At face value, the idiom, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” is a clever reminder to zoom out and see the bigger picture. Digging a bit deeper highlights an even more important idea – that we can look at any situation from a variety of lenses.
Everything is a matter of perspective, and it is our ability to move between viewpoints that allows us to balance big picture thinking with identifying difference-making details.
I had an executive client who was struggling in their relationship with a direct report, a senior director. There was churn in the c-suite and in the interest of “protecting” this director, my client had been choosing to not communicate details around what was going on.
There was certainly some logic to this thinking – manage uncertainty throughout the organization, keep unofficial information to a small audience of decision makers, and avoid distracting employees from their existing work.
The effect of this approach, however, was that my client had been acting as a filter and was doling out specific actions and small slivers of information that gave no context to the bigger picture. This was perceived by the director as micromanaging and they could sense there was more to the story that they weren’t privy to.
My client was focused on an individual tree, “protect my direct report”. This was having negative consequences on the performance of the team, it widened the power differential, and was degrading a relationship which had once been strong.
Through our work together, my client began to zoom out. They identified things like:
Once my client started seeing the landscape from this vantage point – what was working well, what wasn’t, what was most important – the forest – their options started to open up. It was from here they could dive back down into the trees to answer questions like:
The conversations between my client and the director changed drastically & the dynamic that resulted was tremendous. The increase in transparency led to more trust, and the approach of “partnership” allowed the director to self-identify and execute on areas of impact. Further, my client felt relief in no longer having to act as a self-appointed gate keeper and could engage more openly with their team.
Everybody in the picture was happier, more aligned to the purpose of the organization and were able to use their skills to make forward progress.
As you navigate your challenging decisions, it is helpful to zoom out and look at the forest before you identify which details – which trees – to focus on.
For integrated career and life decisions, look across these segments:
For leadership decisions, the following segments are important areas to keep in mind:
Everything is a matter of perspective – we have to remember that there is both the forest and that it’s made up of the trees. Seeing the forest helps us scope the problem and understand the landscape. This allows us to dig down & focus on the key details.
Some questions to consider:
What’s challenging for you these days? A career decision? A difficult conversation? Staying motivated? Figuring out what’s next?
In today’s business environment, most new hires experience a “sink or swim” onboarding approach. While many organizations have attempted to implement effective onboarding procedures, most are either hastily implemented or do not consistently yield favorable outcomes.
As a coach working in the leadership and transition space, I frequently advise clients that, regardless of the organizational landscape, there are critical behaviors and mindsets individuals must adopt to ensure their success in a new role.
Even in companies with structured onboarding processes, your first impression is fundamentally shaped by your actions and how you engage with the process. In organizations without formal onboarding, individual initiative is your only lever. We must keep in mind that onboarding is not merely about how to do your job; it serves as the foundation for your relationships, your initiation into the organization’s ethos, and the unwritten rules that exist within the company.
Whether you call it networking or relationship-building, creating trustworthy, open lines of communication in your sphere is critical to your success. The word “sphere” here is paramount; this means building relationships vertically (within your leadership chain), horizontally (across departments and with your peers), and below you (with direct reports and support staff). This establishes your brand within the company and creates the partnerships necessary to navigate complexity and inevitable uncertainty.
Tactics to consider:
– Prioritize it! Use your free time—such as coffee breaks and lunch—to reach out and have conversations.
– Ask new contacts, “Who else should I meet?” to build your network.
– Get curious about your new connections. What did my predecessor do well, and what could they have improved? When we communicate, what would you like to see from me?
A drive to prove oneself often limits an individual’s willingness to ask questions—both during initial onboarding and after we believe that we should be up to speed. I invite you to set this belief aside. It is crucial to ask questions and to keep asking questions. These begin as queries to clarify roles, responsibilities, and expectations and evolve into check-ins to keep up with the changing landscape. Contrary to the fear of appearing uninformed, well-grounded questions demonstrate that you are strategic, thoughtful, and driven to contribute effectively.\
Tactics to consider:
– Stay curious! Allocate time to reflect and identify gaps in your skills and understanding. Use questions to bring hidden information to light.
– Leverage the expertise of others. How might you approach x? Where can I learn more about y?
