Julie Mitchell's CoachNotes


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Power failure: More learning in the dark.

Another dark room, reminding me of the only (natural) light this morning during a power failure.

Another dark room, reminding me to appreciate light during power failure.

Today, I imagined, I would hit the ground running. After being out of town and out of touch, I was itching to reconnect.


Motivated with Monday Morning Mojo, I would guzzle my husband’s excellent, dark roast coffee! I would read something inspirational! I would catch up on email! I would blog! I would sort the pesky pile of papers and unopened mail! I would conquer self-doubt and sleepiness!


Instead, we had an inexplicable power failure. Outdoors, it was cloudy, but not stormy or windy. Why today, of all days? I lost a few moments to crankiness, but caught myself: Perhaps this was a good thing. Continue reading



Gratitude, Goodwill and Grace: Gifts of the Season

Red and green scene. Happy Holidays!

I was grateful to notice this red and green scene on a bright December day.

It’s December 25. If you celebrate Christmas, may yours be merry and bright. Whether or not this holiday is a holy day in your tradition, I hope this season brings you gratitude, goodwill and grace.

As the glorious strains of Handel’s Messiah fill our home I’m reflecting on what I’ve been learning through another year of walking and talking with extraordinary clients and other companions. I’ll keep it simple:

1) Be thankful. Even on the darkest days and most lonely paths, there is something to appreciate. Look for it!

2) Show goodwill toward colleagues and even “competitors” or those you dislike or don’t understand.  It takes courage to be bighearted instead of small-minded. Be one of the brave ones!

3) Grace someone with your presence in a time of need, or through simple acts of behaving honorably and professionally in challenging circumstances. Try being a blessing instead of a burden.

Gratitude. Goodwill. Grace. These three free gifts were offered to me many times in 2013. I’m deeply touched by everyone who thanked me, expressed warm congratulations and good wishes, or listened with patience and kindness in my times of need. May these gifts be yours this holiday season and into the new year.


Wise leaders say “thanks” in person!

Smart leaders walk the "thank you" talk, crossing the street as appropriate!

Smart leaders walk the “thank you” talk, crossing the street to connect in person!

Once upon a budget crunch in a large organization, hard-working professionals busted their butts for days, weeks, and months to reach bigger goals with fewer resources.

Raises were “out of the question.” Positions were eliminated or left vacant, as work loads and stress levels grew.

Leaders emphasized high performance expectations via vaguely threatening email messages, reminding employees that nothing less than “full commitment to achieving our goals” was acceptable.

The new “normal” included working through evenings, weekends, and even holidays. Workers were exhausted but kept going… and going… There was a recession, and many felt fortunate to have a job.

Throughout this challenging time, most employees did their jobs exceptionally well. They found ways to manage increased work loads, commiserating with co-workers about “misery loves company.”

One day, a major media outlet featured their organization, praising their leader in a front page story on “how to do more with less.” The positive press created quite a buzz in the community.

The next day, as if an afterthought, the leader sent an email to employees: “You may have seen the recent story on our work. Thanks for your important role in our success.”

Some never noticed this email among hundreds of demanding messages to work harder, faster, and better. Others wondered why the leader didn’t express gratitude face-to-face. A few expressed frustration out loud: “If I’m so ‘important,’ why wasn’t I interviewed? What about our dedication and effort?”  The “thank you” email seemed impersonal and inadequate.

Unfortunately, long time employees were not surprised: The senior executive had never stopped by their cubicles while they were at work. He had never engaged them in face-to-face conversation. His office was across the street from buildings bustling with activity, but workers felt as if they were miles away, out of sight, out of mind, unrecognized, unappreciated. Their efforts had been critical to the organization’s success. They wanted to see and hear thanks from their leader, delivered in person.

Wise leaders know it’s important to show up and make genuine connections with employees. In good times, and in bad, face time counts. It takes a few seconds to see another human being (make eye contact), acknowledge her importance, and say “thanks.” Two minutes is enough time to ask a question and show interest in what she does. Simple interactions can make a big difference.

Appreciation for workers begins at the top, with leaders modeling professional, respectful communication. Crossing the street to express gratitude in person is far more effective than a “lame email,” as one employee described it.

This story is based on real events and organizations. An earlier version was published by the author in April, 2013. Identifying details have been altered to protect the guilty. 


Happy New Year and hooray for daily walks!

Winter Walk at Sunset (Durham, NC)

As 2012 begins I’m celebrating last year’s accomplishment: I walked my talk! My January 2011 new year intentions included the somewhat daunting promise to walk outdoors for an hour a day (365 days in a row for 60 minutes). Other than two “sick” days of yucky stomach issues, I walked throughout 2011. Three days I was forced to step indoors due to weather, so the final tally looks like this: 363 days of walking, 360 in the great (and not-so-great) outdoors. Some treks were breezy and blissful; others boring, painful slogs. I learned a lot about putting one foot in front of the other on the slow, steady path to a positive habit. Now I know what it’s like to KEEP a deep, authentic, heartfelt intention… to will it into being, no matter what. I did not do this alone: I had help from my amazing, supportive husband, friends, walking buddies and terrific clients who helped me get CoachWalks off the ground again, after a long hiatus. I’m feeling lots of gratitude as I walk into the new year!


How to listen with gratitude

Friday, November 26 has been declared National Day of Listening. Sponsors advocate interviewing a loved one, noting that listening is a gift benefiting both parties. When we seek others’ stories, relationships may grow closer and we may be surprised at how much we learn. Listening well exemplifies respectful communication. Continue reading

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Bless the Scrooges and Give Thanks

I wish you a happy, healthy holiday season! If happy healthy wishes seem empty and leave you grumpy, I’ve felt that way, too. As 2009 draws to a close I’m sending extra good wishes to loved ones, friends and colleagues who are anxious, sad or angry because of significant losses. It has been a tough year for many and it’s difficult to express joy to the world when it seems the world is falling apart. However, I prefer to focus on what’s good, especially this time of year. Continue reading