Julie Mitchell's CoachNotes



Learning in the dark: Grief, loss, and other taxing teachers

Old schoolhouse in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A dark one-room schoolhouse in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (TN).

This is my first blog from the dark. I feel like I’m stuck at the barely visible desk in my photo. I’m aware of sunlight and vast space outside, yet not ready to move from the sheltered schoolroom.

How does one learn alone in the dark? I’m figuring it out. It helps to be near a window.

Normally, when I write in this public space, topics come to me from the outdoors. I’m on my feet, walking, and sharing insights from a positive perspective. Not today. My feet are tucked under me on the sofa. I’m feeling vulnerable. I’ve been moving slowly (or not moving at all), working through disruption and despair.

My beloved father — a healthy, active, eternally optimistic 78-year-old — fell suddenly on February 27 while taking a walk. He was diagnosed with a fatal, fast-growing brain tumor in late March, declined with stunning speed after having a stroke, and died April 15, tax day in the US. Benjamin Franklin wrote “… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” These inevitable events will be linked in my mind forever. Continue reading

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The few, the brave, and the innovative: In praise of vulnerable leaders.

Vulnerable leaders aren’t afraid of the truth, even when it’s dark.

I admire vulnerable leaders. They are open, courageous, willing to tell the truth and to admit mistakes, even when it’s embarrassing.

Leaders with the guts to be vulnerable are role models for how to be human and authentic at work. Their behavior encourages innovation, making it okay for others in the organization to take risks and to think in new ways about old problems.

I love this article in Fast Company. It’s a brief interview with vulnerability champion Brene Brown. It reminds me of why I like working with leaders who understand the power of being their real, imperfect selves on the job.

My take on vulnerability? It’s messy. It’s human. It’s inspiring to see in leaders, too. What a relief NOT to work with a superhero in a mask… one who always has the “right” answer or believes there’s only one clear path to success in an uncertain, constantly-changing world.

Brene Brown suggests that vulnerability sparks innovation, and I know this to be true. It helps leaders to earn loyalty, admiration and respect. I’ve witnessed how this perceived “weakness” leads to greater success!