Stop your pushin’ & let it go.

I was taught that I had to work hard to achieve my goals. My father said, “Always finish what you start”. So, that’s what I did. Also, I learned that hard work will be rewarded with raises and possibly promotions. And being a hard and committed worker, that’s what I did throughout my career. But it seemed that the hard work in our society was based upon a model of competition and scarcity. When I worked under this model I was often anxious and fearful, since I worried about not achieving my goals and not earning enough money. Most of us know that when we suffer from too much stress because we are fearful of the outcomes, then we actually don’t produce the highest quality product and we don’t enjoy the overall process. Over time I began to realize that I had to change my thinking, that there must be a better way.

The better way involved in seeing the world as full of abundance and possibilities. Also, that it is fine to work hard and to have goals, but I now needed to “let go” of the outcome. Not meeting someone’s expectation was no longer my primary motivator. I learned to let go of what I thought someone else wanted. Letting go was very freeing! Most of the stress and anxiety I felt was tied up in an expected outcome. And sometimes that outcome may have been unrealistic, which I attribute to being slightly perfectionistic. Had to let go of that one, for sure.

So, now I still work hard, but let go of the end-result and realize that I’ll give it my best…and that’s good enough. I have faith that the outcome may morph into something that’s even better than what I originally anticipated. I now focus on being present to the process. I now let the outcome unfold in a more relaxed and organic manner, rather than forcing it. And now, I’m not as stressed and fearful as I once was, but calm and in the moment, letting the fruits of my labor manifest in surprising ways.

Please let me know what you think.

Greg Sievers

If it ain’t bringin’ you joy, then find something that does!

I spent my entire career in Corporate America. I did that because I needed to put food on the table for my family. I spent much of my time in Information Technology (IT) because I enjoyed it, always learning something new, and it paid well. And I was motivated; I had to earn money to support my family. I’m the primary bread-winner and that’s my job. It’s trap that many of us fall into where I had to do well, climb that career ladder and increase my earning power. After a while on the Corporate gerbil-wheel, I found that I wasn’t having fun anymore and had lost sight of what provided me joy!

Once I retired (or at least semi-retired since I do still like to work), I discovered that the work that I love to do….is coaching and facilitation. Which is not work to me, since it’s fun to do and I get to use my gifts, my strengths …. which in turn brings me great joy! I just love to help other people. I derive great pleasure in helping them find their own insights. Insights about their life and career. I had to go on my own journey to rediscover my passion and joy, in order to help others.

I love music, drumming circles and dance. I had suppressed those passions for many years, as I was focused on earning a living and raising my family. But there is something very primordial hearing the drum beat that just causes my body to move and dance. It’s instinctual. A gut reaction. I’m in touch with the inner child who has no pretense and does not dance to please, but only to relate to my own soul’s desires. And my soul wants to dance, my soul needs to dance….and that, my friends, give me JOY!

So, I ask you….what gives you joy? What gifts do you have that have been suppressed for all these years? How can you reconnect with those gifts? Can you create a hobby which gives them voice? Is it possible that you could begin to pursue the activities that give you joy and continue to earn a living? And please think about this….pursuing your joyful activities will help you reconnect with your soul, your inner child, and this will significantly contribute to your life, family and career!

Please drop me a note and let me know what you are doing to pursue joy!


Neutral Zone – Phase 2 of Transitions

Confused! Rudderless! No sense of purpose! Can’t do (or remember) anything! That’s how the Neutral Zone feels. The neutral zone occurs after an ending, a letting go. Neutral zones run on their own time – one cannot predict when (or how) they will be replaced by a new beginning. However, neutral zones are absolutely required to have a successful transition – successfully leaving an old way of being behind and embracing a new one.

The neutral zone can be understood in 3 different ways. It can be a time of:

1. Emotional reorganization – one’s psyche is busy re-examining all past experiences, knowledge, feelings, etc., and trying to come up with a different way to organize them, because the old way of organizing, of “being”, is now gone. So most of one’s energy, or bandwidth in computer terms, is going to this reorganization. That means there is not as much available to focus on anything else.

2. Inner healing – healing from whatever loss was incurred in the letting go. The deeper the loss, the deeper the healing required.

3. Re-tooling – trying new things, developing new capabilities, getting ready for whatever new beginning will eventually occur.

All ancient cultures have stories of a hero(ine) leaving a place of certainty and going on a journey into the unknown – wandering through a wilderness, discovering friends and foes, learning who he/she is through those experiences. They eventually emerge as a more powerful being. Christian tradition contains two obvious examples of this: 1) Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness as he started his ministry, and 2) after Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday (ending), on Holy Saturday the disciples were utterly lost, not knowing what to do or where they would go (neutral zone). Jewish tradition has three: 1) Abraham leaving Ur and journeying to a new place (he didn’t know where), 2) Joseph being sold into Egypt and undergoing tribulation there, and 3) the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years after they leave Egypt.

