A few months ago I made the decision to resign from the role that I accepted at Stanford's Graduate School of Business in December 2006. At that time I was a member of the school's first-ever team of in-house executive coaches, and our primary task was launching the Leadership Labs course and Leadership Fellows program. While that effort was daunting at first, I look back on those initial years with a lot of pride in what my colleagues and I accomplished, not least because we walked our talk. In both LeadLabs and the Fellows program we asked our MBA students to embrace challenging experiences, to be open to feedback, and to strive to improve. And as a team of experiential educators we were committed to doing the same. Every year we were determined to improve both LeadLabs and the Fellows program, and every year we reflected on what we could do better and implemented changes as a result. There's always room for improvement, of course, and I'm sure this process will continue, but I also feel that over the past decade we built something great and made a lasting contribution to the school.
Supporting LeadLabs and the Fellows program has been one of my top priorities at Stanford, particularly the experience of working with our Leadership Fellows in small groups and one-on-one coaching relationships. But at the same time a number of new opportunities have presented themselves, both within and beyond the GSB: I began a relationship with the Harvard Business Review, writing on a range of topics related to coaching, self-coaching, communication, and leadership. Two years ago I designed and launched a new GSB course, The Art of Self-Coaching. Last year I was asked to teach my own section of the school's Interpersonal Dynamics course (known to everyone as Touchy Feely). And my coaching practice has continued to grow, reaching the point where I'm no longer able to take on all the potential clients who express interest in working with me.
I love coaching and teaching with a passion, and I'm deeply devoted to my work, in part because I found this vocation relatively late in life after a 15-year career in management, and I never take it for granted. But I've also learned that doing my best work requires a certain amount of reflective time to read, write, and take good care of myself. This spaciousness was decidedly lacking last year, and I knew that something had to change. A final push came from the sale of the building in which Amy and I have lived very happily for the past decade, which prompted us to consider a wide range of possibilities. It turns out that we're going to stay put, but the experience of envisioning myself in a new space helped me conclude that I was ready for a new chapter.
So this Spring I let my colleagues at Stanford know that I planned to resign from my previous role, which would entail ending my work on LeadLabs and the Fellows program and no longer facilitating T-groups for other faculty members in Touchy Feely. I expressed to my dean that I hoped to continue teaching my Art of Self-Coaching course and my own section of Touchy Feely, although I wasn't sure how the school would respond. This arrangement would allow me to scale back my work at the GSB, where I'd focus exclusively on teaching, and remain in San Francisco most days, seeing coaching clients and writing.
Happily, not only did the GSB want me to continue teaching these classes, but the school also asked me to add a section of The Art of Self-Coaching in Fall Quarter (which begins tomorrow.) So while there's still a significant amount of continuity in my life--I'll remain a Lecturer at the GSB, and I'll be on campus once a week during the academic year--a great deal has changed. This coming year, for the first time in a decade I won't be coaching a group of Leadership Fellows or facilitating a T-group in Touchy Feely, and while I'm thrilled at the prospect of more time to see clients and to write (and less time commuting between San Francisco and Stanford), I feel the absence of that work keenly. And while I'm incredibly eager to meet my new students in The Art of Self-Coaching and my section of Touchy Feely this year, I also feel the absence of the Leadership Fellows I won't be coaching, and the T-group I won't be sitting with each week.
Goodbye, Stanford. And hello, Stanford.
Thank you to the 500+ GSB students with whom I've had the privilege of working closely over the past decade, including...
- The 200+ students who participated in T-groups that I co-facilitated.
- The 150+ Leadership Fellows and Leadership Coaching students I coached and led.
- The 36 students in my first section of Touchy Feely last year.
- And the 72 students who've taken The Art of Self-Coaching over the last two years (as well as the 36 I'll meet tomorrow).
And thank you to a group of colleagues who've been instrumental in my development as a coach, a teacher, and a person. I can't possibly list everyone, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention...
- Mary Ann Huckabay, my mentor, coach and Fairy Godmother.
- Carole Robin, who called me in late 2006 and said, "The GSB is hiring a team of coaches, and I think you should apply," and who's been an essential source of guidance ever since.
- My teammates on the school's coaching staff over the past decade: Andrea Corney, Anthony Ramsey, Bonnie Wentworth, Chris McCanna, Collins Dobbs, Hugh Keelan, John Cronkite, Ricki Frankel, Sharon Richmond, and Yifat Sharabi-Levine.
- My Touchy Feely co-facilitators: Agnes Le, Chevalisa Bruzzone, Chris McCanna, Erica Peng, Inbal Demri Shaham, Jimena Galfaso, Karin Scholz Grace, Lisa Kay Solomon, Liselotte Zvacek, Michael Terrell, Saraswathi Ram Mohan, Stephanie Stevens, Sue Neville, and Zoe Dunning.
- My fellow Touchy Feely faculty members, past and present: Andrea Corney, Carole Robin, David Bradford, Gary Dexter, Lara Tiedens, Leslie Chin, Richard Francisco, Scott Bristol, and Yifat Sharabi-Levine.
- The facilitators on my staff in Touchy Feely last year: Agnes Le, Anamaria Nino-Murcia, Chevalisa Bruzzone, Erica Peng, Kevin Martin, and Michael Terrell (and our reading coaches: Gabriel Cooper, Jamila Rufaro, and Leslie Chin).
- The originator of the Leadership Labs course and Leadership Fellows program at the University of Chicago, Evelyn Williams, who pioneered the initial versions of these courses at Stanford.
- The many, many faculty and staff members whose efforts have made these classes possible over the years, including Amy Kraus, Barbara Firpo, Bryan McCann, Chris Sadlak, Courtney Payne, Dale Miller, Ingrid McGovert, John Johnson, Kris Becker, Lara Tiedens, Lisa Radloff, Lisa Simpson, Lynn Santopietro, Margee Hayes, Mindy Hollar, Nancy Dam, and Paul Mattish.
- And Nonna Kocharyan, my faculty assistant, who is amazing.
Photo of Peter Wegner's Monument To Change As It Changes.