Book Review: Change Anything

By: Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

 This award-winning team of writers does it again. What I like about Change Anything is that it breaks down how we make change happen from six main sources: 1. Love what you hate- learn to like the changes you make; 2. Do what you can’t- learn the skills through deliberate practice in order to make the changes you want; 3&4. Turn accomplices into friends- we all have people in our lives who sabatoge our best efforts- turn them into supporters. 5. Invert the economy- by bribing yourself and raising the cost of bad behavior you can actually get yourself to act in ways you want 6. Control your space- use the environment to become an ally for the change you want rather than a barrier. It’s an engaging book, with good examples and really breaks down the change process which will increase your likelihood of success! (Their book Influencer does the same thing in an organizational context).

Moving From Theory To Action: On Planning

To support you in moving toward action, here are some reflection questions based on the recommendations by Richard Wiseman:

1. What are the benefits to me of taking on this goal? How will my life be better?

2. How can I break down this goal into manageable steps? What are some realistic dates for completing these dates? What is one action, no matter how small, that I can take today?

3. After looking at this concrete timeline, what are small rewards I can give myself to celebrate milestones along the way?

4. How will I track my progress? Visual calendar? Phone app? Handwritten journal? (set this up now)

5. Who do I want to tell about my goal, and what are the specific ways people can support me in reaching it? (accountability partners can be very helpful).

Moving From Theory to Action: Curious vs. Convinced

To support you in deepening your curiosity with those who hold different views from you, I offer some questions reprinted with permission by my friend and colleague, Howard Ross. These come from his company’s resource guide: Inclusive Responses in Times of Fear. See this and other resources on

 1. How do you feel about people who think differently than you about this?

2. What are you afraid of? What is more inspiring to you than fear?

3. How can you engage in these conversations authentically and whole-heartedly? What might get in the way?

4. What are you committed to? How do you see your role/contribution in any conversations or actions?

5. What is your desired outcome for these conversations?

Curious vs. Convinced

I’m going to go out on a limb and talk about politics. This presidential election season has been hard for me. The name calling, rudeness, and divisiveness of this campaign has me disheartened, and I know I’m not alone in this sentiment. I just can’t wait for it to be over. The major media outlets including The Huffington Post, The Atlantic and even Fox News are writing about how to manage election stress. It feels like the negative election energy is seeping into our pores, and to try to prevent that, we armor up and get rigid in our views and stay in our camps of righteousness in order to not feel the fear, and the pain of not understanding one another. Yet I don’t want to harden myself against half the population. That feels like a very high cost to us as a nation, and I’m in the inquiry of how to hold my dignity and the dignity of others through this election period.

“I’m right, they’re idiots” is what it boils down to in our political dialogue, not only with the candidates but also how we look at our neighbors, colleagues and family members who disagree with us. Recently I’ve been thinking, “Where do I go from here? How do I get out of this righteous mindset?” Rather than convince myself more that my side is right, how might I open the door to curiosity instead? Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (click to his fascinating 19-minute TED Talk) offers a path of understanding. He explains that reasoning with others doesn’t work because our beliefs are based more deeply than that. He asserts that there are six fundamental ideas that commonly undergird moral systems: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. Republicans and Democrats vote based on these moral interests, and how they weight each in importance tends to define their vote.

For me, this premise helps me to be a bit more curious and less judgmental. Fundamentally, I believe that fear is a prominent driver in our life, as our brains are hardwired to sense danger and to protect. And if we fear that our moral values are at stake we will fight to protect them. In this case, fighting is the rhetoric we hear in the election arena. But instead of fighting the Other, if I can understand the fear behind others’ view I can then find a place where I can connect with them– what do they fear losing? What are the values they hold dear? It doesn’t mean I’m negating my views, but for a few moments, it allows me to pause and connect with their humanity and mine. Haidt’s research helps make it more concrete for me.

This topic feels risky for me to put out here, and as I reread it, I know that I risk being misunderstood, or considered preachy, naïve or something else. But ultimately I want to share the value in upholding the dignity of all, which is sometimes lost in the Red versus Blue war. If it serves as one small drop in the well toward understanding and healing, then it will have been worth it.

