The Question


There are times in a session when the answer to just one question turns on the light and the darkness flees from comprehended truth. Nothing changes but everything is different.

A beautiful young woman came in for therapy with concerns about tackling the challenges of her college assignments and trying to decide what direction to take after graduation. She was a former model from Europe, in her mid twenties, creative, and academically excellent. During the initial assessment, I heard her life story. She spoke about her childhood, high school years, and modeling career. In the process, some common themes became apparent ~ like her love for children, her passion for art and her struggles in relationships.   Through several sessions, we talked about ways to handle her tendency to procrastinate with assignments and about how to concentrate in class. She also disclosed that she had professional opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic. However she felt that either choice would cost her personally and affect other people’s perspective of her.

While she reflected on her choices, I suggested a simple exercise, to which she agreed. First, I asked her to imagine this was the only time in our lives that we would meet; we would never see each other again. I would have to form a memory of her from what she said and did in this brief moment.

She was intrigued by the idea and said she was ready to proceed.

I then asked, “What would be the one thing about yourself that you would want me to know about who you are?”

Her answer was instantaneous. “That I am not stupid!”

In the following silence I looked at her golden blonde hair and beautiful face and comprehended again the impact that stereotypes can have on a person’s life. This woman’s choices ~ the compelling drive ~ was the concern that how she looked dictated what others thought about her and so in every circumstance or relationship she tried to dispel the myth that she was stupid. It is not that she believed she was stupid; on the contrary, she knew herself to be an intelligent and accomplished human being. Her constant battle was against prejudice, ridicule, and dismissal based solely on her physical appearance.

As we continued to unpack this idea she was able to see that many of her past choices and actions with her family, intimate friends and career were a reaction against public opinion. She was screaming back at the world that she was not who ‘They’ said she was and her actions would prove them wrong. Paradoxically, this need to be seen as an individual and the corresponding need to deny the stereotype had been hindering her from making the choices she genuinely wanted to make. She needed a divorce from ‘public opinion’ and to develop the courage to make choices about her future based upon what she was passionate about.

Nothing of her circumstance actually changed in that moment  but her realization that she did not have to live according to these stereotypes took away the fears that haunted her every choice. That was over ten years ago. From that moment, she started following her own path, making decisions based on her own needs, desires, and inherent abilities.

Society still ogles the outside ‘package’ and makes a snap judgment about a lovely woman, but that woman no longer cares. Her choices are based on what she knows to be true about herself, and about what she decides she needs to be a whole and healthy Self. For a time, that included modeling and the financial gains that accompanied being an ‘animated robot modeling expensive clothes,’ because that opportunity created others. Today she is ‘Mom’ to two beautiful little souls and uses that intelligence she always knew she had to make the world a better place.


What would be your answer to this question? What are your actions and choices saying? Questions like these can help us to learn about ourselves and about the reasons we do things. Sometimes we do the same things over and over even though they cause us pain. Then we need to ask ourselves; ‘Why do I keep doing this again and again?’ Sometimes, a better question is; ‘What am I trying to say by that choice?’

Therapy really works.   By reflective listening, empathy, and unconditional positive regard a therapist can help you see what is going on inside.

(Story used with permission)


Cultural Challenges in the Workplace

Working in the Middle East was a fascinating education on trying to get things done in a multi-cultural workplace. This story describes what often happens.

My wife was invited to speak to some high school students at a private high school in Kuwait. We arrived a half hour early, just like any good Canadians would. We met the facilitator who was organising the event and she took us to the auditorium. Much to our dismay the room was obviously not prepared for the event.

So the facilitator gets a bit upset and starts phoning people, soon the technician responsible arrives. Then an argument begins, because he was never told this was happening and therefore it was not his fault the room was not ready.

They start going in circles arguing back and forth and meanwhile the room is still not ready. The facilitator tries just asking him to turn on the projector, turn on the sound, lower the screen and turn on the wifi, but the technician is still stuck on the point that nobody told him he was supposed to do this.

By now the hallway is full of high school students waiting to come in. Can you hear the rumblings? Some of you have probably been there and are thinking, I don’t care about who told you or didn’t tell you, the point is we need you to turn things on! Meanwhile the technician is phoning his superior because in his culture, it is very important to have permission to do everything and anything.

He just keeps repeating, “Nobody told me.”

Finally the Principal arrives, slightly irritated and tells the technician to prepare the room. Now, with permission, he pushes some buttons and we got started.

My wife did an amazing present2014-11-12 10.54.01ation which was actually able to engage a few hundred teenagers for over twenty minutes. She Rocks!

When you work in a multi-cultural setting this scenario is a common occurrence. It is difficult to get things done when you are a middle manager. The technician would only respond to instruction from the person who protected him. As a foreign worker who supported other people with his income, he was careful to not upset his Protector by doing something without permission. To him, job security is more important that actually doing his job.

This story highlights one of the differences between the use of power in the Middle East and the West. Easterners use power to protect people, this leads to loyalty and Westerners use power to drive activities, which leads to productivity. The different perspectives on how to lead people can be difficult to navigate when you work in an intercultural environment.

