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Saturday, February 26, 2005


The Reflective Commute Part One: Disruptive Questions

It's been way too long since my last entry. Reason is I've landed a short-term gig with the Smithsonian Institution in downtown Washington, DC. The work is nothing too glamorous, but I get to contribute to a good organization and use some of the expertise I've built up over the years.

Getting to work means a fairly lengthy commute (pretty common for us DC Metro residents) and I tend to take public transportation so I have a chance to read. If I'm not reading one of the books you see in the left column, I'll pull out a magazine. Right now, its the March 2005 issue of Fast Company. I know its a good issue by how many pages I have dog-eared and this one's been well marked up.

Here's the March issue link:
It's too soon for this issue to be free and open to the public, but log-in if you're a subscriber.

Here's one of the highlights for me:
Marshall Goldsmith's article called Do You Love What You Do? Besides the fact that the article talks about loving your work (not much of a surprise that I'd be interested in something like that), I was drawn to something else. He begins the article with a story about Warren Bennis when he was President at the University of Cincinnati. Goldsmith writes that Bennis was addressing a university audience when a friend asked him, in front of everyone, "Do you love what you do?" After a long, uncomfortable pause Bennis answered that he didn't know.

What Bennis's friend did was ask him a disruptive question because it prodded Bennis to deeply question his assumed career path. Goldsmith writes:
That revelation plunged Bennis into deep reflection. It dramatically altered his path through life. He had always thought that he wanted to be the president of a university. It had not dawned on him that after he got there he might not actually enjoy the life of a university president.
This is one of the most effective tools in the coach's toolbox. As a career coach, my goal is to ask one disruptive question each session. Sometimes I'm successful and sometimes I'm not. I'm also conscious of the inherent risk when asking clients a disruptive question because it's ALWAYS uncomfortable to have assumptions challenged. But, that's the type of question that a client ultimately comes to coaching to be asked. It's highly difficult to ask yourself a good disruptive question; it lingers in your blind spot - close by, but outside of your immediate awareness.

So, if your career is not what you want it to be and deep down there's something gnawing at you, it's time to find someone who can ask you some disruptive questions. Whether that coach is me or someone else, you owe it to yourself to love what you do.

Categories: c.Careers; c.Coaching

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