The importance of coaching for meaning and purpose

work gives you meaning and purpose

“Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life.” Viktor Frankl

“Self-actualizers seek meaning and purpose and very often find it by contributing to others, to their community, or to society at large. More and more people are demonstrating that they care as much about fairness and the plight of others as they do about themselves. These emerging altruistic tendencies are also causing them to question corporate ethics and values as well as the profit motive.

“…ordinary people want more say in how they are treated at work and by business. It is not surprising that the issue of meaning and purpose is being raised more and more often stemming from the desire to escape from what many see as a meaningless corporate world and to go independent. On the other hand, coaching is an invaluable tool for helping staff clarify their own thoughts and remove the confusion and frustration that makes it unlikely that they will give their best effort. Countered by the need for security, some people may well choose to stay put for a time, but dissatisfaction is likely to haunt them. Others may leave the organization anyway, but most can discover how to find meaning in their existing work, or in part-time charity or community activities outside of work, and thereby maintain their performance with greater willingness and satisfaction.

“Meaning and purpose are spoken of as being joined at the hip, but they are not identical and they need to be distinguished. Meaning is the significance we ascribe to an event or an action in hindsight, while purpose is our intent to embark on a course of action. Meaning is mainly psychological, whereas purpose is a spiritual concept. To be more precise, we should specify either meaning or purpose or both when coaching others.” John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance

The importance of coaching for meaning and purpose cannot be overemphasized as gen-Xers become more altruistic as they age  and move out of the workforce and millennials seeking the “why” behind everything move into organizations. Employee engagement and loyalty, high productivity, innovation and creativity, great customer service…and, finally, profit are the outcomes of coaching for meaning and purpose, yet it’s still all too rare in organizations of all types and sizes. Why not give it a shot? You have little to lose and a lot to gain…and you’ll learn a lot in the process.

Thoughts on Leadership and Success


Everything moves so fast now that it’s easy to lose sight of the basics, to forget the principles and practices we know to be true. For that reason, I regularly take time to reflect on the fundamentals of leadership and success. This helps to ground me, get my head out of the clouds, and keep my ego in check (We all have egos…pretty large ones in fact.).

Here are a few thoughts that help guide me back to reality and toward making a meaningful contribution. They apply universally to any organization, department or team. Therefore, I suspect they will ring true with you as well. Use them in good health. Share them with your peers and your managers. Infuse them into your organization so they won’t be forgotten.

Most of the  decisions in life motivated by greed have unhappy outcomes.

Focus on what you can give back to society, not what you can extract from it.

The best corporate growth comes from putting the doing of things for the client ahead of meeting earnings targets. Growth must be organic and synergistic rather than forced simply for growth’s sake.

Trust is everything because success depends upon customers’ trust in the products and services they buy from you and your employees’ trust in you as leader. If you do not have integrity, no one will trust you…nor should they. (There is a strong likelihood that fewer people trust you than you think.)

Your purpose is to create value for your customers, your employees, your stockholders, and for society, rather than extract it for yourself.

Institutions that survive and prosper must have values and a purpose beyond just making money. They will also require managers and leaders who infuse vision and character into every element of the organization, men and women who bring not only their heads but their hearts to the challenge.

“Authentic leaders genuinely desire to serve others through their leadership…are more interested in empowering people they lead to make a difference than they are in power, money, or prestige for themselves…are as guided by qualities of the heart, by passion and compassion, as they are by qualities of the mind…lead with purpose, meaning and values…build enduring relationships with people…are consistent and self-disciplined. When their principles are tested, they refuse to compromise.” – Bill George



Many of the people I meet and work with don’t do much reading, either because they don’t enjoy reading or say they don’t have time to read. Life without reading is a foreign concept to me. I love reading. I love the world of books and ideas and spend as much time as possible reading for the pure enjoyment of learning. So, for the non-readers among us, this blog is an opportunity form me to share snippets of things I have read that speak to me and I hope will speak to others who have the 2-3 minutes it takes to read them. Today’s topic is insecurity, a malady which strikes most of us from time to time.


“The feeling of insecurity is based upon a concept or belief of inner inadequacy. If you feel that you do not ‘measure up’ to what is required, you feel insecure. A great deal of insecurity is not due to the fact that our inner resources are actually inadequate, but due to the fact that we use a false measuring stick. We compare our actual abilities to an imagined ‘ideal,’ perfect, or absolute self. Thinking of yourself in terms of absolutes induces insecurity.

