The Coach's Corner

Archive for the ‘Sharpening Your Personal Leadership Skills’ Category

Do You Know Your Calling?

June 22nd, 2020 // Tom Doescher // 0 Comments

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Many of you know that my most common response to the greeting “How are you doing?” is “Living the dream!” There are several reasons I feel that way, but one would be that I’m living out my “calling.” Some people might think that’s a religious term, but to me it’s the best way to describe operating in the space you were designed for. Sadly, it has taken me decades to really understand this concept.

When I completed Marcus Buckingham’s StandOut assessment, it labeled me as a “Performance Coach” and offered the following words to describe what that means:

“People who come to you for advice will not only get forthright, practical guidance, they will also get a system to track their progress. You love to keep score. And while this logical, disciplined approach creates security and certainty with others, you temper it with a heartfelt belief in them and what they can achieve. Your goal is to create self-reliance in others. You don’t want them to have to keep coming to you. And then you stand proudly on the sidelines and watch them deliver.”

If you’re a regular reader, you know I prefer the word “advisor” over “coach.” I explained my reasons for that preference in my July 2016 post. That being said, I’ll accept being a “performance coach.”

So I guess my “what” or “why” is advising/coaching, and my “where” is business — and in recent years, I’ve realized how much I love this role. As a former athlete, I assume I enjoy the competitiveness of business and, as Buckingham would say, “I love to keep score.”

Back to “Living the dream.” Advising my clients isn’t work; it’s who I am. One of my favorite authors, Matthew Kelly, would say that when I’m advising, I’m the “best version of myself.”

In addition to working with my clients, I mentor both a young man who lives at a children’s home and a felon who’s spent most of his life in prison. A few weeks ago I was talking to a longtime friend who asked about the mentoring. During our conversation, he said, “Well, that makes total sense.” To which I said, “What?” He replied, “You’re coaching.”

Now you know a little more about me — but how about you? Do you know your unique calling?

Discover what it is, engage, and join me in “Living the dream!”

The Four Seasons of Adult Life

March 10th, 2020 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

I recently heard a pastor/counselor speak about the Four Seasons of Adult Life. As I listened, I thought many of you might enjoy his perspectives.

Novice (17–28 Years)

Novice actually means new or beginner. You’re transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. During this period, the rational portion of your brain is developing. You make a lot of choices (friends, higher education, vocation/job) that will impact the rest of your life.


  1. Will I grow up? Will I put away my childish things and ways? Think of a childish habit you had. Do you still have it?
  2. Who do you spend time with? It’s said that you’re the sum total of the five people with whom you spend the most time. Who is the best person in your life today? Tip: Try to never be the smartest person in the room. (Editorial comment: Be a lifelong learner.)
  3. What is/will your life be about? What path will you take? Will you focus on something bigger than yourself?
  4. What will your priorities be?

Common Pitfalls:

  1. Going down the wrong path.
  2. A tendency to be prideful.
  3. A focus on “doing” versus “being.”

Apprentice (29–39 Years)

This is (or should be) a transition stage.


  1. Your priorities will be tested. (What are your tensions?) During this phase is when many people get married.
  2. Face your family wounds. (Often, your issues from your family of origin will manifest themselves during this phase. Be ready and consider seeking professional help.)
  3. Relational complexity increases (parents, spouse, children, co-workers, neighbors). You may experience relationship disappointments. Will you “lean in” or “run”?
  4. There’s frequently a tendency to compare yourself with others (job, bank account, home, vehicle, spouse, kids).

Journeyman (40–54 Years)

In this stage, life is accelerating and can be exhausting.


  1. You begin the transition from young to old. Your energy level is decreasing, while at the same time your demands are increasing. You need to re-position yourself for maximum effectiveness. Tip: Consider a reverse bucket list. In other words, what should you eliminate from your life so you can focus on your highest priorities?
  2. How will you respond? Will you become a “victim,” or will you accept the responsibility to change? Is there an area of your life where you failed? What role did you play?
  3. Will you become isolated or connected?

