The slow swell of business cycles

I’ve been pondering a cycle that I’ve noticed in my business. It seems to go action, reflection, reinvention and back to action. As a consultant and coach, I deliver as long as the client needs my help and wants me to be their helper. Fortunately, I get repeat business. But even so, the process has a fairly stable cycle to it. There’s always “slow time”, during which the client is regrouping, or getting funding for the next cycle. During that time, I reflect on what went well, and what I’d like to improve. I follow that with decision-making and beginning the new behaviour or activity. Then the next gig starts.

What’s interesting to me is to ponder the possibility that we are all participating in a meta-cycle, both creating and reacting to it, resulting in economic bubbles and recessions. We could all be on a slow swell of action, reflection and reinvention, which collectively creates a kind of macro-cycle, like traffic on the highway. One car slows, and all the rest slow too.

A macro-cycle would make sense in the organic view of business since life does proceed in cycles of output, rest, renewal and more output. It’s anathema to the machine model of business, born in the factories of the Industrial Revolution, which requires and expects production to never stop. That could be why business people are caught off-guard when the cycle plays out.

Thoughts? Do you see patterns in your business? Let me know…


I’ve been reading and rereading Difficult Conversations by Stone, Patton and Heen. I find it particularly useful because it identifies the thing that has always baffled me about “those” conversations: they’re not about facts and logic. Even though we spend inordinate amounts of teeth-grinding time on “But you said…” and “I don’t remember saying that, but if I did that’s not what I meant”, what happened is just one of three conversations we are really having.

The book tells us there are 3 conversations:
The “What Happened” conversation – what was the intent, who’s to blame and what is the truth
The Feelings conversation – we both have feelings and if we don’t make them explicit in a non-threatening way, they can take over, leaving us overwhelmed and confused.
The Identity conversation – what does this say about me? Am I a good person, am I worthy of love, and am I competent?

They follow on with examples, words to say, and ways to correct common mistakes.

It’s exciting to think that conversations that seemed so obscure and confusing actually were! Have a look.

Attributes that make vendors valuable to CIOs

In, Eric Lundquist in CIOInsight lists the attributes CIOs believe make employees valuable who are headed for mid-level manager positions (Society for Information Managers (SIMS)).  

Turns out they are the same attributes that make vendors valuable, too.  In my opinion, they are the attributes that make ANYONE valuable!

All of those attributes are coachable.

All of those attributes are made better through adaptability: to the boss, the customer, the team, the environment, the economy…

See the list below:




1. Ethics and Morals. 



2. Collaboration and teams. 



3. Critical thinking and problem solving.



4. Communication oral and written. 



5. Project leadership.



6. Managing expectations and user relationship management.



7. Decision making.



8. Business analysis. 



9. Creativity and innovation.



10. Budgets, leadership and project integration.


Twitter for business 2

I’ve blogged before about the need to move from a machine-model of business to an organism-model.  Here’s a perspective from CIO Insight that sees twitter as a catalyst for the ecosystem in which business is an organism:

“Dave Winer, a developer who helped pioneer RSS (Real Simple Syndication), XML-RPC (the standard that evolved into SOAP) and other Web 2.0 technologies, sees even broader potential in Twitter. He points out a parallel between some of the early criticisms of the service and the early knocks on blogs.

“Winer wrote that Twitter is, at its core, about “users and relationships between users, their ideas, and an ecosystem.”

Twitter for business

Well, an adaptive coach needs to be adaptive, don’t you think?  I’m already on facebook, linkedin, and wordpress.  Now I’m also on twitter!

I just started tweeting on twitter (, and it’s actually really fun!  I hope you will follow me, and let me know your twitter so I can follow you too.




Perspectives and Emotions

Changing perspectives is a great way to open doors to new understanding.  After all, our perspective is what creates our reality.

“Pretend” was the biggest perspective-changer in my life.  A great coach and friend, Michele McCarthy, told me, “Pretend that everything that happens to you happens because you want it to happen and you always get what you want.”  Good and bad.  Conscious and unconscious.  Now, if I always get what I want, and I don’t like what I get, I know I have to change what I want.  

Pretend can also get me past the “It’ll never work” stage.  If I can pretend that it will work, I can quiet the critic and begin to take action.  If I have a bias toward action, and am willing to contain my impatience for the thing to be finished, before I know it, it’s done!

Another perspective that has helped me is that “Emotions are transitory and each has a purpose.”  Mad means there’s a problem (take action to fix it); Sad means something is lost (comfort yourself until it passes); Glad means things are going well (take action to use the energy you have now); Afraid means something is unknown (take action to get information, or comfort yourself until you can get information).  

In a business environment we are often told to “leave your emotions at the door”.  But we have all seen the result of that obligatory suppression – hidden agendas, resentments, turf wars, high turnover, and poor performance.  By making emotions explicit and understanding how they work, and what to do with them, we can use what they give us to get results and make better and healthier connections with people and build more trust in our lives.  This is especially true between bosses and employees.  By naming and explaining what emotions are and how to use them, they lose their mystical and unruly aura.  If we understand that emotions are inevitable outcomes of people interacting with their surroundings, and we can communicate with awareness and responsibility to people who matter to us, we can use the energy they create to get what we want.  An example is using anger to change a situation that is unsustainable, or using sadness to communicate a lack of trust or disappointment.  If no action can be taken, we can at least realize that the emotion will pass, and give ourselves comfort, or use the energy constructively.

A coaching model for adaptive behaviour

Adaptive behaviour:

Any behaviour that enables an organism to adjust to a particular situation or environment.


A simple model for adaptive behaviour:


Connect with others

Learn and adapt




How I, as a coach, use this model with you, as a client:

In my work with teams as a coach, instructor and consultant, I have learned or developed tools to get great results out of each step in this model.  Together we’ll work on questions like the following:  


What things are important to notice?

How can you get really good at noticing those things, things that will be important to you or your team or your family?  

How can you get good at choosing between what is important to notice and what isn’t?  How do you live with the ambiguity that you may be wrong?  Or right?  


Connect with others: 

How can you connect deeply with the people who can give the best help?

Who is the right person to connect to?

What if the right person is someone you are afraid of, like your boss?  

Or someone you don’t like, like a co-worker?

Or someone younger than you, or older, or different, or the same?

How can you use diversity to build the most resilient connections?


Learn and adapt:

How do you learn?  

How can you expand your learning styles to allow you to take in a wider variety of information and retain it better?  

Or give up what you’ve learned when it no longer serves you? 

Once you have learned, how do you apply that learning in the new context?

How do you gracefully give up old paradigms and adopt what will work now and in the future?



When you know what needs to be done, do you do it?

What might hold you back?  What might you be willing to let go? 

What action should you take, if any?  

How do you honour what you’ve learned in the past while you stay open to ambiguity, risk and potential?



Then, how do you stay energized, positive and open to starting all over again?

The Adaptive Coach – for business people at the edge of change