Confidence was certainly a factor in getting you through the door—you have the ability to perform the role for which you were hired. This invitation for confidence during onboarding is not about protecting your ego with thoughts like, “I’m a big shot and I know everything.” Instead, it’s about having confidence in your ability to figure out how to be effective. To do this, you need to show up with presence, engagement, and openness. Confidence and curiosity are not mutually exclusive; in fact, it takes confidence to be curious.
Tactics to consider:
– Consider asking trusted colleagues the following questions: “What should I be asking that I haven’t?” “What am I missing?”
– Trust that you’re here for a reason and you’ve been successful in the past. Stay engaged and trust that you’ll figure it out. Ask questions and seek help when things feel tricky.
– Remember that your success is in your hands. You can’t look externally to solve your internal challenges.
In every organization there are existing cliques, alliances and sources of tension. Dial into the existence of negativity and gossip and be careful taking these things at face value. Remember what your values and don’t compromise them to fit in. Seek to understand the culture of an organization, but remember that you are always creating a culture around yourself! What do you want that culture to look like? Especially if you’re in a leadership role, you have a massive impact on your supervisors, peers and reports by how you show up.
Tactics to consider:
– Note other people’s mindsets – where do you sense negativity? Enthusiasm? Complacency? Judgment?
– Identify and connect to your values – what is most important to you? How are you operating in alignment with them? Where do you see alignment or misalignment in your environment?
How you show up as a new employee is your choice – be aware of the muscle memory you have from your previous jobs that may or may not serve you. From the moment you step through the door, your initiative and behaviors set the stage for two things: creating the conditions for your own success and fostering an intentional environment around you. Others can feel this energy, and it gives them the opportunity to meet you there.
If you happen to be a leader and a manager of new hires, keep in mind that the deck is largely stacked against them. By using the levers available to you, you can make a significant difference in the success of new teammates.
Working with an ICF-certified coach can help you put these ideas into practice. When stepping into new spaces, my clients often feel tension that can be challenging to navigate. My coaching programs are designed to help you create awareness and implement concepts like these into your work-life. Reach out to explore how you might benefit from making changes like these.
It’s three and a half years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and things aren’t quite back to normal.
For most of us, 2020 and 2021 now seem like a weird nightmare. A time where life came to a standstill
I’ve come to think of the last 3.5 years as a collective shake up – a global quake that affected virtually every area of everyone’s life. It may not have caused us to crumble, but it did stop us in our tracks and significantly alter our experience. Consciously or non consciously, it changed structure within our lives & has led us to look at things differently.
Whether COVID-19 actually altered the fabric of our society, or just gave us another view of it, things are different.
In the last few years, we’ve seen people leave their jobs (read: Great Resignation), hunker down (with the continually impending recession), and return to in-person roles after a taste of virtual work.
Though the worst of the pandemic is behind us, it’s effects are present. Businesses are navigating changes in the workforce, leaders are navigating return to work (new social dynamics & employee expectations), and mid career folks are asking themselves, “is this really want I want to do for the next 30 years?”
There isn’t a playbook for any of this. I had a close member of my network say to me recently, “I wish people were more open about how much of a shakeup COVID really was.”
I want to invite you all a moment of reflection. How has COVID changed your experience? What’s different about YOU now versus you 3.5 years ago?
What questions are in the back of your mind that you haven’t addressed?
I hope this message is both validating & if you consider the questions, that it leads to insight. We’re all always changing – some seasons change us more than others.
As a coach, I work with folks to help them shape how they want to show up in their lives and in their work. Given the reality that there isn’t a playbook for how to show up, it’s up to us to develop our own. Taking the time to ask and answer questions like this is important. Working with a coach can help provide the structure & accountability to do so.
Reach out to explore what’s possible!
With curiosity. It’s quite simple, so bear with me – I’m going to start with a story.
In 2015, I moved into a house with 3 roommates and I drew the short straw. I ended up in a room in a walk out basement in a Seattle neighborhood. The 1970s wood paneling seemed like the scariest part of this story, but if you’re familiar with Seattle homes, you might guess that it’s actually the (unbelievable) amount of spiders that make their way indoors come fall.
