Tag Archives: coaching

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

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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!

Decisive Actions: The Coach is IN: ‘A Talk in the Park’ Vol.4

9 Jul

Are you decisive?

What risks do you take to reach your dreams?

As scary as coaching in the park may be for ME, I imagine it even scarier for the person questioning across my table.   Sitting down labels my  ‘coachee’ (not a word I

My ‘advertisement with Bryant Park’s Monday night movie screen as backdrop

know) as someone in need of help.  Most people wouldn’t admit that need. Especially in ‘cool’ Bryant Park.  Especially in New York.

So when a young black man, stopped and stood, stared and waited, I was thrilled when A. accepted my offer to sit .  Dressed in black with a heavy backpack he didn’t take off, I strained to hear his soft-spoken question about coaching.  He responded to my offer for action steps in relationships and career with a shy smile.

Which first?  Relationships.  Specifically, he wanted to learn to be a better friend.  WOW!  Right?

I started asking what does a better friend ‘look like’?  That’s a hard question for most of us to answer, and A. shut down to my query.  Reminder to self:  keep my questions simple.

What did A. want to improve?  Why did he think he needed to be a better friend?

Referring to one friend, A. felt it was his fault this many was always on the phone when they were together.

I used Moments of Awareness (http://www.creating.bz/our-reading-circle/fifth-discipline.html)   to uncover the issues:

Q1:  What was he feeling?  Anger

Q2:  What did he want:  His friend not to be on the phone so they could TALK

Q3:  What could he do differently:  He wanted to yell at his friend, but as we discussed there were better communication techniques.

There’s this special energy created when working with someone so intent.   We next worked on using ‘I’ statements, to replace getting A.’s needs communicated.  He agreed words would work better than yelling.    ‘I’ statements,  are a popular and basic communication technique taught in communication and conflict classes.  But as I told A. they aren’t often heard.

Why not?  Good question, ‘human’ answer:  Emotions.  It’s always easier to yell and blame the ‘other idiot’.

It takes lots of practice to actually change the way we communicate our emotions.  I had to admit that even my ‘I statements get washed away in the face of conflict.  I too need to practice and a good plug for the importance of a coach to practice with!

A. and I worked through the steps (bold-faced), practicing them along the way.  One of the many cool things about this is that A. was easily able to supply good talking points (in italics).

Step 1When you (the facts):  talk on the phone when we are together

Step 2:  I feel:  angry

Step 3:  Because:  I want you to talk to me

Step 4:  I would likefor you not to be on the phone when we are together

Step 5:  BecauseI would like for us to talk

Step 6:  What do you think?

Simple and straightforward.   I wanted A. to practice, reminding him (and me and all of us) of the difficulty in changing how we talk and the power of being swept away by the emotions.  I suggested 100 times.  Yea, right you are probably thinking as he did too!  He felt like he could do it 5 times.  5 times works!

I recommended A. practice in front of the mirror.  I often recommend ‘mirror’ practice often (though nothing to do with fixing hair or touching up lipstick).  Practicing in front of the mirror and looking yourself in the eye lets you see what you look like in uncomfortable positions.  PRACTICING until you can smile and see

Bryant Park’s public restroom gets top ratings thanks to fresh flowers and classical music!

your confidence provides yet another step toward success when the situation arises.  Practice puts the words into long(er)-term memory.  ‘Mirror practice is great preparation for public speaking too!

Building a confidence smile and words seemed especially important with A.   His shy smile, soft spokenness seemed part of his MO.  I had him sit up straight.  We practiced shaking hands (not really as silly as it sounds).  His initial limp shake was soon replaced with a firm, more confident grip, eye contact and a smile.

I learned A. was in Welfare-to-Work.  Practicing these basics was a first for him.

He shared he was ‘indecisive’.  It was hard for him to take action.  Like me, you are likely shaking your head and cheering him on.  I reminded him HE SAT DOWN.  HE ASKED.  HE WAS PRACTICING.  No, he is NOT indecisive.  (And how often do we all, in perhaps less challenging situations, allow negative beliefs to define us?)

