Posts Tagged ‘coaching’

Aunt Edna Sweater Syndrome

Why Learning and Development Programs Fail

Leadership and employee programs that do not use data to identify skill gaps are a missed opportunity to develop employees. Without data, the program design is what “we think” employees require and actually want.  I call that, the “Aunt Edna Sweater Syndrome”.

Every year I received a sweater from my Aunt Edna adorned with an eccentric theme.  The sweater decorations had themes that ranged from oversized farm animals to Christmas ornaments with a blitz of colors and wacky stripes. The sweater was always two sizes too large. Since I was petite, I looked like an elf dressed for Halloween. Plus, the themes were not reflective of what I liked or wanted to wear publicly. Yet, I was required to wear that crazy sweater whenever I saw my Aunt Edna.

My Aunt Edna meant well. Yet, she never bought a sweater that fit “me”. She gave me what she thought I wanted and needed. I loved her despite how ridiculous I looked. Ironically, she always told me how perfect the sweater was for me. She was a source of love with a misguided idea of who I was. Great intentions. As I am sure we all have great intentions when creating employee programs.

Eliminating the Aunt Edna Syndrome

How do we move from being a bunch of Aunt Ednas? Implement strategies that include data to identify skill gaps. Listen while using inquiry to seek understanding from our diverse stakeholders to identify their development aspirations. Then, introduce an evidence-based approach that raises self-awareness to support employee development that align to the business.  

I cringe when the employee program trends do not include self-awareness. We all rush to implement the new topic. When employee programs are void of the benefits of self-awareness, the survey data will often indicate these new trendy programs don’t work. Which promotes the belief, “people don’t change”.

To ensure change, an assessment tool or neuroscience-based content provides an opportunity for employees to increase self-awareness and awareness of others.  When the benefit of self-awareness is included in foundational learning, other supervening skills, development work is more successful. Meaning the new learned skill is embraced therefore sustained. Eliminating the Aunt Edna Syndrome requires us as practitioners to have a learning mindset, be curious, use inquiry to ensure we are self-aware to provide cutting edge employee programs

Your Lens

Our culture and socialization process impacts how we see the world. People’s actions trigger meaning for us. Our brains are always assigning meaning. The Ladder of Inference is a model created by Chris Argyris which illustrates how our brains interpret meaning. Language also impacts our expectation based on what we learned from our cultures. Words matter. For example, in some countries or social circles, the meaning for respect will expect different behaviors. Inquiry increases self-awareness. Assumptions are the perfect way to cause misunderstandings that create barriers.

We need to be curious about how we think and why. How? Use inquiry to reflect. Get feedback. Learn what you require to be supported. Notice if you are assigning blame rather than being accountable for how you feel. How you react is about you. Your lens.

My commitment is continue to increase my self-awareness. Self-awareness is a gift that consistently unfolds. The more self-aware I am. the more success I experience personally and professionally. Let’s listen together. Get curious. Collaborate. Design programs that increase self-awareness.

To learn more, please contact me. Let’s have fun impacting employees while learning together. We are better together.

Building Successful Teams During Covid 19

We have all been hit hard during Covid 19. As a Learning and Development Coach for Teams, I’m listening to what Leaders need for Team Development. Of late, what I am hearing is, teams and their individual members require more support to manage their well-being. My last few blogs, My Coach is Covid 19, Attachments vs Values and Not All Beliefs Are True provide a foundation for Team members and their Team to raise self-awareness to ensure their well-being.

Two Best Practices To Ensure Teams Success

First step, reframe challenges as opportunities. Our lives are classrooms to learn about ourselves. Then use thoughtful inquiry to increase self-awareness. Self-awareness will shift the lens team members view the world, themselves and others. Without self-awareness, we can spin, blame others, be tough on ourselves while experiencing hopelessness.

Invite All Emotions

Second, welcome all emotions. We are experiencing a storm of emotions. Inviting all emotions during the Pandemic will build emotional capacity and resilience. Resilience is not about being tough by bouncing back without acknowledging how we feel. It’s about being aware of the emotion, feeling it while being in life. If we ignore what we are experiencing we aren’t being compassionate with ourselves and we miss the opportunity to learn about ourselves. Every emotion is a message about who we are, we need to listen. A compassionate best practice is to raise awareness about how we think we “should be” so we can pay attention to who we are in the moment. Knowing who we are is the foundation for our well-being and our team’s success.