One excellent analogy for the neutral zone is a lobster or crab – after they have outgrown their old shell and shed it, they hide under a rock for a few days until their new shell hardens. During that waiting period, they are much more vulnerable. That’s equally true of a person in the neutral zone – they are much more vulnerable. Here are 5 ideas for coping with being in the neutral zone:

1. Recognize that it is natural, and normal. I first learned about neutral zones when I was in the middle of one. I was so relieved to understand that this is a normal process for human growth.

2. Let go of as much expectation as possible – allow yourself time to wander, to wonder, to do nothing. Allow yourself to make mistakes, to be distracted. Pretend you’re taking a medication that warns “may cause drowsiness – do not operate heavy machinery”. Refrain, where possible, from making irrevocable large decisions.

3. Be gentle with yourself, and deliberately choose to be around people and in environments that will support you during this time. Likewise, intentionally avoid people and environments that require more than you can currently give.

4. Have the courage to remain in the neutral zone until the new beginning does occur (and yes, it does take courage). Think of other times in your life when you’ve been in a neutral zone, and remember that a new beginning occurred each time. Therefore, a new beginning will occur for this one as well. The neutral zone can be viewed as a faith journey. Trying to force the neutral zone to end before its time is naturally up can be very harmful.

a. One can try to go back to the “old way” – forsaking the growth and blessings that the new (as yet undiscovered) way will provide.

b. One can forcefully create a new beginning, but it won’t be the one that “should” occur, and it probably won’t work very well.

5. Journal, so you can learn from your journey and share your journey with others.

The motto for a neutral zone: “This, too, will pass. That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

What additional ideas would you like to share with me? What has worked best for you when you’ve been in a neutral zone? What have you tried that didn’t work so well?

Next week’s blog: New Beginnings

Gary Langenwalter

Well-Behaved Women

One of my favorite bumper stickers reads, “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History.” That’s equally true for well-behaved men. Our civilization has progressed only because some people are willing to step outside of socially acceptable behavior and/or generally accepted wisdom.

What gives a person the courage and the stamina to face down social norms, to be willing to pay the price of creating a new and better world? Because there will assuredly be a price – somebody is benefiting from the way things are right now, and they will do whatever they can to retain those benefits.

In his book Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer says that he started his life, like most of us, following the goals and values that other people had set for him. And he reaped wisdom from that process – the wisdom that those goals and values, no matter how noble, were not him. They were not his life. He finally had the courage to let go of the expectations that others had put on him, and to follow his inner leading – that still, small voice that is so easy to ignore in our noisy, frenetic lives. He learned to listen to his inner compass, to let his life speak. Then he started being himself – his unique gift of contribution that the world needed.

When a person lets their life speak, they are no longer primarily focused on being well-behaved. They are willing, and able, to be a voice for the truths that they know, and to invite others to also be true to their own individual callings.

What is the most important task of a leader? Perhaps, instead of worrying about making quotas and measurable goals, the most important task might be to help each person who is entrusted to that leader to have the courage to listen to their inner voice, to let their life speak.

Have you tried to listen to and follow your inner voice? What happened? I’d really appreciate hearing from you.

Gary Langenwalter

Handling Setbacks

Setbacks are the direct result of trying to make a difference. The bumper sticker “Well-behaved women seldom make history” is equally true for well-behaved men. The bigger your goals, the bigger the game that you’re playing, the bigger the setbacks you’ll experience.

So what do you do when your idea gets shot down?

How do you get the inner strength to pick up the pieces and keep on keeping on?

Simplistic answer: by taking the long view, and realizing that you’re not going to win every contest of wills.

Deeper answer: by re-grounding yourself in your “why”. Why, at the deepest level, are you trying to reach your goal? Your answer to that question is your call – the fundamental reason you get up in the morning and keep on trying. Frederick Buechner said, “Your call is where your deepest gladness meets the world’s greatest need.” And since the world has so many great needs, I suggest that your call comes from your deepest gladness. What is it that you can’t stop doing? What do you keep on doing, no matter what? Have you ever asked yourself why you do it? That’s your call, your “why”.

I create puns (a few of which are actually pretty decent!) and interject humor frequently. Why? Because I want the world to be a joyful place, where people laugh and get creative. My call is for everybody to have a rich, full, rewarding life, and to treat each other with respect.

So, what’s your call? And how are you living that out day to day? (Because that’s the only place you’ll get to make it real – in your day-to-day life.) I’d truly enjoy hearing from you. Please e-mail me your call, and how you live it, at gary. I promise to respect your privacy, and if you’d like to engage in a dialogue, I’ll be glad to respond.

May your holiday season be joyous.