“The insecure person feels that he should be ‘good’ — period. He should be ‘successful’ — period. He should be ‘happy,’ competent, poised — period. These are all worthy goals. But they should be thought of, at least in their absolute sense, as goals to be achieved, as something to reach for, rather than as ‘shoulds.’

“Since man is a goal-striving mechanism, the self realizes itself fully only when man is moving forward towards something… Man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward — or seeking. When you think of yourself as having attained the goal, you become static, and you lose the security and equilibrium you had when you were moving toward something. ‘The man who thinks he has “arrived” has about used up his usefulness to us,’ the president of a large business said to me… St. Paul is generally regarded as a ‘good’ man, yet his own attitude was, ‘I count myself not to have achieved…but I press on toward the goal.'” — Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S.

So, here’s your homework. Carefully, answer these questions. Are you using a false measuring stick? Are you living a life of “shoulds?” What are you doing that is giving you a sense of forward momentum in your life…a sense of progress? Do you see yourself has having “arrived,” giving off an aura of false (or arrogant) bravado? What’s next for you that will bring meaning and fulfillment to your life? A truly successful life, a life that leaves a legacy, is a life of continually asking yourself the hard questions and always pressing on toward the goals you have chosen.

Organizations for Masochists


“Thinking about it the other day, I realized that some of my unhappiest moments have been in organizations. Someh0w it seems to be quite respectable to do things in organizations which you would never do in private life. I have had people insult me to my face in front of my colleagues. I have had my feelings rammed down my throat on the pretext that it would do me good and have been required to do things which I didn’t agree with because the organization wished it.

“And then there are all those games which organizations play, the political battles over what we can spend, who works for whom, or who sits where or is paid what. If, like me, you’re not very good at fighting for your own corner, you can end up sitting in the little room at the end of a corridor, wondering what they’re talking about in those meetings you weren’t invited to, simmering with resentment and hurt.

“In my worst moments I have thought that organizations were places designed to be run by sadists and staffed by masochists — and I’m not just talking about business, some of these things happened in the holiest of places with the nicest people. Why is it, I wonder, that 90 percent of us choose to work in these odd communities if we have the choice? Why does it sometimes have to be so awful?

“Well, it doesn’t have to be like that. The best organizations to be in, it seems, are the busiest ones as long as they are being busy for someone else. The worst are those obsessed with their own innards.

“…The healthiest organizations are those which exist for others, not for themselves. Show me a business or a school or a church that is preoccupied with its customers or clients, determined to do its best for them and not just for the sake of surviving, and I’ll bet you that they don’t have time for too many committees, for forms, for politicking or for nitpicking about mistakes. Those are the organizations that are fun to be in, which give you room to be yourself, to express yourself, to grow.

“…It may sound odd for a professor of business to say this, but I reckon that our organizations could do with a good deal more loving, a bit more forgiveness, and a lot more faith in other people. Such things, however, in organizations as in life, are possible only if we feel we are in the grip of something bigger than ourselves and so can lose ourselves in others.

“‘Where there is no vision the people perish,’ said the psalmist. Quite so. And organizations too.”  – Charles Handy, Waiting for the Mountain to Move

Thoughts on being “just regular”


Here’s a thought that I’ll bet has crossed your mind many times…”I wish I could be like (insert your hero’s/idol’s/role model’s name here).” Am I right? Of course I am. Media, teachers, friends and even family members encourage us to “be like” someone else who is considered to have their act together and has everything going for them. We cut and style our hair, wear certain clothes, buy specific types of things, go certain places, watch sports, listen to the chosen genre of music, sculpt our bodies (naturally or unnaturally), and include the jargon favored by “our crowd,” all in order to be like someone else, to fit in, to be admired and accepted. Phew! A lot of time and effort goes into being “special.”

My wife, Kathy, and I have talked much about this topic over the past couple of years. We’ve discussed how we’ve fallen victim to the imitation game. We’ve also slowly discovered what it’s like to just be and do that which “sparks joy” in our lives simply because it resonates with us, because it just feels right and makes us more comfortable in our own skin. It’s not easy to go against the flow and chart your own path and we’re not always successful, but it has definitely been freeing and sometimes just downright fun!