Effective Teams

Self-awareness and Teaming research is key to ensure team effectiveness. Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson team research offers the groundwork for effective teams. According to professor Amy Edmondson, who coined the term Psychological Safety. Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes. Effective team behavior includes:

  • Dependability
  • Structure and Clarity
  • Shared Meaning
  • Impact

To ensure employee engage in the process they need to develop three characteristics which Professor Edmondson calls The Three Pillars:

  1. Curiosity about the skills and knowledge of other team members
  2. Passion, in order to drive quality work to deadlines
  3. Empathy – to be able to collaborate under pressure

My experience when working with teams has taught me, Professor Edmonson’s guidelines are why and how teams are successful. Yet, even when I Coach teams to implement these guidelines, I have witnessed, at some point, team members will be personally challenged, unless, the individuals increase self-awareness.

Successful Habits of A Team Member

Self-aware team members are able be reflective, curious, unpack where they are the most challenged. Then, have emotional regulation while communicating and collaborating with their team. Self-aware team members are able to be accountable which decreases blame. Their minds don’t spin about their colleagues behavior. They know how to be empathetic and compassion with themselves and others. Which fosters trust to provide effective feedback.

What if, you’re so busy & overwhelmed that raising-awareness is just one more thing to do? Perhaps, what’s needed is the support to become more self-aware. Coaching is a powerful support tool that will raise self-awareness for you and your team. All you have to do is reach out. I am here. Ready to support you. We are better together.

The Pains You Feel Are Messengers, Listen To Them


My Coach Is Covid 19

Covid 19 is my Coach during shelter in place. This is my story or what I refer to as my toboggan ride.

“Burnout” is a phrase I know well. After all, I’m a Learning and Development Coach. Yet, I just didn’t know how burnt out I was until the shelter in place mandate was announced in my hometown, San Francisco. My burnout was the result of being the sole care taker for my mom for the last 10 years and then both parents for the past 5 years. My mom lived in Sonoma and my dad lived in San Francisco. Three years ago, I moved them both out of their homes into an Assisted Living in Sonoma. My dad passed away 12/17/19. Yet, I kept going. And, going.  I am certain if it wasn’t for my meditation practice, my friends and my New Ventures West coaching colleagues, I would be in a corner rocking myself while loudly singing a bad mantra. 

I skipped the part of rocking myself while reciting a mantra. Instead on March 16th, I collapsed from exhaustion. Got sick. Not Covid 19, thankfully. I slept non-stop. When I was awake, I was struck by all the loss. Not just the death of my dad. The loss for all us, our way of life. The loss, the grief  overwhelmed me.

The Journey

My initial reaction to Covid 19 as my coach was to ignore the lessons “the coach” was relentlessly whispering in my ear. Plus, I did not view the time at home as an opportunity to learn. So, I turned away from the opportunity, ignored my feelings. Rather than reflect, I binge watched, baked cookies, exchanged hilarious jokes and participated in Zoom happy hours. Didn’t we all? 


I began to realize, Covid 19 was providing a container to heal my burn out. I felt something tugging on my heart between the cookie baking and Netflix marathons. After I recovered from my bug, I had more energy. More time. My meditations and nature hikes got longer and I journaled more. All these practices began to ground me while supporting my wellbeing. I got curious about the loss, my grief. Since I wasn’t working, I had time to reflect on loss.  

Over the last several months my practices along with slowing down provided an opportunity to reconnect with myself. Heal. When I look over my shoulder and reflect on this last 10 years, I realize, I was burnout due my belief that I needed to put my parents first in order to be a “good daughter”. I forgot that I am goodness, already a good daughter. And, that I need to care for myself in order to take care of my parents. 

Today’s Learning:

The experience at home has provided a time to replenish, develop while noticing the magic in life.

 Life is magical. Even when life is hard, I dig deep to find life’s magic when challenged.

I have learned with every loss, I find more of myself. If my job or even my dad remained, what happen next couldn’t.               

The new space is where the gifts come in, life’s magic. The key is to accept the loss. Otherwise, I miss the lesson, a new lens to view my life’s magic.

Grief is not my favorite teacher. Yet, I have experienced that grief’s pain fosters my growth. If that loss had not occurred in my life, I would not have grown, evolved as I am today.  It’s is not easy for me, it is painful.

For me, Covid 19 is a tough Coach. Yet, it allowed me to slow down, embrace my grief, begin to heal and learn. I am committed to my practices to maintain my wellbeing.  I am learning how to breathe through my tough moments. To be with my emotions while discovering the magic of life. 

Life’s magic is present in my life, it’s in every breath I take, my nature hikes, the loving gestures from my friends & coaching colleagues.

And, now, since my burnout is diminishing, I realize the magic is the love in my mom’s voice, I see it in her eyes through the glass window when I visit.

Life’s magic is pure love. 

“ Love is the key to magic and miracles”  Rumi