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Being a leader can be lonely. You feel like you are being watched all the time and you have to act like you have it all together.

I get that.

But here’s the challenge: to ask for help when you need it. Which takes a little vulnerability.

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Some problems are just a bear to work out. I don’t know about you, but it seems like I can get stuck on them forever. So I avoid, procrastinate, and complain.

Which, of course, is no help at all.

So I’ve developed some approaches which seem to help, at least most of the time.

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I’ve found that one of the hardest skills today is just listening and being with someone. We’re constantly barraged with things demanding our attention.

The biggest attention-grabber is that device in our pocket. As if it’s ever actually in our pocket.

But as humans, we crave to have relationships with other people. To be understood and appreciated for who we are.

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I love the coaching approach because it tends to look optimistically at the future. In regular life, we all fall into traps of being depressed about how messed up things are, and how impossible it will be to surmount the obstacles in front of us.

What you have to realize is that it’s mostly a story in your head. Sure, there are barriers and challenges ahead. But that’s been true since the day you were born.

And you overcame most of them, right?

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It’s taken me many years to develop my ability to empathize with other people. I tend to think of myself as analytical and goal driven, and relating to people isn’t my natural strength.

Taking my first management job, and later increasing my scope, caused me to realize that results are achieved only through the team I lead. After my corporate job I focused on coaching, helping my clients to develop deeper skills of leadership, influence, and driving results.

I’ve learned that the core skill of leading people is simply empathy. It seems a bit weird because it’s not me driving someone else, the way we usually think about leadership.

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I’ve been reading several articles about companies who are rescinding their job offers before the new worker starts in their position. This whiplash is happening because many businesses have been desperate for employees, and were a bit blindsided by recent economic turmoil.

Imagine what that does to someone who left their previous job, perhaps even moved in anticipation of the great new job. It’s more than devastating.

I sure hope you haven’t had to do this to someone, but it might be good to think about the implications of making this kind of decision.

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Last week I talked a bit about the sprint to the finish line, or other periods of gathering together to do the good hard work.

After that hard work, there should be time to celebrate what we’ve been through. Depending on the difficulty of the experience, we should take time to express gratitude and appreciation.

As a leader, this is one of your primary roles. People look to you as the heart of the organization.

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When we’re faced with a huge challenge, it’s time for everyone to get busy and help out. We know we have hard work to do, but doing it together makes things go easier.

There’s a very special energy in aligning as a group!

And it works best when everybody jumps in, from the boss to the bottle washer. It’s a very democratic endeavor that way.

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We have this big distinction in the USA – and many other countries – about structuring as a non-profit entity versus for-profit. We have to recognize, though, that we’re intermingling two quite different concepts. It’s important to not get confused.

The first concept is that a non-profit is somehow heart-centered and oriented toward unselfish benefits, while a for-profit is somehow … not? So it must be profit-centered and oriented toward selfish purposes. But we’ve grown comfortable with that distinction, even though it’s inaccurate and often wrong.

The other concept we mix with this is the tax structure and, generally, the relationship with the government. Non-profits take on extra restrictions and reporting requirements in trade for being exempt from certain kinds of taxes.

So where does this overlap lead us astray?

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When I try to explain to people why coaching can be so powerful, I often include the fact that I try to nurture a sense of optimism, lightness, even humor.

Now, our work is often about serious things and serious situations. Business can be tough most of the time. But I find that the weight of this can easily push my clients to feeling stuck.

I don’t see any good alternatives. I’m out of ideas. There are so many negative effects of any action I might take.

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