Mind the Gap: Your Path to Greater Fulfillment

Bob’s keynote at the conference went well.  As the clapping died down, the rush of elation felt like a victory.

By lunch, his mood had slumped and he was feeling alone and, actually, a little resentful.

Two days later, he noticed himself thinking, “I put a lot into that presentation and I didn’t get any help at all.”

When Bob contacted me about coaching, he was restless and irritable.  He said he was working as hard as ever and feeling discouraged.

The long hours at the office and time on his computer at night was taking a toll on his family life.  His wife felt slighted and his kids mumbled that he was grumpy all the time.

His routine felt like a grind.  All that effort at work and the results were good but there didn’t seem to be any teamwork or appreciation for what he saw as his sacrifices.

To get our coaching started I asked him to complete an exercise called the Wheel of Life, which offers a simple and effective way to gauge someone’s current level of satisfaction.

Think of a pie cut into eight wedges, where each wedge represents a major domain of your life.  The categories include:

  • Career
  • Money
  • Friends & Family
  • Significant Other/Romance
  • Fun & Recreation
  • Health
  • Physical Environment
  • Personal Growth/Spirituality

Then rate your current fulfillment for each one on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s quick, easy and provides a “snapshot” of today’s level of satisfaction.

Bob reported moderate to low satisfaction with his job (5), his relationship with his wife (6), his family time (5), and even with fun and recreation (3-4).

For the second part of the exercise, I noted to Bob the rating of 5 that he gave to Career and asked him to imagine what a 10 for him would look like.

This is a basic coach technique; we invite a client to imagine an ideal outcome and then hold that vision as a goal. Next, after acknowledging where we are now, we collaborate and devise a strategic action plan to close the gap and make the vision a reality.

The Wheel exercise helped Bob get in touch with his current level of discontent and start the process of identifying solutions.

We quickly pinpointed the focal point as time.  Bob had been promoted into a bigger job with more responsibility and he hadn’t fully embraced his new role.

We worked together on establishing priorities, improving time management; and then, delegating and coaching his direct reports to take on more ownership.

The transition took some time.  As Bob’s staff members took on more responsibility, they developed new competencies.

Bob got out of the weeds and began to lead more and manage less.  He felt less stressed out and was able to enjoy his family again.  He also stopped bringing the ghost of an unhappy home life to the office.

We know that simply completing the Wheel exercise will not turn around major issues.  It can be a useful tool, however, to highlight areas of dissatisfaction and facilitate the process of identifying paths to greater fulfillment.

The challenge is to mind the gap.

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From the Water Cooler . . . 

Don’t be a prisoner of your past. 

Be a pioneer of your future. 

Lead for your success.

Relationship Mapping for Greater Influence

Harry was feeling anxious.  A senior project manager at a Fortune 500, he was a long-term employee with a solid history of successfully leading teams.

His company had recently undergone a major restructuring that resulted in spinning off a large piece of the business.  The restructuring meant that the remaining business needed a new strategic plan for survival.

What had already been a changeable environment suddenly felt unstable.  Plus, in the highly-matrixed management structure, his reporting lines were blurry and this only added to the uncertainty.

Harry had learned to keep his head down and not make waves.  He was highly competent and delivered quality work but didn’t invest much time networking with more senior managers.  He was uncomfortable with authority and, an engineer by training, he was more focused on tasks than people.

Now, in what felt like a “gray murk,” he realized he needed support from these senior managers to be considered for a role-both meaningful and with a future-in the new paradigm.

Harry asked for outside coaching help to improve these relationships and manage up more effectively.  As part of the discovery process of coaching, he took an emotional intelligence (EQ) assessment.

He had high scores for Achievement Drive, Teamwork and Collaboration, and Building Trust.  The vulnerabilities showed up with Conflict Management and Building Bonds.

His scores in the vulnerable range were confirming and consistent with his difficulties with colleagues in more senior positions.  We agreed that relationship mapping would be a productive exercise.

Harry’s first step was to create a list of all the people in his circle of influence.  Then he scored each person on a scale of 1 to 5 according to the following criteria:

  • The level of influence of this person, or how important they were (from Mover & Shaker to Bystander)
  • The quality of the relationship (Strong Supporter to Openly Hostile)
  • The current strength of Harry’s relationship with this person (Solid to Tentative)

Naturally analytical and systematic, this exercise was eye opening.  Harry was able to see where there were existing relationships that could help him and also where he needed to build bridges.  His analysis provided a clear road map for him to follow. While he felt some discomfort in taking the actions, he was able to call upon the strength of his competencies in Teamwork & Collaboration and Building Trust to make the process less daunting.


Six months later, the increased contact and communication had boosted his visibility and, along with it, his senior managers’ awareness of both his contributions and his leadership potential.