Gary Langenwalter

Gary Langenwalter

Portland Consulting Group

Coaching . Wisdom . Results


Scariest Part of Leadership

The scariest part of leadership is letting go of control and trusting others to do the right things and make the right decisions. The concept of control underpins hierarchical organizations – the person above controls the actions and decisions of the persons below. This structure has been used for millennia by military, religious, and commercial organizations. These people are managers; they “manage” persons and other resources.

But what if a leader, instead of insisting on detailed control, does something entirely different? What if a leader co-creates the vision and mission, and goals and objectives and strategies, with his or her people? What if a leader then turns them loose to be as great as they can be, and supports them as they try new ideas? What if a leader gives a prize annually for the best new idea that failed? What would that type of organization be like? Unstoppable. Because in that organization, each individual will feel supported and challenged to be all they can be. They will bring everything they’ve got to work every day. And they will collaborate with colleagues to create programs, products, and services that delight customers and increase profits.

So what’s so scary about this? The leader has to give up the illusion of control. It’s an illusion, because we can only truly control those things over which we have one more degree of freedom, which we obviously do not have with fellow humans. However, our society expects and even demands that leaders “be in control” of their company or department. So the leader needs to change from creating controls to insure proper behavior, to instead being effective at inspiring people and nurturing guiding principles.

This transition is a little like learning how to float and swim. When I was younger I was deathly afraid of the water; I would stand in a corner of the swimming pool and shiver. My parents insisted that I take swimming classes. I finally decided to quit fighting the water and trust it to hold me up. It was scary, but it worked! I got hooked on swimming and even earned my lifeguard certificate. Once a leader quits controlling the employees and trusts them to help the organization thrive, they get hooked on the results AND the process – the only question they ask is why they didn’t do this sooner.

I welcome your feedback

Gary Langenwalter

Effective Leadership Trait #3 – Skilled Communicator

Highly effective leaders are skilled communicators. Most people assume that communicating is about speaking. Not true. Rule # 1: Excellent communication skills start with listening, THEN devolve to speaking. Only by listening first do we earn the trust of the person we’re talking with. Only by listening first do we earn the right to be heard. Only by listening first do we have the ability to speak to the other person’s interests, to their listening. Listening is the first characteristic of a skilled communicator.

When I was about 6, I was somewhat of a chatterbox. My grandfather, a gentle soul, asked me, “How many ears do you have?” A bit puzzled, I answered “Two.” “How many mouths do you have?” (Even more puzzled) “One.” “Do you think the good Lord had a reason for giving you 2 ears and 1 mouth?” (Oh.)

You’ve heard the expression, “Dance like nobody’s watching.” I suggest, “Listen as if the person is going to tell you the most important thing in the world.” Most of the time the topics will indeed be mundane. But there will be gold nuggets. AND, the speaker will feel truly honored, creating a relationship for future conversations.

Secondly, a skilled communicator continually looks for feedback from the listener – do they understand it? Do they agree? A skilled communicator also pauses while talking, to allow the listener to digest what has been said and to formulate a response. The difference between introverts and extroverts can be striking in this regard. An extrovert does not know what they are thinking until they say it, so they tend to talk quickly and volubly. An introvert needs time to process what they have heard so they can formulate a response. They are equally intelligent – they just need processing time.

Third, a skilled communicator uses persuasion rather than power and position. Didn’t you hate it when your parents or a teacher or coach or drill sergeant said “Do it because I said so”? Aristotle said that to communicate effectively, one can appeal to:

· Ethos – who we are,

· Pathos – emotions, and

· Logos – logic

Ethos is the most powerful. Effective speakers try to identify with their listeners, and have their listeners identify with them. Presidential candidates try to identify with the man in the street, or the soccer mom. Finally, whoever tells the stories defines the culture; they combine ethos and pathos. Look at advertisements – most of them tell stories (with pictures, words, and music), rather than merely citing facts and figures. They use the stories to persuade, and then add facts and figures so the potential customer can logically justify the decision they made.

Coming next: Compassionate Collaborator

Gary Langenwalter

Effective Leadership Trait 2 – Puts People First

What do highly effective leaders do? They put people first. They help others meet their highest priority development needs. It seems counterintuitive, but the data prove that putting other people first makes an organization more profitable. An effective leader puts people first by:

· Displaying a servant’s heart

· Mentoring

· Showing care and concern

Servant’s Heart: A servant leader cares deeply how their decisions and actions will affect others – they want others to benefit. So they don’t make decisions purely on financial grounds. They realize that for a company to thrive, the communities in which it operates must also thrive. They inherently use a win-win rather than a zero-sum win-lose model for making decisions and operating. Example: the executives of Burgerville volunteer an hour a week reading to local elementary schoolchildren, because they know that if a child is not reading by the 3rd grade, that child is destined for a life of struggle and poverty. In fact, the slogan of Burgerville, a privately-held for profit organization, is “serve with love”. They don’t talk about “customers” – they talk about “guests”.