One more thing:  career help.  A. wanted to be rich.  Well, successful and to get out of welfare.  What did he need to be successful?  I couldn’t help but I told him who could:  his supervisor.

Another scary step for him but asking his supervisor would be a way to gain help and support while demonstrating his decisiveness.

Simply, I recommended he communicate:

  • I want to be successful.
  • What can I do to be successful?

Leaving his nickel, sharing a smile and solid handshake, A. walked away – decisively.  I was left inspired.  I realized in a half-hour, A. demonstrated his decisiveness,  practiced his hand shake, and learned two communication techniques to help him be successful.  Imagine if every person had 30 minute coaching sessions each week?  Imagine if A., and everyone in Welfare-to-Work programs had this opportunity?  Imagine!

The Coach is IN: ‘A Talk in the Park’: Volume 3

8 Jul

Why is it so hard to really, truly, share a deep, dark desire or wish?

Why would YOU step away from success into uncharted – challenging territory?

Nabbing a table and chairs for ‘clients’ in NYC’s Bryant Park, I arrange my sign, sit, and turn-on an expectant and slightly hesitant smile.    I look at the movie

My coaching sign! The blue ‘board’ in the background becomes the movie screen for Bryant Park’s Monday night movies. This week’s show was ‘The Wizard of Oz’

screen where I watched ‘The Wizard of Oz’ a few days ago and imagine myself as OZ.   Coaching after all can provide a home, a brain, heart and courage.

Feeling like the Cowardly Lion, I realize I could use a little courage.  Coaching in the Park is scary:  What if no-one sits?  What if I have nothing to say, nothing to add?   Recognizing my fear sends my empathy into high gear.   I’m here.   I have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

After 5 very long minutes I wonder if I’ll only have my own fear to coach. Offering a session  to the young French ex-pat to my left boosts my confidence.    He declines with a smile, telling me  ‘A Talk in the Park’ is a great idea.

Flaunting his French charm, he recommends my coaching session to a young woman in a bright green dress.  Never underestimate a French flirt!     Glancing between him, me, my sign, she considers a moment before taking a seat.

I’ve raised my price to 5 cents, taking my cue from Lucy (see Vol. 2).   She hesitates at the nickel charge.  Or is it my imagination?

What’s on her mind?  Curiosity.  She (I’ll call her WIG, for woman in green) was

Self-published author Garrett Robinson reading from his book ‘Zoe’ in Bryant Park

curious about coaching and its benefits.  She ‘got’ I was promoting my services.  WIG  is a writer for a large print publication.  I’m really, really impressed.  Published writers in print publications occupy coveted positions these days.  WIG’s success arrived BIG and early:  straight from college.

I’m thinking we should switch seats.

Hesitating, WIG starts laughing, a great open-mouth laugh twinged with a private joke.    The joke: she does have a ‘question’.  The joke: she can’t believe she is going to share this secret with someone she doesn’t know.

Using Moments of Awareness I ask:

Q1:  What is she feeling?:  Restless and ready for a change, a challenge.

Q2:  What does she want?: After years of critical writing she wants to try writing creatively, maybe a novel.

Q3:  What is she doing to prevent herself from getting what she wants?:  The usual ‘yes, buts’/what ifs’:  What if she can’t think of anything to write?  What if her writing is BAD?

WIG is secure and successful.  WHY CHANGE and scarily jump into the unknown?

I reminded WIG what she wanted:  to stretch her talents .

Wanting is easier than doing, right?

My suggestions:

  •  Start small.  Stop editing your decision and your fear of the unknown.
  • Write for short periods of time a few times a week.  Set a schedule and timeline
  • Get support and someone to be accountable to
  • Write without editing and/or direction at first – just WRITE.
  • Write for ‘x’ months before editing or judging your work.
  • I’ll add now: WIG,  Write for fun and about YOUR interests.  Keep a list of possible topics in case you get stuck.
  •  Write and find your voice:  your creative vs. critical voice.
  • Then set new goals.