Harry recently reported feeling more grounded and secure. While corporate priorities continue to be reshuffled frequently, he has more options, and for roles that are a better fit.

The emotional intelligence (EQ) assessment provided insight and coaching led to an action plan.  With progress under his belt, he continues to be intentional and to adapt his communication style with senior management.

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From the Water Cooler

I can consider other people’s opinions of me but I don’t have to be defined by them.

Leadership development success 

Is Your Career Path Right For You?

Fred was a natural at sales.

His performance was so outstanding he was promoted to VP Regional Sales.

Sales and the sales team suffered.

Fred’s team admired him for his sales abilities but silently wished he had even the most basic management skills.  His predecessor Jack liked to analyze data, set an agenda and create alignment for common goals. The team got better results under Jack.

Fred just liked to sell.

This kind of transition to a changed role but with a less favorable outcome happens frequently.  Imagine a spirited entrepreneur whose venture grows big enough that her role evolves to managing the day-to-day routine.

Or, consider a passionate subject expert who is promoted to having responsibility for a diversified portfolio of projects.

It is the classic tale of moving a high performer out of their core competency and into one for which they are not well suited and in which they do not excel.

It’s usually clear to a neutral observer why the new job didn’t work out.  They were good in a sales role but did not have the desire, temperament and behavior style for the manager’s role.

How can managers making staffing decisions and individuals making career decisions avoid this common pitfall?


I recently had the great pleasure of being at an all-day seminar with Ed Schein, the legendary organizational development expert.

Schein developed a model to gain insight into someone’s self-concept as defined by what they’re good at, what they value, and what motivates them.  This self-concept is their “career anchor,” and insight about one’s career anchor can keep them on a path that’s right for them.

From decades of working with clients and supplemented by extensive research, Schein has come up with eight career anchors.  To determine someone’s anchor, you can conduct a short interview focused on asking why they made the career choices they did.  Discover the considerations that tipped the scale in past decisions.

Knowing someone’s career anchor can help a manager make better staffing decisions.  Plus, as professionals change jobs more frequently and have to be more self reliant in managing their career, this kind of personal insight will help maintain focus for the right kind of roles.

In determining which career anchor is the best fit, sometimes the most telling factor is not what someone wants but what they are not willing to give up.  That element is included in each of the descriptions below.

1.  Technical/Functional Competence – Focus and identity is on a specialty and specific skills with a primary desire to build their expertise.  Not give up: the opportunity to develop those skills to an ever-higher level.  Avoid:  general managerial role.

2.  General Managerial – Want leadership, management and to move to different areas of work.  Not give up:  the opportunity to rise to a level high enough for cross-functional leadership and responsibility for results.   Avoid: narrow focus of specialization.

3.  Autonomy/Independence  – Want the freedom of freelance consultants, professors or field sales people. Not give up:  opportunity to define their own work in their own way.  Avoid: advancement if it means losing autonomy.

4.  Security/Stability – Want security and a predictable future, a feeling of safety.  Not give up: employment security or tenure.  Avoid:  risk and highly changeable environments.

5.  Entrepreneurial Creativity – Want to show world they can create something that is result of their own effort. Not give up: opportunity to create that organization, product, or service that’s theirs and built on their abilities.  Avoid:  constraints on ability to define self through creating.

6.  Service/Dedication to a Cause – Want work that is aligned with personal values.  Not give up: opportunity to achieve something of value such as helping people, improving the environment. Avoid: commerce for the sake of commerce.

7.  Pure Challenge – Want the process of succeeding over others or personal best, especially over significant obstacles.  Not give up: opportunity to win out over seemingly impossible circumstances.  Avoid: easy tasks or routines and hence boredom.

8.  Lifestyle – Want work that will endorse and support work/life balance.  Priorities linked to life as a whole.  Not give up:  opportunity to balance and integrate needs of family, work and self.   Avoid: circumstances of restricted flexibility and an inability to respond and restore balance.

Characteristically humble, Schein is open to a ninth anchor if someone identifies one and makes a case for it.

If someone seems to not have a clear choice, he contends that person may not have been faced with the clarifying process of choosing one over the other. Through choosing, the person learns what they won’t give up and what their primary anchor is.

Also, if someone says they really don’t fit just one, Schein offers that the point is not to insist on overlaying theory on reality, but that we gain some insight into ourselves.

The discovery process is straight forward.

We just have to get curious and ask Why.

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Recent blog posts.

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From the Water Cooler 

CEO:  What if we train them and they leave? 
CFO:  What if we don’t train them and they stay?

It’s Your Choice: Creating Habits for Success

Charles ate a large chocolate chip cookie every day about 3:30 while chatting with co-workers in the company cafeteria.

This went on for a long time and he gained weight.

He wanted to stop. His wife was nagging him. He kept on doing it anyway.

The 3:30 cookie had become a habit he couldn’t break. Continue reading