    (Editorial comments: 1) I refer to this as the “Perfect Storm” phase of life. We have high demands at work, at home, at church, in the community. You have to learn to say “no,” or you’ll become overwhelmed. 2) 
    In my experience and observation, this stage goes into the 60s for many executives.)

Mentor (55+ Years)

During this phase, you’ll cash in on your previous choices. You may retire from your longtime career/vocation. You could become an experienced, trusted advisor. (Editorial comments: 1) As you know, I’m not a big fan of retirement. 2) While you’re in an influential position, it’s an ideal time to begin mentoring others. 3) I would also encourage mentoring until you can’t.)


  1. Will you be a consumer or an investor? (Editorial comment: Said another way, will you be a taker or a giver?)
  2. Will you pass on wisdom, skills, and your experience? (Mentor, or initiate/engage; ask questions versus lecture; be available and give of your time; tell stories; encourage others.)
  3. When will you step aside? (Editorial comment: When will you transition to your “Next Season”?)

Concluding reflections: 1) What’s the best thing in your life today? 2) What’s your biggest challenge and how will you address it?

A Life Without Anxiety

January 13th, 2020 // Tom Doescher //

Living a life free of anxiety is the promise of Dr. Gregory Popcak, author of Unworried. According to Dr. Popcak, anxiety tends to be a fear response triggered by something that either happened a long time ago, has not yet happened, or may not actually be happening at all. For instance, have you ever been afraid you said something embarrassing (or wish you hadn’t said it) while out to dinner with your friends (or client/customer), so you kept replaying the scene in your head and experienced a low-grade sense of dread? Or, say you emailed or texted a friend (or client/customer) and didn’t get a response — have you felt anxious that something must be wrong? (Editor’s note: I confess this is me. I’m a world-class worrier. Ask my partner.)

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Dr. Popcak begins by differentiating between fear and anxiety/worry. He would say fear is the natural, biological, and appropriate response to an imminent threat. When the fear systems in our brain work properly, they serve a protective function, warning us of danger and then easing off once the threat has passed. In contrast to fear, anxiety is when the brain’s natural fear circuits get hijacked by something that isn’t an immediate danger or could even be good for us.

Think about your life — where you work, live, and play. Now think about your parents or grandparents. I bet your life is filled with way more activity and travel. You may live in an urban setting that’s more stressful, or your kids have endless sports and other activities (I grew up surrounded by farms, where in the summer, the neighborhood kids met every day to play unsupervised baseball; I think you get the point). And you wonder why you’re feeling stressed!

I won’t attempt to summarize the book, but if anything I’ve said resonates in your mind, I would highly recommend investing some time in Unworried. Like many authors of the books I’ve read in the past few years, Dr. Popcak describes the need to reprogram our brain, and he strongly believes we can. In explaining what to do, he uses the metaphor of creating surge-protection as well as a treatment called cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), and limiting or eliminating the use of medications. This book provides well-grounded hope for the worrier.

As someone with anxiety, I plan to incorporate Dr. Popcak’s advice into my life.

The Happiness Equation

December 2nd, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Recently, I heard author Neil Pasricha speak. I enjoyed his comments and decided to read his book, The Happiness Equation. In the book, he sheds light on why so many people today are unhappy. Here are my takeaways, plus a few editorial comments:

