Coaching & Design

In this talk Italian with designer Giuseppe (Pino) Mincolelli we have a conversation about what the the professions of coach and designer have in common.
Among other things, we discuss:
human centered design
people do not know what they want
goal oriented conversations
Eugenio Montale

High Performance Teams

Your team can be ten times better.

What does that mean? That means your professional team can accomplish 10x more work, do it with 10x more quality, 10x faster, or with 10x fewer resources. Your family can be 10x happier. Your school can be 10x more effective at helping people learn. Your community group can be 10x better at making life better for the people it serves. Even you yourself can be 10x more effective at getting what you want.

In other words, you can be great. Your team can be great.

Can you say these things about your teams?

  1. My projects are completed effortlessly on schedule and within budget every time.
  2. Every team I’ve ever been on has shared a vision.
  3. In meetings, we only ever do what will get results.
  4. No one blames “management” or anyone else if they don’t get what they want.
  5. Everybody shares their best ideas right away.
  6. Ideas are immediately unanimously approved, improved, or rejected by the team.
  7. Action on approved ideas begins immediately.
  8. Conflict is always resolved swiftly and productively.

The Core Protocols are one way to make teams that have these characteristics.

Some of the things you’ll learn:

  • Results-oriented behaviors
  • How to enter a state of shared vision with a team and stay there
  • How to create trust on a team
  • How to stay rational and healthy
  • How to make team decisions effectively
  • How to move quickly and with high quality towards the team’s goals

This 30-second video summarizes the experience.


This is a Pay What You Can course. Pay What You Can courses are a gift designed to spread Good wide and far by making skills and knowledge available to all. Pay What You Can courses:

  • are taught at cost, and the cost is fully disclosed.
  • always have an option to pay 0.
  • are a framework that can be used by all course facilitators.

Our estimated cost to produce the course for 12 students is €1220, or €102 per student:

  • Richard’s travel from London to Milan: €126
  • Richard’s travel home from Milan to Boston: €596
  • Richard’s meals: €200
  • Richard’s hotel: €0
  • Local transit for the facilitators: €100
  • Venue rental: €150
  • Books for participants (€4 per book): €48
  • Total estimated cost: €1220

Full price for this course is €350.


Coaching the Sopranos

In this famous scene of the first movie of The Godfather trilogy, when the four Corleone brothers meet right after their father has been shot and is struggling between life and death in a hospital. The topic they discuss is if and how they have to retaliate against Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo who ordered the shooting. At a certain point in the discussion, Michael Corleone/Al Pacino, the youngest brother, the only brother not involved in his family mafia business, propose himself as the avenger in a plan where he manages to shot Sollozzo. The elder brothers explain him that the issue at stake, retaliation, “it’s not personal, it’s just business”, meaning that it has nothing to do with emotion, family values, the need of justice, the father-son relationship: it’s only a tool to protect the business and send a message to the “business community”.
What struck me (apart the fact I am Italian and I know that business better than the Soprano’s screenwriters) in the scene, is that for these guys family is not affect, emotion, relationship, it’s “just business”: this is why Michael’s brothers do not consider appropriate (and even harmful) the intention of avenging his father following an emotional reaction (while of course the killing itself can be an appropriate tool but without emotional involvement).
Last week a client, struggling with her career, was talking about having a “professional demeanor”. To her, this was synonym for “professional mask” as opposite to “personal authenticity” which she was patently not allowed to show at her workplace. Further inquiry led us to discover that for personal authenticity she intended “expressing emotions”, that is, the mask was intended to avoid that her emotions were perceived by her colleagues, because expression of emotions in general was not very welcome at her workplace. Basically, she and her firm were adopting a variant of the Godfather philosophy: it’s business, no emotion or affect needed per-se. The step from “not expressing emotion” to “believe that you can stop/ignore feel emotion” seemed not be that long in her reasoning while I had in mind what Antonio Damasio (Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain, 2010) says: “The expression of emotions can doubtless be modulated voluntarily. But the degree of modulatory control of the emotions evidently cannot go beyond the external manifestations. Given that emotions include many other responses, several of which are internal and invisible to the naked eyes of others, the bulk of the emotional program is still executed, no matter how much willpower we apply to inhibit it. Most important, feelings of emotion, which result from the perception of the concert of emotional changes, still take place even when external emotional expressions are partially inhibited.”
That led me to think of how many times I challenged these limiting beliefs about emotions, all variants of the Godfather syndrome: when it comes to emotions and business, client often found or put themselves in a mafia business, implicitly negating reality, unavoidability and value of emotional states. Over time I collected a list of common misconception of emotions in the workplace (and, more in general, in organizations) that I call “storytelling about emotions”. Here is it, with the “false” part in bold:

1. You are/I am too emotional (I credit this one to Jim and Michele McCarthy, in their book Software for your Head)

2. It’s wrong to feel like this

3. There is no reason I/you feel like that

4. You make me feel …

5. Expressing emotion can be disturbing

6. One must be rational

7. One cannot think and feel at the same time

8. Emotions are dangerous

9. Emotions are not thoughts

10. Emotions cannot be changed

11. Emotions can be masked

Every belief in the list favor the detaching between parts of the self in a person, which in turn prevents development, change for the best, growth and happiness. This is why I consider part of my job as a coach to help clients in mafia-like emotional approach to explore how the world can be outside the Sopranos’ mindset.

David Papini

Ask for help – the secret of excellence

Last week I published my first video in English, and asked the English speaking people in my contacts to give me a feedback about it. I was worried and embarassed because English is not my first language and because it was my first try.

