What’s Your Story?

Our stories define us. We relate to each other with our stories. In our stories, we are parents, single or married or divorced, sports enthusiasts, working or looking for work or retired, etc. The collection of many stories serves as our gyroscope. They keep us centered and grounded.

Organizations also have stories. Not just the ones on the web, but the ones inside, in the culture. And they likewise serve as the organization’s gyroscope. That’s why organization change is so challenging. Because to successfully change the organization, we have to change the gyroscope, the stories, the cultural expectation. We do that by changing the stories.

What are the stories that underpin your company? What are the stories that guide the culture in your department? Are they stories of courage, of greatness? Of going above and beyond? Of developing a new product or service that made a difference in people’s lives? If not, what would it take to get some?

If your organization has become mostly ho-hum, same-old same-old, let me ask you a question. What would happen if you called a organization-wide or department-wide meeting and asked each person to come back in one week with one idea about how you all could use your organization’s products and services to make a substantial difference in people’s lives. Then the group will pick the top 1-2 ideas and start to implement them. And then watch what happens. Watch what happens to your stories, your gyroscope. Watch what happens to the energy level and the excitement of your people.

(Of course, you should get top management’s buy-in before you start this journey. But, if done properly, it should require minimal investment.)

Please let me know what happens.

Gary Langenwalter


Just Do It!

“Just Do It!” is an antidote to procrastination. One cause of procrastination is trying to ensure that we expend resources most wisely – to not make a mistake. But trying to decide between two disparate choices can lead to paralysis by analysis – not being able to decide which is the better choice. So instead of making a decision and potentially being “wrong” about our choice, we delay. And we beat ourselves up because we couldn’t decide, and we’re not achieving results. This just increases the pressure to decide without adding any information to help us make our decision.

There is an alternative. When I am teaching high performing teams about fishbone diagrams and the 5 whys, I tell them that it doesn’t matter very much which fishbone they choose to go down – the other paths will still be there when they’re done with their first choice. The same is true for most other choices – there is frequently no “wrong” choice – just the question of which one we work on first. The others will still be there.

The root of the word “decide” is Latin, meaning “kill” – it is also the root for “homicide”. In deciding, we are “killing” all the alternatives that we did not choose. So the fear of making a bad decision is natural, especially if we have been criticized for our decisions previously. However, in many cases, the choices are neither right nor wrong – they are just choices. For example, when you visit an ice cream shop – do you want chocaholic’s delight, or wild huckleberry, or toffee butter pecan, or any of the other delicious flavors? Whatever you choose, you will enjoy. The others will be there the next time you visit the shop.

Suggestion – instead of “deciding” (which means killing the non-chosen alternatives), can you “choose” instead? Whether you “decide” or “choose”, you are indeed selecting one alternative over all others. The difference is psychological. Choosing does not have to carry irrevocability as its sub-meaning. To me, “choose” seems more like I am selecting that which aligns most closely with my values. No matter which term you use, select an alternative. Then do it. Then observe what happens to your energy level as you make progress because you chose to take action. So, perhaps the “real” choice is this: action and results and feeling good about yourself, or analysis paralysis and feeling bad about yourself. Your choice J

I’d welcome your feedback.

Gary Langenwalter

Ultimate Icebreaker – Secret Santa

“Who was your hero when you were 8?” Typical icebreaker question – right? And these are fine when members of a group don’t know each other. Safely superficial. Anything deeper would be inappropriate – too personal, too soon. But what kind of icebreaker can help a team go deeper and increase their trust when they already know each other? Here’s one we got from a client recently.

Secret Santa Icebreaker

A day or more before the team meets, write each team member’s name on separate pieces of paper and put them in a hat/bowl/jar. Have each person draw one name (if they draw their own, they draw again) – this is their “honoree”

Each person writes a short complementary paragraph or two about their honoree. Only positives! Topics potentially include:

· what they have learned from the honoree,

· what they admire about the honoree,

· how the honoree has had a positive impact on the team or organization,

· some skill the honoree possesses that others do not,

· an outstanding accomplishment of the honoree,

· etc.

At the start of the meeting, each team member honors their honoree in front of the entire team, one at a time. Rather than using 3rd person (“Jim really helped me when…”), the speaker talks directly to their honoree’s face, using “you” language (“Jim, you really helped me when…”)

This process was suggested by an introvert, who did well in both giving and receiving complements publicly.

Let me know how it works for you.

Gary Langenwalter

You Are Whole!

YOU ARE INHERENTLY WHOLE! In this context, “whole” means complete, fully integrated, not lacking anything. A coach assumes that each person has the innate knowledge, wisdom, and power to

· ask and answer the deep questions,

· face and embrace their shadow side, and

· be the gift to the world that the world desperately needs, and that their soul wants them to be.