  1. The more physically active people are, the greater their general feelings of excitement and enthusiasm.
  2. None of us can control our emotions (Editorial comment: As a very emotional person, I found this statement liberating); we can only control our reactions to our emotions.
  3. In 1927, Paul Mazur of Lehman Brothers wrote the following in the Harvard Business Review: “We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture.” (Editorial comment: Wow, I would say Mazur got his wish!)
  4. Men and women in Okinawa live an average of seven years longer than Americans, and have the longest disability-free life expectancy on Earth. The word “retirement” literally does not exist in the Okinawan language. Instead, the Okinawan language has the word “ikigai” (pronounced like “icky guy”), which means, “The reason you wake up in the morning.” (Editorial comment: It’s their purpose, or their “why.”)
  5. Pasricha includes his (and also one of my) favorite quotes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.’ ” (Editorial comment: We use this quote when we’re encouraging clients to establish a purpose, or a “why,” for their life and/or business.)
  6. In 1889, the Germans created the concept of retirement to free up jobs for young people by paying 65-year-olds to do nothing until they died (the average life span at the time was 67). In 1880, 78 percent of American men over age 65 were still working; in 2000, 16 percent of men over age 65 were still working.
  7. When we’re presented with too many decisions (choices), we either do nothing or do poorly. (Editorial comment: 30 years ago, I was a member of Michigan Future, a think tank, and was blessed to spend time with some really knowledgeable, futuristic business owners. Referring to the auto industry, they would say that we’re moving from mass-production to mass-customization. In other words, the customer was going to be able to design their own vehicle to suit their personal preferences. Well, we’re still a ways from that in the auto industry, but one of my biggest complaints today is that there are too many choices among relatively insignificant products. I think this creates a lot of wasted time. I’m sure I’ve just offended someone, but remember this book is about happiness.)
  8. In 1955, the Parkinson’s Law was defined as follows: “It is a common-place observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” (Editorial comment: Here’s a practical application: Are all your major meetings routinely scheduled in one-hour blocks, or do you schedule 15- or 30-minute meetings? If you’ve accomplished the purpose of a meeting, do you adjourn the meeting early? Sadly, it wasn’t until the end of my first career that I started the practice of scheduling shorter meetings, ending meetings early, and even canceling meetings when there weren’t enough important agenda items. My partners were definitely happier!)
  9. Multitasking is a flawed concept. (Editorial comment: Yes, you can work on two things at the same time, but you do a disservice to both. There have been numerous credible studies that have dispelled the myth of multitasking.)

I was quite surprised to discover what topics Pasricha selected to mention in a book about “happiness.” And these aren’t just his opinions, as he references many studies, researchers, and other authors’ work to support his findings.

Pasricha’s Formula for Happiness: Want Nothing + Do Anything (for others) = Have Everything.

I believe it’s very similar to Adam Grant recommending that we be Givers vs. Takers.

Are You Looking for Career Advice, or Do You Regularly Give Career Advice?

September 9th, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

If your answer is yes, I would highly recommend reading Strategize to Win by Carla A. Harris, vice chair of Morgan Stanley. I try to be careful not to suggest too many books, but Harris provides some common-sense (or not so common) tips regarding jobs — or, as I like to say, careers. She’s a very good writer (or has a great ghost writer), which makes it a quick, easy read. You can tell she’s a consultant because she also offers some great checklists at the end of each chapter, and poses thoughtful rhetorical questions. Maybe the only caution would be that she’s a Wall Street investment banker, so for some her advice may not be as helpful. Here are my takeaways:

  1. Sadly (to me), she suggests people entering the workforce today should plan six to eight five-year modules at different companies. As a guy who spent 40 years at the same awesome firm, that’s hard to hear — but I understand.
  2. I think that much of Harris’s wisdom would be beneficial, even if you’re in a great place and intend to stay. In my experience, today’s workplace reminds me of a fast-forwarded video. There never seems to be enough time. Customers are more demanding than ever, and technology has sped up the way we receive and share information, but humans are still humans. Harris is very clear that you need to take charge of your own career.
  3. Harris is talking about the workforce (both leaders and associates), but I believe her advice applies to customer/client relationships, as well.
  4. Sorry to bring up introverts again, but Harris’s advice will encourage introverts to step out at times. Harris says she often hears people (probably introverts) erroneously say, “I don’t need to go out of my way to build relationships; I’ll let my work speak for itself.” This observation applies to both your company and your customers/clients.
  5. She also provides her spin on being a leader. According to Harris, a leader should have leverage; be efficient in communicating; be willing to act; be diverse; engage; and be responsible.

When I reflect on my daily conversations with owners and associates, I realize that Harris addresses so many of the common challenges faced today. If she lived closer, I would probably figure out a way to meet her, and would use her as an advisor. She has obviously experienced many different “real life” business situations and has an ability to simplify a lot of facts into some practical, logical action steps.

Let me stick my neck out. If you engage in business (as an owner or associate), I would highly recommend reading this book.

The Advisor’s Corner

Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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