I wouldn’t have considered myself an arachnophobe, but I didn’t love the idea of these lil creatures making their way into my room while I was sleeping. And the basement living room. And the shower. And the hallways. Okay, you get it…
Leaning into some vulnerability, I will comfortably admit that I was unsettled by being confronted daily by the presence of these arachnids. Some I killed (sorry), others I spastically relocated outdoors, and some I did my best to ignore until they found some other hidden location to hang out and watch me sleep.
At this time LOGICALLY, I knew my fear made no sense – I knew that there were only 2 species of poisonous spider in Washington state and I knew that none of them were living off of 24th. Still, I had some subconscious programming that was driving a catabolic (flight or fight) response.
After about 2 weeks into the rainy season, I remember a moment of clarity thinking, “this is not sustainable”. I knew I couldn’t be happy in this house if I was unsettled in my space.
So I had a choice to make. How do I cohabitate with this slice of pacific northwest nature? Their presence had nothing to do with me, so it was on me to figure it out. I tried on curiosity, and you better believe that it WORKED.
I started by googling, “what kind of spiders live in Seattle?”. Boom – information. I found a list of species with photos and I decided I would identify the ones that decided to visit. This meant I had to 1. put my face close enough to find identifying features, 2. look at online photos of the options, and 3. spend enough time sitting with them to be sure I was correct.
Once I had the ID, I had access to tons of information – habitat range, seasonal behavior, diet (it turns out they actually DO eat mosquitos), and danger to humans (… they weren’t).
After I identified the first handful, I began to notice that the pit in my stomach when I saw one was gone! It felt like magic. I overcame this fear simply by being curious about a situation.
Now I have tried this approach in other situations dozens and dozens of times since living in this house. Someone makes a frustrating comment? Get curious – what are they reacting to? What did they mean? How sure am I that that’s true?
Someone does something “wrong”? Get curious – what were my expectations? How come? What were they trying to do?
I know phobias are complicated, and can come with very real trauma, but I offer curiosity as a tool to consider using.
All sorts of research tells us that curiosity is huge for happiness, effective communication, and leadership. Consider this your invitation to try it out:
Curiosity often shows up in my work with clients. If you have something you’re having trouble getting curious about, reach out and let’s explore together.
By Sacha E. Kopp, Ph.D., Senior Vice Chancellor, University of Nebraska Omaha and Timothy J. Ressmeyer, Ph.D., Founder, Ressmeyer Partners Executive Coaching
Executive coaching has become ubiquitous within America’s biggest corporations. It’s not seen as a sign of failure for Fortune 500 executives to have a coach on the proverbial speed dial. We in academia can take a lesson.
Too often, we think of the ‘content’ of academic administration, rather than the interpersonal skills that lead to true leadership. But just think of the university president who steps down after a regrettable comment uttered in frustration; or the dean who is replaced after a failed reorganization of departments; or the department chair whose term has stalled when a stalemate amongst the faculty can’t be surmounted. The complexities of leadership, and the highly relationship-driven world of higher education, warrant investment in leaders’ skills through tools such as executive coaching.
Universities already invest in a host of leadership trainings, such as Centers for Faculty Excellence, or Faculty Development Fellowships shadowing leaders, or travel to professional disciplinary conferences and networking. Executive coaching, for individuals, groups, or teams is another ‘arrow in the quiver,’ and can scale to broader arrays of the university leadership structure. Why make this investment?
Culture defines an institution. The pandemic highlighted this well. Institutions that thrived this year undoubtedly did so because everyone pulled together. How did they do so and what could they fall back on? Cultures of trust, compassion, students-first, or more. Especially in times of uncertainty or change, it is easy to focus on the task of the moment, without fully sharing – or being aware of yourself. It’s easy to throw up one’s hands over dysfunctional cultures. As a leader, you make an impact. How you treat others, aligned with your values, becomes part of the culture. A coach who is working with the leader or team can help them view crises or opportunities differently and help leaders fall back upon built trust to seize the new challenges or blaze new trails. As leader, we are always creating a culture around us, and in so doing model the old Ghandi phrase of being the change we wish to see.
