s time to take ‘flight or fight (or shop, or…)’ you’ll know specifically why.  to find your values just go to the page Values Activity.

Your body may tighten for example when you are with a particular person.  You may think it is because s/he is a jerk.  This may be true.  But the reason you think they are a jerk is because what they say and do doesn’t meet your values.  Now you have a reason to tell them why you have to walk away.  Now do it.  WAlk away!

Remember:  your body will tell you when your values aren’t being met.  Listen.  And find out specifically which value is not being met!

3.  What am I doing to prevent myself from getting what I want?

Now you get to look at your actions.  Wait. Go deeper:  look at your words.  But not the words you say to others.

LISTEN TO THE WORDS YOU ARE SAYING TO YOURSELF.

When it comes to preventing yourself from getting what you want, it is that self-talk that separates out one action from anther.

Listen:  If your self-talk is negative, regardless of that bright shiny smile or firm handshake or perfect ensemble you present to the world – those words rolling inside your head is what the world will hear because that is what you are sharing.  REally.

You are sharing what you are saying to yourself through your non-verbals – the way you hold your body, etc.

Write down those negative terms of endearment (yes, that is sarcasm) you say to yourself so you are aware of what you are saying.  Of what you are doing to yourself.  Now write down – then SAY – to yourself what you would tell someone else in the same situation.

Look in the mirror, then say it with conviction.

Simple.  Try it with yourself.  Try it with a friend till you become an expert.  

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Values: The Coach was kicked out of the Park!

6 Aug

Alas, it’s true! 

The laws are strict in this town when it comes to what you can ‘sell’ in public spaces, as the young and slightly confused officer told me.

I know the officer was doing his job – I don’t want a ticket!

NO to offering a service, NO to using park furniture.  Stay tuned for other options including BMOS (bring my own seat).

A large scruffy man in a baseball cap sat down as the officer left, to ask about coaching, comment on the interaction, and quickly offer to be my assistant.    Former driver, former ‘European’, living in Queens for the  past 20 years, Y. was exploring Manhattan and his options for the first time,  which this second included me.

I only provide coaching I reminded him more than once.

Y.,  was a math teacher in ‘Europe’.  Years ago he subbed in the Bronx – for a day.    Shaking his head, the picture viewed through his broken English:  an empty classroom with students wildly enjoying the outdoors.

Not an experience he wants to repeat.  To teach he needs to pass the test he failed, barely, more than ten years ago.  Option include taking a class with test taking tips,  or, study on his own.  Classes are expensive: he hasn’t found the free ones through the NYC Department of Education.   So many NYC teachers fail these tests the first (and many more) times, because like Y., English is not their native language.

Options are great if you know what you want, and, even then they’re challenging.   I spend many an hour picking up balls from juggled options!    While Y. is fixated on me at

One of the wonders of Bryant Park: a carousel!

the moment, I get the sense what he really wants is conversation.    He shares what I’ve heard from so many New Yorkers:  meaningful connection is rare.

Connection motivates him to ‘apply’ as my assistant.  I get it.  Coaching in the park has been meaningful and a great motivator for me, and I believe many of my ‘coachees’.

I focus on Y.’s motivation, asking what’s important enough for him to retake the teaching test and study?  He couldn’t tell me.  Knowing and understanding the values that motivate aren’t usually on the tips of our tongues.  Without knowing what he really wanted, ‘Y’ looked to me as a substitution.

Okay, to be sure there are worse substitutions!   Unmet values have led me to over consume:  food, shopping, and, negative thoughts.   But when it comes to true motivation, only meeting values will satisfy.

‘Y’ doesn’t want to hear this.  Doesn’t want to hear I can’t help.

Values are a communication essential.  Here’s a great and simple tool to identify yours:   http://www.career-test.biz/values_assessment.htm .   Values focus life areas including  finances, relationships and conflict, and career.

Values are intense, so when you identify yours, give yourself time to think through the options offered.  Share them and share your ‘ah-ha’ moment as you uncover your core values.

One of the iconic lions that guard the front of the 42nd Street Library and an anchor of the park

Hope your week is filled with meaningful connections.

Hidden amongst the trees are stacks of books, magazines, and newspapers ready to be enjoyed when a break from ping-pong is needed.

Another option: ping-pong is a great way to blow off steam during lunch hour. I haven’t played – YET. An incentive to relaunch my coaching sessions

What I really want: The Coach is IN: A Talk in the Park

30 Jul

Two young men drinking soda eyed my sign for ten minutes before curiosity propelled them to  explore further.  Three weeks of basketball camp brought them to

Wonder if Barack’s basketball prowess impresses these boys?

