A Coaching Power Tool Created by Carolyn Castleberry-Hux
(Executive Coach, UNITED STATES)
“How will I be remembered?” This a question at the heart of many of the clients who have come through the late Bob Buford’s door at The Halftime Institute in Dallas. He recorded this in one of his last articles on bizjournal.com.
Over the years, this Texas entrepreneur and his team have coached hundreds of people who are in the halftime of life. For some, this may genuinely be mid-life or retirement. For others, halftime happens when they begin to question how they have been living and why they feel so empty inside. One even asked, “Will I die with the music still left inside?”
A recent study by Harvard University found that more than half of people age 50 – 65 would gladly change careers if they could find something with more meaning and purpose. Similar studies show that “20 somethings” today have no intention of pursuing success as their boomer parents did. They want to do well by doing good.
When all the dust settles most of us want our lives to count for something significant.
Think about it. In the first half of life, many of us driven by the need to provide, to achieve. You had a family to care for, a career to establish, a mountain to climb. As children mature and approach adulthood themselves, many begin to wonder, what’s next? For Bob Buford, it was the death of his only child that prompted him to question the path he was on and, subsequently, write the book, Halftime. He also created a process and place called The Halftime Institute: The University for Your Second Half.
When faced with life-changing challenges or significant transitions, the temptation is to jump to the next thing. After all, isn’t the idea of commitment appealing? The problem is when many of us jump to the wrong thing without taking the time to explore who we are (and who we are not) in this second chapter of life.
Committing before exploring is the single thing that MOST gets in the way of clients achieving the goals they set for themselves in navigating life transitions.
Low-Cost Probe v. Long Term Commitment
ICA asks the question: If you could shift the thinking or beliefs of every client you coach in ONE way what would that be? The answer is to give our clients time to try new things without the guilt of a long-term commitment. Low-Cost probe results in a new awareness and embracing the lessons of failure as a friend, not something to fear.
A low-cost probe (LCP) is an intentionally designed, limited “test drive” in an organization or cause that aligns with a client’s mission statement and capacity and is designed to enable them to assess its fit.
When crafting an effective LCP, the following elements should be included:
- Clearly defined assignment and role
- A specific length of a time commitment (in terms of weeks or months – not years) and the number of hours per week or month. The objective is to have a graceful exit strategy available to you if the low-cost probe doesn't work out. The point here is not to foster fear of commitment, but to make sure the fit is right for you. Think of this as the “date before you marry” approach.
- Should not require disruption of major components of your life. Low cost relates not just to money, but to time, emotional drain, stress, and the health of your body and essential relationships in your life.
- Aligns reasonably well with your skills and interests
- Is intense enough to simulate a long-term assignment
Low-cost probe parameters may include your role in this new organization, specific skills you will use, and the number of hours per week. It’s also important to include specific metrics and results that the person or organization needs from you. Write down what you learned from this experience and what you learned about yourself after the low-cost probe is done.
Let’s call my former client Katie (not her real name). She entered our coaching relationship in her early 50’s, as her family and friends were putting pressure on her to commit to something… anything. Her children had all entered or graduated from college, and the empty nest posed significant challenges to Katie. Simply put, she felt lost.
Listening to the advice of her family, she jumped into a commitment as a director for a local non-profit. It seemed like good work. The people were nice enough. The problem is she didn’t love being tied to a computer all day and felt disappointed in herself for making this commitment in the first place.
In our coaching, Katie learned the value of trying before committing. Yes, I know this is a different perspective from the Commitment v. Trying power tool, which may work for other clients. In Katie’s case, she needed time to find herself again, to try on some roles without the pressure of a long-term commitment. Most importantly, Katie needed to give herself permission to fail – to try some things that may not work to find what felt like the best fit.
Fast forward to the end of the story, like the Commitment v. Trying power tool, Katie had to face some beliefs that weren’t working for her anymore. She had to be okay with disappointing others in order to be true to herself. Katie failed her way to success and found her place in a non-profit environment committed to sports and nature, a natural and joyful fit for her. It’s also a place she may not have found without the freedom to try some different options without a long term commitment.
Low-Cost Probe Reflection
In the Halftime process, when the LCP is completed, we encourage clients to review their experiences from the following perspectives (Scale of 1-10 where 1 = No and 10 = absolutely):
- Am I still passionate about the cause or issue?
- Is this the right organization for me to align with based on my skills, values, mission statement, etc.?
- Was I effective in the role? (If not, is there another role available in this organization?)
- Were the environment and work energizing?
- Would a long-term role here fit with my financial situation?
- Could a long-term role fit with the time, financial and travel parameters I have set for my second half?
Back to Bob Buford’s question, how will you be remembered? Will you let the beautiful music play out in your life – your best life? In my coaching experience, these challenging questions take time to answer. They may even require failure along the way. What if instead of failing at a commitment, we reframe it? Even embrace being in the wrong place because that means you’re one step closer to finding the right place for you.
That is the power of a low-cost probe.
The Halftime Institute: Success to Significance Companion Guide, pages 111-113.
ICA: Commitment v. Trying