In academia, many have advanced degrees, but not in management. When your unit is called on to develop a new strategic plan, how do you bring everyone together? How often is a dean or chair brought on board to forge consensus, yet frustrated by colleagues’ mistrust? When a leader inherits a team, how are roles crafted around a common goal? When another unit’s collaboration is vital to your success, how is trust built so the teams work together? Too often in academia, the answer is to either duplicate effort (“administrative bloat”) or to seek a new org chart (“rearranging the deck chairs”). Such failures of leadership cause eye-rolls and groans and build on the worst stereotypes of failed leaders. Coaches can help leaders build the skills of collaboration, avoiding the above go-to failures, thus leading change across organizations, that will more likely be successful.
We need to be our best selves. It’s easier to lead when things are going well, but stress and change make it easy to drift into a person you don’t want to be or engage in behaviors that don’t work. The outside perspective of coaching can help you see what is getting in the way of you embracing the behaviors you would like to see in yourself. Built into coaching programs are the uncovering of strengths you have, while at the same time filling in the management skills gaps that will help you succeed.
I’m doing just fine. I don’t need any help. Congrats! Being in that place is an excellent place to be. Beyond triaging challenging situations, coaching is an opportunity to build new skills for future times when the demands are high. It’s difficult when you don’t have confidants around you who you can fully trust when new situations arise. And, all leaders have blind spots that can cause them to miss looming problems or miss exciting opportunities. Ongoing coaching support is a good complement to other professional development workshops or experiences, providing ongoing support and an accountability partner to academic leaders developing their skills. Investing in coaching in advance is one more way to define one’s self as a proactive leader.
Kissinger is quoted to have said “The reason that university politics is so vicious is because the stakes are so small.” We couldn’t disagree more. Stakes are high. Students depend on us to support their journeys. Elected officials depend on us to enhance their communities. Families depend on us for the impacts on their lives. Faculty and staff depend on us to foster the workplace that empowers their authentic selves. Universities aren’t built with bricks and buildings, but with people. The relationships we foster warrant the kind of mortar supported by tools such as professional coaching.
I want to congratulate you on your resilience in the face of volatility and uncertainty this past year.
We often take for granted our value and the things that make us amazing. We put our heads down and get through the hard stuff and we don’t always see how fantastic we are during the good stuff.
I encourage you to take a minute and acknowledge that the past 2 years have been objectively difficult. Whether you’ve navigated a career transition, coped with the loss of a loved one, discovered how you want to thrive, lent a helping hand or reached out to someone for support – you’ve done so at an incredibly challenging time! Don’t ignore the things YOU did to make that happen and to get where you are right now.
I’m fortunate enough to have been able to spend part of the holiday with family in Tucson, Arizona. My sister and I spent lots of time talking about and reflecting on past jobs, friendships, relationships, challenges we’ve faced, etc. In a moment talking about an uncomfortable experience – one that would be easy to brush aside and move on from – I (semi-jokingly) said, “we honor the past in this house!”
It was a joke because 1. it wasn’t my house, and 2. confronting the past can be hard and uncomfortable! It can be so easy to turn our back on hard times, but when we do, we lose sight of the experiences that make us who we are. This has turned from a running joke to a running mantra. By accepting, loving, and forgiving (honoring) our past challenges, we create space to grow and to move forward as our own, unique selves.
There will continue to be much out of our control in 2022. In the moments of overwhelm, frustration, and toleration, I invite you to acknowledge the challenges, and remember the strength, resilience, and creativity that got you here.
As we step into the new year, we have an opportunity to press pause and think about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’d like to go. I offer some questions below to help guide new year reflection.
If you’re a current client, feel free to bring your discoveries into your next session! If you’re not, our doors at Ressmeyer Partners are always open for partnership!
Whatever comes next, you’ve got this.
What was the best thing about the past 6 months?
What was the biggest challenge?
How was life in the realms of work, relationships, finances, health, community, and home?
What are a few things, big or small, that bring satisfaction in my life right now?
What things are most important to me in my life right now?
Is there anything that feels missing in my life right now?
How would I like things to be 90 days from now in the realms of work, relationships, money, health, community, and home?
How could I create one or two goals from these desires?
On December 31, 2022, if you’re reflecting on the past year, what would you like to say you’re most proud of?