Pennsylvania from Belgium and the West Indies.  Practicing English brought them to me.

50 teens from French-speaking countries are at camp learning to dribble and shoot the ‘American’ way.  Today, their NYC day was all about shopping.  Hanging in Bryant Park was respite on a hot day.

The young Belgian shares: Americans are friendlier and more open, than people in Brussels, who rush to destinations, ignoring people met on their journey.   Perspective is viewed through an experiential kaleidoscope.  Usually its New Yorkers accused of fitting meaningful interactions into a ‘New York minute’.

Isn’t every life experience viewed through a kaleidoscope? Image from the University of Arkansas, Math 2033!

My own kaleidoscope turns to late-afternoon business lunchers in the park.   I wonder what challenges await them back at the office.   They won’t stop to talk.  This I know from my ‘Talk in the Park’.  Experience reminds patience.

Minutes later, a young man, paused, then sits.  True, he’s in the chair beside me, yet I feel his needs circling the table.   It’s not my imagination.

S. has been in the U.S. for several years, having emigrated from Benin, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13037572 ,  a small, poor, country close to Nigeria.  Unemployed, he’s just applied to work at McDonald’s.  He really wants to work, but isn’t optimistic.

‘People see that’ he’s not calm.  Armed with rejections and feeling unaccepted, he believes this comes from his own negative self-talk.  S. is working to control his mind, delving into self-help.  His self-awareness is remarkable.

His face clouds, pinches.  Frustration feeds his stress while talking about failed interviews and work frustrations.

Customer service and a strong work ethic take center stage in examples from his past sales associate position.  S. cajoles customers to try new items, bringing products to their attention, based on what was already in their basket.

Hmm.  Based on my experience training managers for a large retail chain, S. appears to be the perfect candidate.  We talk about interview strategies to share his talents.  Interview questions are unrealistic, he feels.  He can’t and won’t answer what he likes/doesn’t like.

His love of work, need to focus and accomplish tasks both compliment and unnerve his sense of self, sense of calm.  Somewhere in his last two jobs, he ‘lost’ himself, and searching for calm and work is both unnerving and frustrating.  I certainly these emotions and wonder how many millions of similar conversations are taking place around the country and the world at this exact moment.

But he needs to stay calm and answer interview questions.

What does he want?  To work.

Other people’s actions and thoughts keep popping into our discussion, blurring his focus.   Hints of arguments and need for his way to be the right way coat the surface of his interview experience, smothering possible opportunities.  His non-verbal expression http://face-and-emotion.com/dataface/general/guide.jsp overpowers his words.

One way to improve his interview technique – and nonverbals – is to practice answering questions while looking at a mirror.  Practicing till calm will enhance his success.

(http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2011/02/07/your-nonverbal-communication-can-wreck-your-interview/ for more info)

Focus:  What does he want?  To work.

We cycle through his wants washed with emotions, wringing out interview wrinkles.

Sharing advice I’ve heard from district managers:  make your boss look good,  is easy to apply to S.’s skills.  Great customer service and sales, his forte, will make any boss look good.  Arguing with his boss over how and what to do, well, not so much.

A smile slowly relaxes his body, adding a nod and realization.   After reviewing a few more strategies to build on his strengths, focus on his wants, and identify new doors to knock on.   S. shakes hands with confidence.

Bryant Park is great entertainment destination this time of year. Ping pong tables offer a chance to blow off steam and practice showmanship.

I wish him luck.

And best of luck with tackling your challenges this week.

I’ll be back in Bryant Park on Wednesday (if it doesn’t rain).  I’m moving into the present:   tweeting/twittering about communication essentials and where to find ‘A Talk in the Park’

Share what’s on your mind!

Tongues vs. Thumbs: Urban Ambassadors ‘vote’ results, Part 2

26 Jul

When you’re lucky enough to chat with Urban Ambassadors in the park, the future is filled with bright possibilities.

Our discussion was wily and and as discussed last time, begged for tangents darting to school,  A Better Chance Program’ trips, and of course, girls.

How odd we must have looked to passersby:  a middle aged white woman surrounded by nine non-white teenage boys?  We’re attracting lots of looks, a few guys point out, so we rearrange ourselves, putting my coaching sign back on the table.  The sign had been on the ground so I could see everyone’s eyes and faces.

The Ambassadors listening intently!

People want to talk and be listened to, as the posse reminded me.  Conversations like these could go the distance, bridging people and building understanding.

The importance of conversations and communication takes front and center stage.  In this day and age I have to ask about their communication preference:  tongues vs. thumbs?

