Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment? Some of you who have done so will have your type memorized and will know what the letters stand for and know what those letters say about them and how they are in the world. Others will think this is total bunk and pseudoscience and to hell with it all. As part of my career change and Jennifer 2.0 project in 2016, I took A LOT of assessments. My coach had me do a DISC profile; the HR person at the university had me do a Strong Interest Inventory assessment; someone else suggested Strengths Finder, which I did on my own. None of these assessments is 100% accurate; none of them function like a crystal ball or are un-erring. But each…
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Failing and Falling

coaching, creative work, productivity
I listen to a productivity podcast (Productivity Alchemy) on which the host, Kevin Sonney, asks all of his interview subjects roughly the same six questions about how they organize their lives, how they stay on track with their goals, and what advice and processes they regularly use. His last question is always "What do you do when you fail?" Kevin interviews a lot of creative people. His wife is the writer Ursula Vernon and they have tons of friends in the art and publishing worlds and those friends give him interviews and let him be nosy about their personal productivity habits. Frequently these interview guests chafe at the very notion of failure. "I don't think of it as failure." "Failure is really just another way to say 'learning opportunity'." And…
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Creative Scholarship

coaching, creative work
I get great ideas in the shower. While I wash my face or scrub my scalp, I think, "oooh what if I offered a writing retreat in Niagara wine country?" or  "I bet a membership site with mini-coaching sessions offered regularly would be a hit!" And then, by the time I'm dry and dressed, the idea has either vanished, or it has paled somewhat under the harsh light of reality. Practical considerations of time and money and influence and reach and acceptability and the like all crowd in around my idea and convince me that, yeah, while it might be an interesting notion, it isn't one for me to consider right now. In other words--I get scared and back away. I don't want to know how many times I've backed…
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Giving it Away for Free

coaching, networking, Uncategorized
A fair amount of my headspace has been occupied lately with how or whether business/entrepreneurial language makes the transition to conversations I have with and about academics and academia. One of these concepts is "giving it away for free." There are marketing gurus out there who talk a lot about the strategy of going ahead and sharing the awesomeness you have (as an entrepreneur or business owner), in the hopes and expectation that your people will find you easier that way and that once they have found you and are paying attention to you, you can sell them more exclusive access to your awesomeness. Because this is a marketing model based on generosity, I find it pretty appealing. It assumes that not all of our interactions--in business or otherwise--are grounded…
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Transformational Academic Leadership

coaching, your office
I was talking to a friend recently, while out walking the dog in the slush, and a university leader of our mutual acquaintance came up. And it had been such a nice, if soggy, walk until then! Regardless of the number of screeds published railing against the neoliberal, corporate university, one distinction between corporate and academic organizations that remains intact--much to academia's detriment, I contend--is the fact that managers in academia receive no training. Your dean or department head is unlikely to have taken courses or been trained in how to manage people or how to lead organizations. I don't think that a department or faculty should be run like a corporation or other business, but I think it's essential that the men and women who fill management roles in…
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Three Ways Coaching Culture Can Benefit Academic Culture

coaching, your office
One of the things I reflect on in my work with academics is how the language and strategies of coaching can benefit an entire organization. Coaching has a set of foundational assumptions and practices that are easy for anyone to employ. Think of these three simple ideas and how you can implement them in your academic workplace. Don't ask "why?". Asking someone the "why" of their actions or reasoning invites defensiveness and justification. Conversations based on defensiveness tend to go in circles and not lead anywhere meaningful. To make meaningful progress on an issue or agenda, try asking "what" questions, instead. ("How" and "where" are ok, too, but "what" is pretty powerful.) Compare "Why did you tell your students to use that resource?" with "What was the lesson connected with…
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The Legacy We Leave

big picture question, coaching, services
My father died fourteen years ago. He was 52 years old and died of a sudden, massive heart attack. Because he threw himself into both sensual and self-destructive pursuits with abandon, I had known that he wasn't going to be the next Methusela. But still, his death caught me off guard and, if I'm being honest, angered me. He wasn't going to get to be a grandfather; he wasn't going to be able to take advantage of the opportunity life was giving him to redeem himself as a parent to my half-sister; he wasn't going to be around for us to enjoy each other's company--and he brought it on himself (or so I said, inwardly). And, because I was pregnant with my second child when he died, I had no…
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Buckle you seatbelts and get ready for the ride!

coaching, productivity
Ok, so I have a super corny metaphor going about the Wheel of Life that I want to work with and I'll admit that I'm stretching it a bit with the title here. But bear with me!    For my new program for graduate students, Thrive PhD, that I'm launching with Katy Peplin in the New Year, we are asking people who are interested in participating to sign up for information on registration and receive a copy of the academic Wheel of Life to fill out and think about in terms of goal setting and life planning during graduate school. (That link will take you to the sign up!) On the Wheel of Life, for each of the named pie pieces on the wheel, you indicate what your level of…
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Is there a doctor in the house?

coaching, networking, post-academic
    I have an acquaintance who is one amazingly smart woman. She has an interdisciplinary PhD in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience and has all sorts of interesting insights into the world and people. She is married to a physician. One day, when her young daughter was musing that daddy and mommy both had Dr. in front of their names but only daddy worked in a hospital, her father told her: "That's because your daddy solves problems, dear. Your mother just thinks about them." He said this with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, but it zings because so many of us academics know the discomfort of not being (publicly) recognized for our expertise. As someone new to the coaching profession, I've had to do a lot of thinking…
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What are you BEST at?

coaching, job market, productivity
I work in the world of self-improvement now and, as you might suspect, there are some shady claims out there. A lot of self-help or self-actualization or self-improvement work seems to be focused on what you can do to overcome some essential flaw in your human make up. They imply that if you can just get this one thing in order, you'll be a champ. Flaws--we all have them and most of them are not likely to go away any time soon. Stress, excitement, sincerity all speak to the fact that we will let our true light shine when it matters most. We regress to the mean, as it were. Ok then. Go with that. What is it about you that makes you most YOU? Most unique? Most interesting? It…
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