Was this session valuable?  I got a thankfull $5.00 bonus!

WIG:  keep me posted.  Remember you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

How can these suggestions help you stretch yourself into new territories?  

How can you support yourself or a friend to take a new step?

A Talk in the Park: The coach is IN: Volume 1

26 Jun

What issues challenge you?  What changes do you want to make in yourself or your community?  How will talking focus your action and turn internal questioning into confidence?  Can progress can be made in 10 minutes?  Well, let me tell you!

Channeling my inner Lucy from the Peanuts cartoon, I paraded my “Doctor is IN” sign offering free coaching.  The goal:  To help people take positive action to improve relationships, career,  finances, and manage conflict.

My role model! I’m looking for regular clients and even willing to step out of the (cardboard) box to talk!

nuts.wikia.com/wiki/Lucy%27s_psychiatry_booth?image=Lucy-van-pelt-1–jpg

Lucy sports a fancy cardboard booth, gives great advice, and as far as I can tell is my greatest competition.   Building on my three dimensionality –  a HUGE advantage – sparked my creativity.   Not confined to a page I can walk around to  potential clients, sign in hand.  After reading my post about this intention http://identity5772.wordpress.com, left my brother Owen wondering ‘if I’d lost it‘.  Rest assured, doing this in Union Square nudges me only slightly higher on the ‘nut’ scale.

Resting my impatience on a bench introduced me to my first ‘client’. Sitting and patiently reading,  ‘S’,  a middle-aged African-American woman was taking notes in advance of launching her new business:  helping unemployed people with resources.  I have to admit, she deserved my nickel.  She offered thoughts about my three areas, believing there is a strong need for spirituality.   Questioning focus is a key component of coaching. Thanks to her perceptiveness, conversation ultimately linked spirituality into the advertised areas of relationships, career and finance.    Our great conversation led to a potential partnership in her venture!

S’s assessment:  coaching would be a nutritious appetizer in a soup kitchen/food pantry.

Winding through Union Square’s bench lined path led me to George Ivey (who asked that I use his name), reading Michelle Alexander’s “The new Jim Crow Laws” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_Jim_Crow.  Skeptically, he agreed to a ‘session’, communicating nonverbal challenge about my possibility for success.  GULP!

Filled with emotion and the frustration of the racism and inequality that still exists, George reminded me  its impact on everything from ‘stop and frisk’ to economics.  Questioning revealed his  feeling trapped.  Trapped, yet actively seeking paths to promote change including leading a scout troop at his church.  Or rather a past and future activity.   The new incoming pastor is supportive of this youth group.  Clearly a powerful example of a good leader!

Sensing George’s continued frustration led to further probing about what ‘he wanted’.  Uncovering the need for education, he focused on the idea of an African-American history class, combining the format of movie and discussion.  Good ideas need good plans and when asked about the steps he needed to take to accomplish his goal, his first one was to buy a notebook on his way home.

Buy a notebook!  So simple and exactly the right way to start!  George has this great vision.   Juggling the coordination and planning needed could easily snowball into a burying avalanche.  Securing the right tools provides needed initial focus.  Next, we talked through additional steps.  He came up with a chart to outline possible speakers and topics.  The last step in our short session focused on when.  Shooting for fall isn’t good enough.  The need for a specific date identified the first Saturday in October.

Asking George if he was satisfied with our progress produced a half-smile.  He shook his head vertically with undercurrents of enthusiasm!

My coaching strategies with George:  The tool:  using the three questions of Moments of Awareness (see About Communication Essentials) uncovered and focused action based on frustration.  Action: outline a few first steps.  More time and continued follow-up would flush out additional steps and a tight timeline.

George promised to keep in touch!    With luck he will share how he’s doing and the specifics of his October event (and which I’ll attend)!

Tomorrow:  N’s courageous life change, understanding communication and behavioral styles (DiSC) and the results of our ‘talk in the park’ coaching session!