In this model, the coach lets the client do the heavy lifting, because that’s the only way that healthy, lasting change will happen. And that is the only way to empower the client, to help them realize how powerful they are so that they can reach their full potential. The coach journeys beside the client, rather than carrying them. The coach provides a safe place for the client to examine their assumptions about life, and helps them ask questions that they might not otherwise ask. The coach encourages the client to face the pain and work through it, rather than avoid it. The coach helps the client see him or herself as he/she truly is.

The coach helps the client see that the client’s limitations do not, in any way, make the client less creative, resourceful, and whole. In fact, the limitations might turn out to be blessings in disguise! In all cases, the coach is a powerful, steadfast stand for the client’s health and well-being – the coach sees the client as fully human, and the coach sees who the client can be, at his or her best: fully powerful and fully engaged in the world.

The Coaches Training Institute teaches us that each client is Creative, Resourceful, and Whole. My previous 2 blogs covered Creative and Resourceful. I hope this has helped you on your journey and that it will help you help others on theirs.

Gary Langenwalter

You Are Resourceful!

YOU ARE INNATELY RESOURCEFUL, according to Coaches Training Institute, where I was trained as a coach.

What does this mean? That you have deep wisdom which will tell you the truth and keep you on your path. It means that you can get the job done – that you can figure out how to get where you need to go, and to do what you need to do. It does NOT mean that you are completely self-sufficient. You still need to ask others for help. But you can figure out who to ask and what you need (or ask people to help you figure out what you need and who to ask. You’re still being resourceful and moving forward).

Being resourceful means that you already have the resources you need in order to grow to be who you are called to be. This is both good news and bad news. The “bad” news” is that you can no longer tell yourself that you don’t have the resources to do something or be something.

Some people want to see the ultimate destination and a detailed map of each stop when they start on a journey. But being resourceful means you don’t really need the detail. As long as you know where you are going, in general terms, you trust that you’ll have the resources you need along the way. All you really need to see is the first step, after which the next step will unfold, then the next step, then the next step… And in the end, I’ve usually been amazed at where I’ve finally arrived – it’s usually been different, and much better, than I initially conceived.

How will you act when you KNOW that you that you are resourceful – that you have everything you need already? And what’s stopping you from acting that way right now?

Gary Langenwalter

You are Creative!

YOU ARE INNATELY CREATIVE, according to the Coaches Training Institute, where I got my training to be a coach.

What does this mean? It means that the coach does not have to be the creative one, furnishing ideas and leading the client forward. It means the client is fully capable of creating the future they want. The coach merely needs to give the client the confidence to believe in themselves. When a client starts to realize how creative they really are, they become much more powerful, much more unstoppable. They become the learning, growing, passionate person that they have always been, but never really let out to play, before. They become a truly beautiful person, from the inside out. They attract other like-minded, bold, beautiful people. Just consider the impact that a group of powerful, creative people can have!

Creative people do not let their past define them. They create their own futures, the futures that they want to live in. And then they live into those futures.

Does this mean that all their efforts succeed? Of course not! But a creative person understands that fact and learns from the results of their efforts. They either change an input and try again, or decide to do something else entirely. Bill Gates said that he has learned more from his failures than from his successes.

So, are you being the creative, powerful person that you’re capable of being? If not, would you be open to some coaching? Do you know someone else whose latent creativity and power is untapped?

Next week’s blog: You are innately Resourceful

The following week’s blog: You are Whole.

Gary Langenwalter

Does Your Business Serve Your Life?

Does your business serve your life?

1. What do you want out of life?

2. How can your business help you achieve that?

Business can, and should, serve your life. In fact, business should bring you life, instead of the other way around. Business is a tangible manifestation of the owner’s life, rather than a separate, self-contained and self-important entity. Radical idea, don’t you think?

In addition to our suite of consulting capabilities, Portland Consulting Group now officially offers coaching, both business coaching and personal/life coaching. As business owners ourselves, we fully understand that it’s really hard for a business owner to admit that he/she could benefit from using a coach. But that’s what ALL successful athletes, and many of the most successful business and non-profit and government leaders do. And we have done that, too. Ask yourself – how did the best athletes achieve their success. Talent? Of course. Hard work? Of course. And coaching? Of course. Because a coach can see things that the athlete and business owner cannot see. Unlike employees, a coach can hold the business owner accountable.

How are your business and your life doing right now?

What could a coach do for your business, and/or your life?

Do you know someone else who could benefit from coaching?

Gary Langenwalter

Embracing Pain!

Most of us avoid pain. That’s completely normal. However, an effective leader learns to embrace one type of pain – the pain of knowing how things COULD be, and not yet being there. That pain, when harnessed appropriately and effectively, creates the power to make change happen. The power to do whatever it takes to get one step closer to the desired future.

