A Useful Coach?

How Can I help…

I have thought about this a lot lately, and the answer is important because it’s going to shape most of my conversations with you, the reader. Specifically, I want to know how can I add value for you? I believe one aspect of a good coach is to help someone else achieve their goals. Could I do that? Could I help you?

Perhaps.

I place a high premium on the utility of ideas. However, I don’t just want to give advice.

Why?

Two reasons.

The problem with advice

In her excellent book Stop Being Lonely Kira Asatryan gives some excellent advice, about giving advice. I paraphrase her excellent text to convey the following warning:

There is a time and a place for giving advice: when you’re an expert in a certain field, when you’re a teacher or consultant, and so forth. But where two parties are equal, advice fosters distance. You can’t give unsolicited advice without implying, “I understand the situation better than you do.”

The Entrepreneurs Organization, of which I am blessed to be a member also cautions against advice giving. One reason among many is that advice conveys expectations. The receiver is expected to follow the advice and report back. Who needs that kind of stress?

Therefore, I believe the most effective approach may be in the one used by Colin Powell in his excellent 2012 book, It worked for me: in life and leadership. This is what EO calls “Gestalt”, or experience sharing. EO is based upon the idea of equals helping equals.

For the purpose of this blog then, I am going to assume that while we are not the same, we are equals. We are equal in our desire to do right by the people we love, and the people who count on us. We are equal in our desire to find better solutions to achieve better outcomes.

Sound reasonable? Great.

So here’s how I see it working. I will share different situations I have encountered in my career, as an executive, entrepreneur, and coach. I will tell you what I was aiming at, what stood in my way, and what I did about it. Finally, I will let you know how it turned out, as far as I am able. I will also try to make it clear what tools, methods, and approaches I used. Then you can decide if they have any utility for you.

Like any good movie, I think I’ll start where the action is, in the middle.

The Challenge: It’s Time To Go

My dream job, General Manager of a fast growing video game studio, turned into a nightmare. In trying to make everyone happy, I made no one happy. So I did what any sane, rational human being would do. I resigned.

Did I mention I did not have another job lined up when I did this?

You might ask, “What happened?” The same thing that happens every time you try to pave a road with good intentions between two opposing groups. It doesn’t matter as much why I left, more that I left. It’s kind of like they tell you in safety training. You make an orderly exit from the building. What they don’t tell is you is what happens once you are outside.

The Tool: The Engineering Problem Solving Process

Being an engineer has always been a blessing for me. Not so much because of what I know, but because of how they trained me to think. Engineers are trained in the Engineering Problem Solving Process. There are six steps in this process. They are:

How Engineers Think

  1. You identify the problem
  2. You explore and find out what has been done before
  3. You design a solution from what you learned
  4. You build the solution
  5. You test the solution
  6. You improve the solution, and go back to step 3.

The problem as I laid it out was pretty clear. I’d jumped out of my career airplane without a parachute. Now I had to find out to do about it. So I read, and I researched, and I read some more.

Leads to a Tool: The Flower Diagram

The book that seemed to hold some quality answers was called: What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. Turns out it is still called that. Parachute is the manual for anyone changing careers and continues to be one of the top selling career advice books of all time. In that book I came across an interesting exercise.

It’s called the Flower Diagram.

I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say this one exercise changed the course of my life and benefitted millions of children over the last decade. I think this is a pretty great tool.

The idea is to see yourself as someone growing, someone still becoming. Hence the flower. The flower has 7 “Petals” (you can find the diagram here). I won’t go through the whole exercise, but at the core of the flower, on Petal 1 They ask you to list:

My Favorite Knowledge Areas or Fields of Interest

I listed three things on my diagram.

  1. Coaching kids
  2. Managing people to success
  3. Video games

Why was this a big deal? Because the core of those interests lead to the creation of GameTruck. GameTruck included video games (obviously) but it was also about working with kids (coaching), and as a franchise company I could help other people get into a great industry and achieve success (Managing).

There were a lot of roads to go down between the flower diagram and the creation of an industry, but in the end the source was the same. I got clear about what interested me, and in trying to combine them, I created something that had never existed.

And more than a decade later I’m still trying to combine my interested in new and exciting ways.

It’s always tempting to look back at what you would do differently, but I honestly feel like if I hadn’t leapt, I would not have had the time (or the sense of urgency) to start a new enterprise. If I’d had an easier out, who’s to say I wouldn’t have taken it? What I do know was that the Engineering Problem Solving Process lead me to find new tools, and those tools lead me to find a solution that… (wait for it) worked for me.

As they say, your mileage may vary.

— Scott

Tools

  1. The Engineer Problem Solving Process
  2. The Flower Exercise
  3. Gestalt

Books

  1. What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles
  2. It worked for me: in life and leadership
  3. Stop Being Lonely by Kira Asatryan

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