Kathy recently wrote a “morning musing” titled “Thoughts on being ‘just regular'” and has given me permission to share it with you. Enjoy!

Thoughts on being “just regular”

“I read a lot…of others achievements…contributions to the world, creativity, athleticism, super parenting/grandparenting. And I aspire. Within that aspiration comes the creeping thought…others are so fantastic, so cool…look, look, I want to do that…how fun, how creative, how holistic, spiritual, helpful, inspiring…yet I am just regular. I am ‘past my prime’ as you say and cannot even remember exactly what I was doing in my prime besides spinning plates and trying to keep my head, and the six little heads that were mine, above water. It’s most likely a very good thing that I had less to compare myself to back then before social media, as the ‘thief of joy’ (comparison) was more limited and thus more subdued.

“I turned freaking 59 this year. Holy moly! I still weigh the same as I did thirty years ago but it is definitely not positioned the same. I am in good shape with the added ‘for my age’ — yada yada yada. I can do some cool stuff and I know it, but it is ‘regular’ stuff I think. Like making up a great meal from refrigerator and pantry misc., knitting crazy stuff, piano, art. I like to do a lot but I am pretty regular at it.

“Today I decided to be okay with that. No one will invite me to do a TED Talk or demonstrate anything on YouTube or publish me in the Huff Post…you name it. And finally my over-achieving, people-pleasing self has decided that this fact is okay.

“I shall quietly pursue my passions. Embrace my years and the good and the bad. Live and love large in the way that is true to myself, not some other woman who seems to have super powers.

“I feel the urgency of getting on with unpackaging myself and allowing obsession over things I desire to do. To be my best self, whether or not that self stacks up to anyone else.

“Regular is not bad.”


Leaders, Be Willing to Seek Out the Truth


The success or failure of a leader is largely dependent upon their ability to separate fact from fiction in the information that comes to them. Sometimes a leader’s ability to see the truth is colored by their own desires or fears or ego. To really lead, a leader must be able and willing to ferret out the truth in any given situation.

Some leaders discourage truth-telling. They “shoot the messenger” when the message is not what they want to hear. I once read that Bertrand Russell said that one of the reasons Hitler lost World War II was that he had an incomplete and inaccurate view of what was going on because bearers of bad news were punished. As a result, no one dared tell him the truth. Without knowing the truth, he could not make the right decisions and take the appropriate action.

Many of us, as leaders, are guilty of this same error. We don’t like to admit our mistakes or shortcomings so we kid ourselves and punish those who try to steer us in the right direction by telling us the truth.

A successful leader not only does not cheat or lie to others, he or she also learns to be honest with himself or herself. A good leader ranks high on the self-understanding and self-honesty scales.

Look for and seek the truth in all things, whether it is good news or bad news. “It doesn’t matter who’s right, but what’s right.”


Rat Races and Whirlpools


I watch some of my students at the business school take on jobs which they know will require 100-hour weeks, all year, every year, cramming what used to be a forty-five-year working life into twenty or twenty-five pressurized years, and then what I wonder? I see others postponing motherhood until it is too late, and I have watched my son and his friends, these last three months, shut themselves up in a dark studio every day and night until 4:00 a.m. to make their album. He is only twenty. There is more to life than just this music, I say. There is, for instance, the sunlight which you never see. He answers in the catchphrase of our day, there is “no alternative” if he wants to succeed.

I admire the dedication. I worry that they lose their balance, their way, and their sense of truth. What makes young bankers, I wonder, risk their careers for $30,000 profit on an insider deal when they know, they must know, that finance houses have their own ways of catching up with them.

Caught up in our own whirlpool, what the others do quickly becomes the measure of what we should do, of what is right. In my world we call it “group-think.” “You people,” the Indian mystic said to me, “have lost yourselves in busyness.” I could be more dramatic and say that we are in danger of giving away our souls.

To re-find those souls we must learn to leave our whirlpools from time to time, to withdraw and then re-enter, refreshed and redirected. We need, I feel, to walk awhile in other people’s worlds or, like the desert fathers of old, to go out at times into the desert and vomit up our double, the one that isn’t us. We need, or at least I need, a regular place of stillness to reconnect myself with the God I believe is in me, my true me.

“Be still then, and know that I am God,” sang the psalmist,  but it’s hard today to hear this song amid the din of all our doings. — Charles Handy, Waiting for the Mountain to Move: Reflections on Work & Life