We’re often told that we have to know and assess where we ARE to know where we want to go. And while this is oftentimes TRUE, how do we burst into a New Year with a sense of promise and excitement for “fresh beginnings” when 2020 presented so many challenges for most of us? Whether we experienced 2020 (or any other year) as overwhelming, hopeless, or confusing, or a time for personal reflection, an opportunity to pivot, or a push to learn a new skill set (or, more likely, a mishmash of all of these things and more), it’s time to close the door on what was and to lean into what IS and what CAN BE. What do I want it to be moving forward?
But how can you look backwards to a time that wasn’t ideal and use what you’ve learned to look forward? Do we HAVE to reflect and assess? Or can we just accept and acknowledge what we’ve experienced, and choose to put one foot in front of the other to step into the New Year from a place of moving TOWARDS something as opposed to running AWAY.
This quote that I read today by Dan Millman seemed to really touch on what I was feeling about moving FROM 2020 INTO 2021 in a way that I could really celebrate and embrace and get excited about, in light of all that has happened in the past 12 months.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new”. Or not trying to “fix” what was, but “create” what will be. And that is not to say you can’t honor your past experience that you are coming from. The question is how can you honor your past experience, yet not let it stop you from living and moving forward and dreaming about what lies ahead?
Rather than reflecting or assessing where we are or what has happened, sometimes, it’s simply enough to just ACKNOWLEDGE what a tough year you’ve had and then VALIDATE that your feelings surrounding the tough year you’ve had are PERFECTLY NORMAL and that anyone would feel the way you do after the year you’ve had. Say it to yourself out loud, with compassion. Try it. “Yep, Wow, what a rough year 2020 was for me. There’s no question about it. And after the year I’ve experienced, it’s not surprising that I feel disappointed and upset. And that’s ok.” And sit with it. Cry about it if that’s what feels right. And then move forward. There will be waves when those painful thoughts resurface. That’s normal and ok. Sit with them again, and you can always be moving towards something new.
And, when you’re ready…….decide what you want THIS YEAR to look like. Stop fighting and start building. No one can predict what this next year holds, but you can commit to choosing how YOU decide to show up in it. You. Choose.
2021 holds promise and new beginnings for anyone who wants it and is brave enough to step toward it.
Explore more about our Happy Hour Coach® service at https://ressmeyerpartners.com/2022/services/happy-hour-coach/.
– Kerri Ressmeyer, ACC, CPC
Kerri is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) where she is accredited at the Associate Certified Coach (ACC) level and is a Certified Professional Coach (CPC) from iPEC (Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching) and is a Certified Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner (ELI-MP).
I recently wrote the blog Your 50s Are Your Magic Years! The premise is there are lots of people in that age group struggling to figure out how to plan for what’s next. I offered a framework to reinforce that they have many gifts to offer and suggested how to take control and move forward with confidence.
I received comments from a lot of folks agreeing with me and also pointing out that people of all ages struggle with the same challenges of being happy, successful, and fulfilled. It’s not just limited to those in their 50s. I wholeheartedly agree!
The most remarkable response came when someone called me and said, “Tim, I want you to be my coach. Can you help me?”
He is 93-years-old.
I have known this man for much of my life but had not seen or spoken with him for over 30 years. I was stunned he was reaching out.
“Why do you want a coach?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve never had a coach, but I think you can help me,” he responded.
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t think I have any value anymore.”
It felt like a punch to the gut.
No value? This guy is a very successful professional who positively impacted the lives of thousands of people throughout his career – including mine. Even as he got older, he never quit working. He told me he “failed at retirement three times.” He was always urged back into service by those who knew what he had to offer.
Things were now difficult for him. He really couldn’t work anymore. He described to me his near blindness, difficulty walking, other health problems, difficulty doing things outside of the house, and several other real challenges.
Through conversations about value, he began to discover ways he does make a difference and deliver value. He also admitted there were things he was not doing that he wanted to, things that would improve both his health and day-to-day feelings of significance.
We meet via phone twice each month, and he updates me on the goals that he established for himself. As his coach, I hold him accountable for those things he wants to do.
His list has included such goals as:
And, one of the most exciting goals was when he decided he wanted to create his own “Personal Board of Directors.” He had done this throughout his career to make sure he was always surrounded by people who he could learn from, solve problems with, and share his wisdom and expertise. However, this time, he reached out to his four young-adult grandsons to be part of this group. He invited each of them to be part of this, and they enthusiastically accepted.