Effective leaders have to live with the pain of disappointment constantly. When an employee does not live up to expectations, when a customer or client says “no”, when a supplier fails to deliver on its promise, when a requested zoning change is denied, when… What differentiates the best leaders from the rest is how they respond to the disappointments – how they live in the tension.

George Washington wrote countless letters to the Continental Congress, pleading for more funds so he could pay his soldiers. Congress frequently gave him much less than he asked for (and sometimes they ignored his pleas completely). He had to live in the tension of that chronic disappointment. The British won most of the battles during the Revolutionary War. Washington had to continue to lead his soldiers despite low morale and dwindling resources caused by defeats. But Washington and his troops persevered and won the war.

The best leaders do not ask “how do I minimize the pain?”, but “how to I bring my vision into reality?”, knowing that the pain of disappointment is the price they have to pay to reach their goal. Since pain will be part of our lives as leaders, we have 2 choices:

1) accept it grudgingly, or

2) embrace it.

And embracing the pain will give us more power, letting us use that pain to accomplish our vision.

So, what pain can you embrace today? Next week?

PS – The picture was taken at the site where the British captured Paul Revere on April 19, 1775. I was captain of the Stow Massachusetts Minutemen for 5 years. We reenacted the 10-mile march to Concord every Patriot’s Day.

Gary Langenwalter

Eat That Frog!

Mark Twain said that if you have to eat a live frog, do it first thing in the morning so that you’ll get the worst thing of your day out of your way. The rest of your day will be much better by comparison. In his best-selling book Eat That Frog!, Brian Tracy has a corollary – if you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.

What is your frog? It’s NOT the annoying little action you’ve been putting off, like washing your car. No. It’s the most important, biggest task on your plate. The one that looks daunting, even overwhelming. Why do it first? Because it’s important. Doing the important tasks first sets the foundation for long-term, sustainable success. It also provides a psychological high, which boosts your productivity and creativity for your other tasks.

I have demonstrated that truism on this website in the recent past. My intention, my commitment to myself, was to post a blog each week, preferably on Wednesday, and no later than Thursday afternoon. I allowed myself to be distracted by lots of excuses. But that’s all they were – excuses. And the psychological lethargy that this inaction created also affected my performance on other tasks. It made it easier to procrastinate on them, too. You can think of this process as the rudder of a ship – the rudder is small, but it determines where the ship goes.

So now I’m renewing my intention to post weekly, for 2 reasons:

1. For myself – posting requires me to ruminate on a subject of interest to thought leaders. And to clarify my own thoughts sufficiently that I can create a cogent blog, one which I hope will be valuable to the readers

2. For the readers – I hope that this helps readers become more effective leaders, and to have richer, more meaningful lives. Because my passion is for EACH person to have a rich, meaningful life – to live it powerfully and boldly.

What do you think? I’d really appreciate hearing from you.

Gary Langenwalter

Going Deep

“It’s easier to ride a horse in the direction that it’s going. And if the horse is dead, get off.” When you can’t get the results you need, what do you do? When you wake up tired, again, because your work no longer brings you joy, what do you do?

When nothing is working, it’s time to go deep.

But going deep is not easy.

1. It takes time, and when everything is crumbling, your psyche insists loudly that you have to DO SOMETHING to GET RESULTS NOW! You DON’T HAVE TIME to go deep! Only when you can get beyond frantic, can you start accepting what is. Only then, can you start being open to other creative possibilities.

2. It takes courage and is painful, because you have to let go:

· Let go of the Bright Shiny Objects that seemed so attractive, but which no longer satisfy.

· Let go of the structure and the rhythm of your life, and be willing to live in chaos for a while.

· Let go of an identity – be willing to be seen as a person in transition.

· Even more difficult, let go of the dreams you have created. (But there will be others to take their place.)

Going deep requires asking the question “What is the purpose of my life?” Frederick Buechner says that your purpose in life is where your deepest gladness meets the world’s greatest need. And since the world has great needs is so many areas, your purpose is doing whatever brings you great joy. Doing what you instinctively default to doing. Many times, people can’t even see it because it is so much a part of them, they think everyone has that gift, that talent, that they have.

Here are 3 ways to start to clarify your purpose.

1. Ask your closest colleagues, friends and family who they see – what are your greatest strengths.

2. Go on a retreat – go to a quiet place, take nothing but a journal, turn off all connections to the outside word, and sit in silence and let your inner wisdom speak. A retreat master or spiritual director could help you with the process, or you can do it alone.

3. Use a Clearness Committee. This is a quiet, powerful process that provides questions which can help you discern where to go next. You can learn more about Clearness Committees at http://www.couragerenewal.org/clearnesscommittee/, or in chapter 8 of Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak.

I have experienced each of these processes multiple times and would be honored to answer any questions you may have, to help you decide what to do next, if anything. Please feel free to call me / text me: 971-221-8155, or contact me via the feedback page on this website.

Gary Langenwalter