Many Western leaders expect initiative and a high measure of self-management from employees. But those expectations only cause anxiety in an employee with a higher need for job security. The people who work for you may have an expectation of protection from you that is clashing with your expectation that people ‘just do it’ and produce something without being told.

Our world is shrinking, our employees, clients and customers are often people from other cultures or generations; therefore inter-culture skills are a necessity for today’s leaders. This is one of the areas that Executive Coach Bill Schuilenberg helps leaders improve. To learn more connect with him at

The Surprising ROI of Executive Coaching

Executive Coaching is the most effective method for improving leadership behaviour. Implementing a one-to-one customized and structured personal development program is more effective than sending a person to a workshop or conference. A leadership conference may have famous speakers, shiny brochures, great food, and networking opportunities but research indicates this doesn’t usually translate into improved professional performance.

There are three things about an Executive Coaching Program that greatly enhance the outcome and the measurable ROI.

  1. Validated assessments that reliably measure the Executives’ strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Specific attention to both intangible and tangible goals that help the Coachee improve on both the personal (intangible) and professional (tangible) level.
  3. Consistent accountability between the Executive, the Coach, and the Stakeholder.

A reliable personality assessment looks at the underlying motivators to behaviour and is also able to predict the challenges that can bring out negative behaviours. The assessments give both the Coach and the Executive an objective foundation for building a customized performance improvement strategy. This strategy becomes the basis for goals and an action plan that maps out the development program to follow. Then the Coach provides the Coachee with accountability for the action plan throughout the program and updates the stakeholder on the progress.

cash1A study published in the Manchester Review (2001, Volume 6, #1) indicates that Executive Coaching consistently offers both tangible and intangible returns on the investment made in developing the inherent talent in the employees and executives you already have. Like, when calculated conservatively, ROI(for the 43 participants who estimated it) averaged nearly $100,000 or 5.7 times the initial investment. This is a conservative estimate carefully calculated from the data received from executives and stakeholders about their coaching experiences. Additional to this financial gain are the ongoing effects of increased productivity (53%) and improved relationships in the workplace (77%).

The Manchester review also stated that “…84% of the candidates who completed an executive coaching program identified the quality of the relationship between the executive and the coach as critical to the success of the coaching.” A great Coach needs to be a great listener and motivator, and offer the flexibility needed to accommodate an Executive’s busy schedule. Another factor for success was the participation of the stakeholder, however this did not hold true when the confidential relationship between the coach and the executive was not respected.

This study and other studies indicate that when you want to invest in your team, the best way is to give them an opportunity for personal and professional growth. In choosing an Executive Coach, look for one who will invest the time to customize a development process for the specific needs of YOUR team. People are too unique and too valuable to your business success to send them to a “Spizz-Me-Up” leadership conference and expect the “magic” to rub off.

If you’re thinking of investing some time in developing the talent you already have, give me a call and we can talk about how the customized program I offer can make a positive difference for you, your team, and your company.


Maximizing the Impact of Executive Coaching. Behavioral Change, Organizational Outcomes, and Return on Investment; The Manchester Review (2001) Volume 6 Number 1; (Joy McGovern, PhD; Michael Lindemann, PhD; Monica Vergara, MA; Stacey Murphy; Linda Barker, MA; Rodney Warrenfelz, PhD) Read the published study HERE

Internet Wilderness Guide

French AlpsThe geography of the internet is a lot like the wilderness – wild, mostly inhospitable for humans and subject to volatile weather. The wind can be gentle and then all at once bring a fierce storm which threatens your life. The sun can be warm and invigorating or suddenly a scorching torment. One can find a diverse sampling of everything and it is often hard to tell what is safe to consume or is dangerous to your health. We need a shelter from cyberspace sometimes. A safe place from the raw elements which can threaten our health and sanity. The world wide web is an interesting place to visit but not a great place to live without some all-weather gear for protection from the elements.

I have travelled through and worked in the Arctic, the Rocky Mountains, the Kenyan jungle, several Arabian deserts, the French Pyrenees, the Mexican Andes, and skirted the Himalayas in India. In the wilderness, you wear protective clothing to shield you from the harsh weather, use a compass or GPS to keep your bearings, and you try not to stay too long.

For me, in the virtual wilderness, my protective clothing is discretion about the level of personal exposure I allow; keeping my bearings by remembering who I am is not defined by what people think of me; nurturing my relationships with those I trust and …choosing not to stay too long.

Bill in FranceOn the internet we can get a lot of feedback but it is usually an opinion of what was said and not a reflection (and who hasn’t been flamed?). This can be painful and confusing. Sometimes, it’s just better to talk to a real person. One who is not volatile or unpredictable and who has the compassion to hear what I’m saying. When a good listener uses reflective listening I get to hear what I’m thinking, instead of what everyone else thinks and it is much easier and safer to make sense of what is going on inside me. Then I can figure out what needs to change.

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Parents’ guide to Internet Safety

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