Tongues rolled in response and a vote revealed a preference of 7 tongues to 2eithers’.   Wow – I’m surprised though I shouldn’t be since these guys are talking -to me- on a hot afternoon.  I see their ‘tongue’ vote as a thumbs up for opposable thumbs and humankind’s love of face-to-face interactions.

‘After texting, you may change your mind and then, there’s nothing you can do’, one Ambassador shared with universal agreement.

Next consideration was about the ubiquitous ‘LOL’ at the end of the message.  ‘It doesn’t mean anything anymore.  You just add it all the time’ was one summary of  this text’ accessory.   Adding a little ‘frownie’ face is more meaningful.

Now this doesn’t mean cell phones don’t serve a greater purpose, especially on the subway as one told:  ‘I have a friend who pulls out his phone as soon as he sits down even though there’s no service.’  

It’s taken me more than a few years to realize people play games underground, explaining their ‘palmed’ focus.  Is he playing games I wondered?

‘NO!  He just doesn’t want to talk to anyone!’ 

While I usually view the subway as the perfect melting pot, for many it is their

Bryant Park is also quite the melting pot of people and entertainment including piano playing! If you’ve never spent an hour roaming this small square – do it! It’s amazing what you’ll find!

decompression chamber after a tough day.  So I do get it.

If texting is a ‘no’ what about Facebook, cyberspace’s 24/7 ‘happy hour’ meet and greet?  Will they cross the great divide for a FB ‘like’?

One scary and cautionary tale:  Two girls went missing after going to a Facebook ‘hook-up’.  As the Ambassador wisely stated:  ‘Everything public is dangerous.’

Six of the nine have Facebook pages, so yes, it fares a bit better.  But having a page and ‘liking ‘it’ are two different things.  Especially when it comes to connecting with the opposite sex.

Offering a friend request on-line is often met with rejection – even after the girl had expressed interest in connecting.   This was really frustrating to these guys.  ‘They (girls) say they want to talk.  But they don’t.’

This multi-sided coin reveals great Facebook relationships.  Unfortunately these relationships aren’t great in ‘real life’.

One thing is apprarent with the Ambassadors.  These nine, really nice, open, intelligent young men live in ‘real life’.  Armed with humor, great conversation skills and drive, I think, I hope, they’ll continue to nurture skills for meaningful relationships and ‘real’ communication.

Yup!  Human connection and communication are alive and well in NYC.  

Let’s all make a phone call today and hear someone LOL – for ‘real’!  

I’ll be back in Bryant Park next Wednesday the 1st of August!  Stay cool!

Urban Ambassadors: The Coach is IN: A Talk in the Park

24 Jul

A posse of nine young men parading through Bryant Park attracts attention.  But then again, that is exactly what they want!

I look up as they noisily passed, stop, and glance back at my sign – and me.  Holding the sign and offering a coaching session intensify their huddle.   Within

The coach is IN and ready!

minutes the pack breaks as one strides towards me, the posse trailing behind.

J. plunks a quarter down in payment for five sessions.   Here’s the scene so far:  9 guys standing, smiling, staring in wait at my table.  This feels like fun!

They scatter to find chairs, forming a semi-circle around me.  I suddenly feel like Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.   No worries:  no table jumping for me.  My coordination is not on par with my coaching skills. 

As introduction, J. shares his stunt  pulled walking across the Park’s lawn.  His ‘jump’ meant to amuse and entertain the posse (and everyone watching) doesn’t match his deadpan expression.  It’s quickly obvious he’s the group’s entertainer.  I can’t help but assess his communication style.

The conversation becomes a free-for-all as at least seven voices compete to be heard, each telling variations of who they are and where they’ve been.  Order is quickly restored and they resolve their only conflict by taking turns and raising hands to speak.  In reality their issue is a search for conversation and acknowledgement.  Sitting back, I settle in to listen.

The Urban Ambassador (A Better Chance) crew: nine of the nicest guys you’d want to spend the afternoon talking to.

So, who are these guys? 

Introductions are exchanged with strong handshakes and good eye contact.  Unsurprisingly this is part of their ‘training’.  I define a handshake as a transfer of energy – a desire to share energy with another, I’m rewarded with a firmer grip.

Proudly, they tell me they are Urban Ambassadors and rising Juniors.  They are high achieving young men of color in low achieving schools, participating in ‘A Better Chance’, a program which mentors, and supports them to go to college and fulfill their potential.

Their potential and drive shines through.  T. shares his interest in business, in success and tells me he always strives to do better.  An imperfect grade, raises questions while pushing for that next level.  T. joins J. in leading the conversation, allowing his communication style to become clear.