Book Review: Everyday Bias

By: Howard Ross

Howard is a dear friend and colleague, and I am glad to have the opportunity to share this book with you as it delves into the neuroscience of our own bias and how to work with it in a work environment and our personal lives. This book is filled with powerful examples and research on unconscious bias that draws you in and gets you more curious about how our mind operates.

From sports, to healthcare, music, and power in our society, Howard navigates us through these charged topics without shaming anyone, and offers ways that we can individually and organizationally begin to explore and work with our bias. It’s an eye-opening book that leaves me hopeful in times when we need it. Sending a prayer for the victims of Orlando and the countless numbers of those before them. May we each contribute in some small way today toward creating a more caring and kind world.

Moving From Theory To Action: On Learning Communities

To support you in identifying and strengthening your own learning communities.

 Reflect on a time when you had a learning community. What contributed to its effectivness?

What are your current communities where there may be a possibility of creating more of an intention around learning together and supporting one another? (This could be a work team you’re on, a particular group of friends, a volunteer group you participate on).

Are there already existing learning groups you might be interested in joining? (These could include spiritual groups, leadership programs such as the WLC, book study clubs, formal classes, etc.)

What is one action you will take based on this reflection?

Community vs Individual Learning

The crocuses and daffodils peeking out of the brown earth remind me how I love spring, as it seems to burst with possibility and new opportunities. I was just invited to the teacher track for the Strozzi Institute, an internationally-recognized center for somatic coaching whose mission is “to produce leaders who embody pragmatic wisdom, skillful action and grounded compassion.” I will be traveling there four times this year to be with my cohort, and I am reminded of how impactful it is to be in a community of learners. The support, energy and learning is so much greater than going it alone, and I am grateful to be embarking on this journey with this amazing group of people who come from not only the United States, but also from Chile, Belize, Italy, the UK and Ethiopia. It is truly a gift, and I invite you into this reflection on your own learning communities.

There are a multitude of articles about the importance of professional learning communities. One of the biggest proponents is Peter Senge, who popularized the theory of the learning organization. In his book, The Fifth Discipline, he speaks about the importance of team learning and that this learning is done through dialogue, which allows one to go beyond any one individual’s understanding. This is the real benefit of learning with others; we get out of our own head and can question our own assumptions, and process and internalize the learning is a more powerful way than doing it on our own. As social beings, we learn through the interaction with others. When I was at Strozzi, I was curious and energized by others’ questions in the room. I found I could move my own understanding of a concept and better internalize it. When I was “stuck’ with a personal issue in my own development, having others witness me and offer perspective from the outside allowed me a way out of my automatic thinking to create a new way of seeing things. Finally, the support I feel is invaluable, knowing there is a group of people all on the same path of learning, holding one another accountable to our commitments to become great teachers of this work.

This is a key reason for me founding the Women’s Leadership Circles program—to provide others with the opportunity to learn leadership in a close community of peers. Being a leader can be isolating, and we need someone to learn from. A colleague and I have been conducting research on the impact of these Circles over time. In fact, all of the Circles have continued on their own after the initial six-month program, the first Circle now in it’s fifth year. Here are a few comments on the importance of the Circles both as a place of learning as well as strength through connection: “Meeting with them has offered me a way to consider, create, act and reflect on various experiences and learnings in my life in a way different than one-on-one friendships.” “ I feel calmer in the face of challenges knowing there are others there who care and support me.” What about you, where can you leverage the power of community in your learning?

Moving From Theory To Action: Measuring Business Beyond the Basics

Values and living in alignment with them isn’t necessarily a quick exercise. It starts with clarifying your values, assessing your alignment and setting future goals to track. That said, here are a few questions to consider if you’ve already got an idea.

  1. What actions in your work do you already take that are in alignment with your values? It is often helpful to take a strengths-based approach of what you are already doing.
  2. What actions would you like to take going forward that are in alignment with your values?
  3. How will you know if you’ve succeeded? What are your measurements of success?
  4. To what extent might B Corp certification be a process for you as a way to tangibly demonstrate your work values?

