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Jack (and Jill) Be Nimble: Finding New Opportunities in Times of Distress

9 Apr, 2012

Jack (and Jill) Be Nimble: Finding New Opportunities in Times of Distress

Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick.
Jill be nimble,
Jump it too,
If Jack can do it, so can you!

(Updated version of an old nursery rhyme)

My clients are smart people. They teach me many lessons. Here’s the bargain: As coach I help them change their minds, see things differently and take action. When they land on their feet, they come up with solutions I could not have even imagined for them. I learn what’s possible from their successes.

More and more of my clients have had to find new solutions for their careers and their businesses. They’re really exercising their creative muscles. And it’s paying off for them – big time.

One client in the commercial real estate business came to me because he thought he wanted out of that business. He wanted a career change, or so he thought. He’d been at his work for 18 years, following his father in this business decades before him.

When we started, his complaints were many: he doubted his skills to do this work, and disliked his partner, finding him needy and unwilling to bend. He was losing money fast as the commercial real estate business dried up around him.

Following my model of Dream, Courage, Action, I took him through a process to discover his strengths, values and interests and even get a sense of his partner and the office staff around him. The goal was to utilize everyone to his or her best advantage. He took to this process like a duck to water. He found it enlightening to discover that he was very much an introvert, even though you’d never know it.

He’s a southern gentleman, a man of charm who engages you from the get-go. Yet being an introvert, he could take just so much people-to-people interaction each day. He needed ways to reconstitute his energy and spend more time alone.

On the other hand, his partner was a raving extravert who loved to be around people – couldn’t get enough of it. When my client, we’ll call him George, entered his office, his partner was right there in his space and stuck to him like glue. We had to develop some strategies to keep his partner at bay. I taught George the art of creating a conscious alliance with his partner. And it began to pay off, even though the partner grumbled a bit about this change.

Next up we started looking for new opportunities. I had him look for the gaps that the change in the economy was creating. For example, what were the new means to finance properties now that lending was tight? How could he help banks accumulating unwanted repossessed real estate?

George found himself a new collaborative alliance with a man from another real estate company in an adjacent larger city. This person proved to be everything his other partner wasn’t, and the more he hung around with this new person, the more ideas seemed to develop.

His new ally jumped at the challenge I had put to George to come up with five new ideas filling gaps. They spent a weekend together with their adolescent boys, hunting and fishing. The ideas flowed like crazy. Whenever they seemed to be strapped for a new idea, George heard his new buddy say, “Hey, we need to come up with another idea because we don’t want to disappoint your coach!”

George was on fire. His son commented during this return trip in the car that he hadn’t seen him so excited or so alive in a long time. And the new thinking paid off. Last week he signed a new deal for $1.2 million. When I asked him during our last session whether he still wanted a career change, he resounded, “Absolutely not!” He’s found new opportunity and new ideas rejuvenating. He’s started a column on commercial real estate in his local paper, sees this as setting the foundation for a book and is investigating blogging, podcasting and revamping his company’s Web site.


Another client, I’ll call her Gloria, came to coaching reluctantly, asking to have someone help her with her procrastination about writing a resume. She needed a job with health benefits, but frankly, squeezing herself into the opportunities she saw out on the job boards made her sick to her stomach. No wonder she was procrastinating.

Together, we helped her see that an organization for which she already consulting could be the perfect opportunity. It would provide her a foundation, health benefits and the time she wanted to stake a claim as a magnet in her area of expertise.

The hurdle we had to clear was her own misguided thinking that the company might not accept her proposal to work virtually and part-time (25 or 30 hours). She thought she would be cheating if she didn’t put in 40-60 hours a week.

I told her about the concept of ROWE (results only work environment) created by a division at Best Buy that found decoupling people from a 9-5 schedule made them more productive. By “Googling” she recognized how tying workers to time schedules is an invention of 19th Century thinking. She also read the “4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss and was ready to let go of her old thinking.

Today she’s happily consulting, gets her healthcare benefits and has the time she wants to develop her additional business ideas.

George and Gloria teach us lessons of nimbleness, thinking out of the box and looking past the obvious to new territories. What do their stories inspire in you? Where can you be more nimble? What opportunities are you missing because you’ve accepted business as usual? What new gaps can you close?

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