Normally they are in suits and show the pics to prove it.  Today’s casual attire reflects the day’s activity:  bowling at Times Square Bowlmor Lanes.  www.bowlmor.com/timessquare  

Next week, they’re off to Washington, D.C.  for the second time.  A first visit focused on colleges including Howard University.  Business seems a popular career interest, except for M., an artist observing from the back.

SAT preparation occupies many of their days.  Test taking is a skill and we discuss strategies.  A few mention the need for more time to think and fully process questions while the others comment on how more than one answer makes sense.

One question comes up based on an experience this morning.   No-one stopped to help them when they asked for directions.  Why not?   These guys are SO intent

N. paying a bonus in appreciation!

and SO interested in understanding human behavior.  What could I say other than to keep trying and keep smiling.  Not that these guys are the type to give up.

These Urban Ambassadors live up to their ‘title’ in exuding personality and ‘niceness’.   It’s striking how intently they listen to each other and to me.  Listening is one of those skills I usually think of as being on the endangered list.

In this day and age of tongues vs. thumbs communication, I couldn’t help but ask about their preference for connecting.

And that’s a whole other story, so I”ll share it next it time.

Overcoming skill-building challenges with Friends: The Coach is IN: A Talk in the Park! Vol. 7

16 Jul

What frustrates you about friends and colleagues?

How have you overcome challenges when working and learning with friends?

N. was focused and open about his challenge and issue to be resolved as he sat at my Bryant Park coaching table.

A relationship conflict:  mixing business with friendship, or more specifically having goal focused skill building sessions with a friend.  One slight problem:  his “friend doesn’t appear to be doing the work”.  His friend appears to be “holding himself back.”

Listening, I knew it was time to focus N.’s challenge by using MoMA (Moments of Awareness) https://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/decisive-actio…the-park-vol-4/ ‎:

Q1:  What are you feeling:  frustration

Q2:  What do you want:  Growth – in the skill they are both working to develop

Q3:  What can you do differently:  Let him go at his own pace

Sounds good, right?  It took us time to ‘get here’.  Strong emotion guided his frustration.   Answers to these questions initially focused on his friend: what his friend needed to do, what his friend wasn’t doing.

N.”wondered why people ‘do that’.  He wanted his friend take action and pursue this skill growth with his discipline.  Confessing he couldn’t change his friend didn’t make it easier to focus.  It never does.

Further discussion found N. sharing this same frustration with others:  his dad and with those he coaches for medical school interviews.  He admitted he becomes frustrated when he is asked the same question 3 times.  He doesn’t want to waste people’s time – even if they don’t mind.

The DiSC is a great tool for insight into action, reactions, conflict, and career focus. This image is from www.suehansonspeaks.com. To take an on-line assessment go to: http://www.personalitystyle.com

 The essential two tools:  I believe are indispensable to provide N. insight into his behavior.   The results can provide direction and strategies to achieve his goal and  eventual answer to Q3 above:  letting his friend go at his own pace.

  1.  The DiSC assessment tool.  http://www.personalitystyle.com  will identify his communication style. This good quick version of the tool provides great information.  (Stay focused on one aspect of your life as you take it.  Questions?  The Coach is IN)
  2. The values assessment tool tunes you to:  ‘the radio station we all listen to’:  WIIFM:  What’s In It For Me.  WIIFM’s are our values and explain our motivation and a key to action AND insight into underlying causes of conflict.  N.’s values are (likely) key to his own motivation -and conflict with his friend’s actions.  A very simple assessment tool:  http://www.career-test.biz/values_assessment.htm .                                            Values also drive our financial decisions, so use them to assess your spending and saving actions!

The hard part of course is putting it together and understanding (for N.) his own behavior and then recognizing his friend likely has a very different style and values.  Recognizing, accepting, and learning from these tools are key, and, I can’t repeat it enough even for myself, challenging.

N.’s next step is to communicate his needs to his friend.  He can only talk about himself  and his needs and should’s.  This is a great opportunity to begin a conversation and learn more about his friend.

I suggested a modified ‘I Statement‘ approach adding some open-ended questions:

  • The reason I want to build this skill is:
  • I want to build it with you because:
  • It’s important to me because:
  • I get frustrated when you (specific action)
  • What is your reason to build this skill?
  • Why do you want to work with me?
  • Why is important to you?
  • What do you think we can do differently for us both to grow better at this skill?

Our 10 minute session stretched to almost 30 minutes as we went through these 2 tools and 2 processes.  A full coaching session (as N. and I discussed) would work through the assessment results and fully formulate communication strategies to use with his friend and interview coaching clients!

A good first start and a good demonstration of how coaching meets my value for meaning (and helping others).   

How do your values match your daily actions?