Mentoring: I was grateful to have a mentor as I was starting my career – he was more than just a “boss”. I would like to have had more mentors as I changed fields and professions. I’ve found that mentoring others is truly rewarding. Even (especially?) if you didn’t have a mentor, becoming one provides benefits to both you and the mentee. It’s a great way to pay it forward. Everybody wins!

Showing Care and Concern: This concept is countercultural, even revolutionary. Competition is so engrained in American culture that we don’t even consider its cost. Competition for the promotion; competition for the raise; competition for the customer. Negotiating to get the best possible deal for me, or for my company. But when we were children, our mothers taught us to care for others; they taught us to share. Every well-established religion has care for others as one of its foundations. Our companies, and our society, cannot survive, let alone thrive, if we do not actively care for others. Care for others expresses itself in win-win, instead of win-lose.

Next week: Skilled Communicator

Comments? Feedback? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Gary Langenwalter


This past year I’ve focused on becoming a consultant. Its new territory for me since I had been a full time employee (FTE) in Corporate America for close to 40 years. As an FTE, you’re assigned a specific role in an organization with specific performance expectations. You execute your tasks and deliverables, and get rewarded for your contribution (or not). Typically, unless you’re in a very small business, you are “cog” in the big machine, somewhat sheltered from all other functions where you don’t always see the big picture, especially with sales and marketing.

Well, as a consultant or a small business owner you wear many hats. You have to. You don’t generate sales (& income), unless you have paying clients. You typically obtain paying clients by performing marketing functions where, hopefully, you generate enough interest where a prospect wants to employ your services. Which brings me to my point about “disappointment”.

I recently spent untold hours developing a training proposal with my business partner. Several meetings were held with the prospect identifying their various needs and requirements. We looked at all aspects of the design, delivery and our approach. We were very thorough and our proposal (in my eyes) was AWESOME! But then came the inevitable email, thanks, by no thanks. They had found another consultant who better fit their requirement. What? We could have done an excellent job with the training! Needless to say, I was greatly DISAPPOINTED!!

But after having a conversation with my partner who has been a consultant since 1987 said that rejection and disappointment are life of being a consultant. Well, I don’t like that! Felt like, and probably acted like, a 3 year old having a tantrum! I want to be successful like I was in corporate life. This is much more difficult. I don’t want to feel disappointed the rest of my life. So, I determined I needed to change things up and come up with a strategy that would help me through my next proposal.

So, here’s my new strategy and I suggest you try it too:

1. Let your feelings out. Get mad, yell, or hit a pillow. Have a good cry! I find them very healing. Get the frustration out of your system. Go exercise, take a walk or talk to a friend. Burying your feelings is not healthy, so please choose to let them out.

2. Change your expectations. As a consultant you will not win every proposal. Maybe it will only be 10%, 1 out of 10. Changing your expectations will help you not be overly disappointed.

3. Be grateful. I am grateful for my family and friends, great conversations, learning and growing, health, nature and God’s endless love and joy! I do not take any of these things for granted. They are a gift!

And as Martin Luther King once said, We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. And I am eternally hopeful!

Greg Sievers


Last week, my wife and I vacationed in San Francisco. It was our first vacation since last April. I should have taken one last fall, but I was too busy on the work treadmill. I was caught in the PUSH trap: Persevere Until Something Happens. Unfortunately, I was also somewhat burned out, so it took me more effort to get the same results, which made me more tired, which required me to work even harder… Sound familiar?

By the time we left for San Francisco, I was a crispy critter – too much stress, for too long.

We decided to take the train instead of flying or driving. Our vacation started when we got on the train – no TSA stress, no traffic to fight, no worry about snow in the Siskiyous. 18 hours on the train, including overnight, from Portland to SF. LOTS of leg room, real reclining seats, so we were very comfortable. By the time we got to SF, I was already half-relaxed. We had a wonderful time! We walked a lot, we took buses and streetcars and cable cars. We saw sights and ate in restaurants. I turned on my phone briefly once a day to check for texts and voice mails from family. I did not listen to voice mails or look at e-mails or texts regarding business. My business partner assumed all responsibility for our firm.

After 9 days of total withdrawal, I re-entered the business world Sunday evening, refreshed, re-energized, and with a better perspective. That’s what vacations are all about – they benefit both the employee and the organization.

In this respect, people are surprisingly like machines – they both need scheduled downtime for maintenance. As the Mr. Goodwrench commercial stated, “Pay me now or pay me later!” I have relearned that vacations, like preventive maintenance, are a lot better strategy than running a person until we break. Thus, the “use it or lose it” vacation policy benefits the employee by forcing them to take time off before they burn out.

When was your last real vacation? And when is your next one?

Gary Langenwalter