I got a lot of comments, suggestions, encouragements and appreciations and it was awesome! 🙂 People took the time to watch the video and wrote about how to perfect it and what they liked.

It feels good to be helped by others just for having asked it!

So I thought that it was appropriate to choose as the second video one about the topic: “asking for help”.

Meanwhile, I will record the “#4 bad assumption about emotions” that was missing from the video.


Connecting the dots

In a famous speech at Stanford University, on June 12th,  2005, Steve Jobs said: “Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it, no big deal, just three stories. The first story is about connecting the dots”.

At the time Steve Jobs was approaching his fifties, and in that speech he was looking back to his life from the viewpoint of a successful entrepreneur, also gone through many setbacks, continue

What’s in an arrow that flies

R.H. Stoddard

Last week a client asked me why I chosed the slogan “Life’s an arrow’s flight” for my coaching practice, so I thought that maybe the explanation is worth sharing.

“Life’s an arrow’s flight” is a verse from a lyric by the American poet Richard Henry Stoddard. Before my client’s question, I knew anything about him (and actually I wrongly attributed the verse to Robert Burns). It is a verse that has been staying with me for nearly thirthy years since I memorized the lyric it belongs to as part of a homework assignment in high school. For thirthy years it stayed in my memory, I never wrote or recited it again, just kept recalling it, as it happens with old memories that just stuck. I forgot the whole poem and the author.

Then, when I turned forty, the verse assumed a new force, because it is about life, and life goes by.

When I started to work as a counselor it became even strongly present. So I used it as a blog title and then as a slogan for my coaching practice. M job is working on lives (mine and other’s) and I love the idea of direction (having or looking for it) in life plus the idea of flight which in turn gives me the sense of lightness, movement and freedom.

Finally I found also in this metaphor of life a sense of speed which is like a warning: life goes by fast, don’t resist it, continue to change and live fully.

When my client asked, I started researching the lyric and the author, discovering that this single lyric of his is quite widespread on the Internet (actually it seems the only one). I wondered when and where it had been published for the first time, so I looked in Stoddard complete works (The poems of Richard Henry Stoddard, 2009 reprint found on Amazon and also online ) but I have not been able to find it. However I discovered that the poem was published on various local newspapers at the end of the 19th century in those miscellaneous pages where readers could find small stories, curiosity, local news and poetry. So for example, I found it on page 4 of the Kansas City journal on Saturday March 5, 1898 or in a New-York Tribune account of a a musical performance on January 5th, 1909. So it seems that the poem has been popular for more than a century.

Here it is the full version:

The Flight Of The Arrow

The life of man
Is an arrow’s flight,
Out of darkness
Into light,
And out of light
Into darkness again;
Perhaps to pleasure,
Perhaps to pain!
There must be Something,
Above, or below;
Somewhere unseen
A mighty Bow,
A Hand that tires not,
A sleepless Eye
That sees the arrows
Fly, and fly;
One who knows
Why we live—and die.

R.H. Stoddard

In a future post I plan to elaborate on the full text, which offers many other suggestions.

On the theme of the arrow, another client told me: “You took the slogan from Paolo Coelho, right? It applies to coaching perfectly”. I was surprised, because I know Coelho books, but I did not recall one about flying arrows and life.

Then I found this on Paolo Coehlo blog:

“The arrow”

The arrow is your intention. It is what joins the strength of the bow to the center of the target.

Our intentions have to be crystal-clear, straight and well balanced.

Once it leaves, it will not return, so it is better to interrupt a process – because the movements that led up to it were not precise and correct – than to act in any way just because the bow was already taut and the target already waiting.

But never fail to show your intention if the only thing that paralyzes you is the fear of making a mistake. If you perform the right movements, open your hand and release the string, take the necessary steps and face your challenges. Even if you do not hit the target, you will know how to correct your aim the next time.

If you do not take risks, you will never know the changes that needed to be made.”

P. Coelho

And I agree, it’s a perfect definition of the process, the features and outcomes of coaching.

So my coaching practice slogan comes from a bit of a old memory, partly wrong, of something (a “meme“?) who has been around for a century and the same slogan recall a beautiful writing of a contemporary writer, and it includes my personal feeling about the life that flows. Also, it seems I learn a lot from my clients about myself :-).

That’s how life (and I) works!

The same goes on for my practice name “Alzaia”: I’ll cover it in the next post.

Connecting the dots…

In a famous speech at Stanford University, on June 12th,  2005, Steve Jobs said: “Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it, no big deal, just three stories. The first story is about connecting the dots”.

At the time Steve Jobs was approaching his fifties, and in that speech he was looking back to his life from the viewpoint of a successful entrepreneur, also gone through many setbacks, including a though start as an adopted child and serious health issues.

What he does in front of the Stanford’s graduates is looking back and making sense of his story, connecting the dots of his life. Of course he does it a posteriori, looking at the causes from an effect (who and where he is in 2005) viewpoint. And, second, he tells a story, which, as we know, it’s always a partial view of the facts (or of reality, if you prefer).

A few weeks ago, while I was preparing a speech about my job as a life & executive coach, I was struggling with finding a short definition able to capture the essence of coaching (I mean, not just an advertising sentence, the “essence” ), and it occurred to me that what a coach helps a client with is to connect her/his life/career dots before her/his achievements. So, to me, a coach helps a client to connect the dots looking forward, instead of backward.

If you look back at your dots and connect them, what do you see?

Now, look, listen, feel ahead your doubts, question marks, uncertainties.

List them.

Look at them together.

Connect them.

What do you see?

Coaching is about this: helping you to create and or change that picture of you in the future. Dots are what you feel, think, experience now.