They’ll be meeting monthly. He will lead the Zoom calls using the three powerful questions he used throughout his consulting career: “What is going well? What are you worried about? What would you like to do more of?”
I asked him, “What value will you get out of this project with your grandsons?”
“I will be able to stay better in touch with younger folks and learn from them. I can be sure to stay connected to my family in another way. I know there are struggles they face, and I’m sure there are things I can help them with because of my age and experience.”
It sounds to me like he has quite a bit of value.
This man is taking hold of his life and not sitting back with a “we’ll see” mindset. He recognized he needed something, sought help, and is taking action to move forward even with the genuine challenges he faces.
The 90’s can be your magic years as well.
Are you like many people who shudder at the word “change”? Do you tell yourself and others “I’m just not good with change”? Change can evoke emotions like uncertainty and fear. It’s understandable to be resistant to change.
But, the reality is that The Only Constant in Life is Change. It happens. It’s there – whether we choose it or it chooses us. How we react to it can have a tremendous effect on the outcome of any given situation.
What if you were able to approach change with a different and more powerful mind set? What if you were able to embrace change and even look forward to it? What would be different for you? For those around you?
The dictionary defines change as: the act or instance of making or becoming different. Is that really so scary? Each of us is currently in the process of life and as we experience new things, meet new people, learn new life or career skills…..we are changing. We are becoming different. And in most cases, a better version of ourselves can emerge on the other side!
What if you chose to see change as an OPPORTUNITY? You see, the real way we experience change is how we choose to experience it. What if you thought about it as the opportunity to decide who you want to be? In that moment AND moving forward? A step in the process of your becoming? How would you feel about ANY change if you truly believed that if you put as much energy into leaning into the change as you previously put into swirling in fear – that the outcome would be an improved you and the circumstances surrounding you? Change can be powerful and transformational and cathartic and it can set you on an exciting new path to self-discovery, or more fulfillment, or more success in whatever you choose to do.
Have you ever heard the saying “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got”? The most successful leaders in history have not only embraced change, but created change because they understood that the only way we can truly live is if we grow and we cannot grow without change.
Are you ready to change your relationship with change? Are you ready to change your resistance to change??? Are you ready to stop playing small and start living your life as large as you’d like?
Every time you exercise your new habit, you’re creating a new reality of how you roll with change and you’ll find out, pretty quickly, that you’ve got this. And you might even love it.
Kerri Ressmeyer is an executive leadership and life coach with 30 years’ of professional leadership experience in the hospitality industry. Through 1:1 coaching, she helps clients align their passions and values to find a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment both professionally and personally.
Turning 50 is a big deal. What I’ve learned through my coaching – and my personal experience – is the entire 50s decade is a bigger deal. I believe it’s a magical time for leaders who want to figure out what is next.
Many of my initial calls with clients go something like this:
I’ve been successful, but I’m not sure I love what I’m doing anymore or that I want to keep going on the path I’m on. I don’t know what I want to do, and I don’t know how to figure it out. I do know I want to be happier.
More often than not, they are in their 50s (or late 40’s and looking ahead!).
What is really exciting is that as the conversation continues, I hear them shift from being scared or lost to being inspired and motivated to chart a course for the next phase of their life.
If you are in this age group, you have so much going for you:
Nonetheless, there are things getting in your way of gaining the clarity you want. Money, relationships, confidence, passion, etc. are all muddled at this point in time. That’s normal.
It doesn’t mean quitting your current job and doing something dramatically different – although that has been known to happen – it’s about making a plan to start now to gain control of your future.
The good news is there is a way forward!
If this resonates with you, send me an email, share your story, and let me know what’s going on.
If you’re interested in digging deeper into what’s next for you, consider working with me in a very powerful way to gain control and create the lifestyle you want to live.
I work with serious high achievers who want to work hard and invest in themselves to create the future they desire.
I offer three options:
This is not a “follow these 5 steps to happiness” program. It takes a commitment on your part to dig deep to uncover and remove obstacles getting in the way of moving to your next phase. We will chart a course forward together, and I support you throughout the plan.
Don’t leave your greatness on the table! I look forward to hearing from you.
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