Measuring Business Beyond the Basics

I’m excited to share that Watershed Coaching was just B Corp certified! “What’s that?” you might wonder. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, a B (Benefit) Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk. B Corp status requires meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

It’s an external, measured validation of my commitment to social responsibility through my work. What I really appreciated about the process was that it got me focused in a concrete way on how my business reflects my values and what the metrics are which demonstrate actual actions bringing those values to life.

“What gets measured gets done.”

This is a favorite quotation of mine when I work with leadership teams and coaching clients. Typically, businesses measure the output- hours billed, number of items sold, profit, expenses, etc. Yet business is about so much more than that. The B Corp certification process offers a concrete way for companies to assess their actions and deepen impact in service of using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

For me, this was a great learning process about how to quantify what I already do and to consider ways to further my positive impact. For example, I knew that I was committed to deep community engagement and volunteering. The certification process gave me a better way to measure my contributions because it “counted things that count”, as Einstein would say, in addition to profit— e.g., financial donations to charity, purchases made locally, recycling efforts, number of hours volunteered, and use of preferred suppliers (e.g., local, women-owned, minority). I also knew that I had a lot of systems in place to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but through the B Corp process I created a statement of my commitment to this value. It was helpful for me to evaluate my business by looking not just at the bottom line, but more holistically at the business as a manifestation of my values.

There were also areas that I hadn’t given much thought to. For example, for most of my life I’ve used standard commercial banks, but through the B Corp process I realized that I really wanted to bring my business to our local community bank, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, because their values and commitment to cultivating strong community were more in alignment with my values. I had thought about it before, but to be honest, it felt like changing our accounts was just an extra pain-in-the-neck thing to do. The B Corp process caused me to move into action on this. What about you? In what ways to you want to broaden how you define success for your work beyond profit?

Vacation Cultivates Creativity

Since my last newsletter when I wrote about our trip backpacking in Arizona, I’ve been updating my gear. And while I’m not typically a person who advocates for stuff to buy- I want to share with you my latest purchase- Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy. (They’re not paying me anything to mention it). It has blown me out of the water- they went totally out of the box and changed the design of a sleeping bag, giving it some amazing features. After decades of everyone thinking about sleeping bags the same way, somebody came up with radical thoughts—arm openings, and a zipper at the bottom so you can walk in it! I get cold easily, so I love staying in my bag. Not only is it warm and light, but I can read in it, in the morning I can crawl out of the tent with it and have a cup of coffee –and, as you can see, it makes me look like a supermodel! J So it’s got me thinking about how we get ourselves to think out of the box. The good news is that vacation and new environments are GOOD for our creativity. Time to get out of the office!

You might be wondering how you could create something innovative like the Mobile Mummy sleeping bag. If so, the answer might be as easy as taking a vacation. This was the case for entrepreneur, Kevin Systrom, the founder of Instagram, one of the most popular social media networks. He came up with the idea while on vacation on a beach in California. According to a survey of 1000 small business owners in the UK, one in five startup ideas come to entrepreneurs while on vacation. Yet in the United States, there is a cultural belief that taking time away may be an indicator of lack of work commitment. In fact, the United States averages only 10 days of paid vacation annually, while Europe averages 20 days. And to top it off, 40% of American workers will leave paid vacation days unused. There’s even a new name for it: “Work Martyr Complex”.

Yet the data shows that taking time off is good for us. A 2006 internal study by Ernst and Young showed that for every additional 10 hours of vacation an employee took, his or her performance ratings went up by 8 percent — nearly 1 percent per day of vacation. This means that all that unused vacation time is a lost opportunity in productivity. The study also found that employees who took regular vacations were less likely to leave the company. In addition, there is a huge bonus on health– stress and anxiety levels go down, sleep goes up, heart function and blood pressure begin to go back to normal, and moods improve. Not bad for hanging out by the pool or seeing some new sites.

We’re human beings, not machines, and we go through cycles of being productive and recharging. So go ahead and recharge. New ideas are better cultivated when we’re not stressed and our minds are free to wander. I’m getting my bags packed now (actually for Turkey and Lithuania) and throwing in a notepad for some creative inspiration.

water-shed (watr'shed') Noun: a critical point that marks a division or change of course; a turning point — © 2014 WatershedCoaching. All rights reserved.