Viewing entries tagged
Contracting

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Unintended Contracting

Since 1994, I have had all or some of my professional work paid for through contracts. This was NOT the plan!  I have mentioned before in this blog that I am not, by nature, an entreprenuer. To wit . . .

  • I hate the idea of sales and marketing.
  • I am not a "joiner." Involvement is not something I seek.
  • I am inherently risk-aversive.

Thus, my first contracts came by "default." That is, through no intention or effort on my part to try and sell my services. Here's how it happened . . .

1993: A colleague offered to guarantee 3 months pay to encourage me to join their private practice. The hospital, whose employ I was leaving, offered to contract with me, part time, for weekend therapy groups.

1994: Citibank, who had bought the hospital chain, closed the hospital. An education consultant, who had a contract with the Department of Education, offered me a contract to do counseling with identified kids in schools. (Realizing this part-time gig paid me better than the full-time job was an eye-opener. But, I had dreams and it was off to grad school.)

1997: A colleague of mine and I dreamed up a consulting gig as part of an assignment for a Qualitative Research class. We proposed, with support from our professors, to help improve employee satisfaction at this 3,000+ plant.

2000: A university offers me a job, but it's not where I want to live. I counter-offer to teach from my preferred location. This leads to a contract to combine trips to campus and distance-learning that continues for 15 years until I decide to retire to pursue other interests.

2003: Interest peaks among students about the consulting work I am doing and I am assigned to teach a Doctoral class on Consulting with Larger Systems.

2010: Students continue to value the class and encourage the writing of Beyond the Couch. As multiple students indicate that the class has been the "most practical" and "best class" in their curriculum, I begin to dream about how to help others benefit from contracting.

2011: I begin coaching mentees about developing contracts. These colleagues develop contracts with schools, churches, medical practices, and non-profits. Personally, I continue with my work with a limited private practice and consulting.

So, that's it.  Let me encourage you to seek colleagues, opportunities, and supports to add contracting and consulting to your "toolkit." It will open up many doors to creative and energizing work!

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Broken shovels and new handles.

The poor old shovel . . . yellow fiber-glass handle finally gave out!

The poor old shovel . . . yellow fiber-glass handle finally gave out!

Sometimes you just gotta do it. I was replacing my mailbox post when it happened. The old shovel handle broke. I've been expecting it. This old, yellow, fiberglass handle was never the best. It quickly began to weaken; the digging becoming a maddening-test-of-stubborn-resistance as the handle flexed, twisted, and alternatively held it''s rigidity as a project progressed.

Now it was caput. Finished. Should I "pitch it" in joy of the cessation of the frustration and hold a wake to it's demise? No. I would replace the handle with a good, solid, wooden one. I grew up in that era. Don't through away things that still have value. Even if the time, the replacement parts, and ultimate finished product are less than ideal.

Changing that handle (see the finished product below) reminded me of the process of helping professionals with "old" skills upgrade to "new" ones. Learning to add contracting or consulting to their professional practice. The tools essentially remain unchanged but the experience is transformative.

Check out our no-coast, no obligation, webinar on Private Practice through Contracting!

Almost makes me look forward to digging.

Almost makes me look forward to digging.

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Our Small Town Bank Locks it's Doors . . . and reminds me of a "road not taken" . . . and an Opportunity!!

The letter . . . For privacy reasons, the full letter is available to my email subscribers.

The letter . . . For privacy reasons, the full letter is available to my email subscribers.

Our small-town bank locks it's doors . . . a road not travelled . . . and an opportunity!

A bank employee will now let you into the building . . . but only with the proper ID.

Our town only has a population of 2,000 . . . and it's in the middle of a rural area, in a state that has been referred to as "fly over country." So it's a bit shocking to get a letter like the one in the photo. I mean, this "ain't New York City!" to adapt the advertising slogan. We're used to leaving our doors unlocked, the keys in the vehicle, with the naive confidence that people generally "mean well" and can be trusted. No, this isn't "Mayberry" from the Andy Griffith show. But it's close. 

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Anyway, this letter reminded me of an event that happened about a decade ago. A bank President called me. She asked if I would be interested in setting up a state-wide Critical Incident Stress Debriefing network for her bank. At the time I was the Executive Director of a counseling center and had worked with bank leadership on a couple of her work-teams. 

I told her that we might be interested, but that I would have to find out more about what setting up and running a state-wide CISD network would require. My first call was to my professional "guru." He told me right away that the state operated a CISD team and that I should contact the head of that department. I did.

The result was disappointing . . . at best. It was clear that contact with this state-run program would be of no help what-so-ever. The program, to be fair, was designed to help "first-responders," an admirable ambition, and it was clear in the conversation with this bureaucrat that there was no room to provide this service to anyone outside the governmental system. To his credit, he was brutally clear; the legislative focus was on government and, as such, they would not provide advice, training, support, or even make available the names of counseling professionals they used across the state for their CISD services. It was a complete dead-end.

I called back the bank President. I described the experience with the state and informed her that, without being able to tap into existing resources, we simply would not be able to develop and provide this service. We were not equipped to identify, train, support, and provide the services state-wide as a small center with less than a dozen professionals on staff. It was not the right opportunity for that organization and my focus, at that time, was on building up the organization--not seizing on the opportunity to contract with the bank to develop and deliver this service.

But truth be told, it bugged me. I've never worked in government--but I have had a number of grants and contracts with legislative branches--and I am fully aware of the constraints under which they serve. What galled me was that here was a legitimate need and it went unmet. Being a problem-solver by nature it just didn't seem right to drop it. But we did.

This experience did teach me a few things that might be of use to you, my readers. Mostly, that their are unmet needs all around you and if you can uncover them, and find ways to help, you will never be without work to do and people who will pay you for the value of that work. But, more specifically . . . regarding this opportunity . . . 

1. Banks, fast-food restaurants, retailers have lots of attempted, and some completed, robberies that never make the news (in fact, in many cases, they work hard to make sure they don't!).

2. These events can cause significant turn-over and often negatively impact employee morale . . . directly impacting the "bottom line" of the bank.

3. There is no established system for addressing this need in the for-profit world. (at least not here or to the knowledge of many professionals I have asked in the past decade)  and despite training on what to do in such events and some education of the effects, there is no systematic follow up or support when the events occur.

4. There is no recognized standard way to recognize those that have expertise in helping these organizations (no state licensure or certification for CISD/M in general). Psychologists and counselors often get referrals for people who have been traumatized by these incidents and who are experiencing anxiety or other symptoms but it is rare (excepting, perhaps, public school settings) to provide this support at a group level.

Conclusions?

This is an untapped area for private practice consulting for professionals who want to get trained, develop expertise, and market these services.

 

 

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Winter Prep . . . and the lesson of doing . . . to learn you "can do!"

Winter Prep . . . and the lesson of doing . . . to learn you "can do!"

Three cords of Mulberry and Locust. Not the best, but pretty good stuff never-the-less! (3/4 cord per rack)  In the background you can see our chicken coop and the "high tunnel."

Three cords of Mulberry and Locust. Not the best, but pretty good stuff never-the-less! (3/4 cord per rack)  In the background you can see our chicken coop and the "high tunnel."

"I'm glad you said that!" exclaimed a recent trainee. We were talking about using our IMPACT Model to work with organizations, and I had just told the trainees that, far from being a typical entretreneural-type-ready to jump in with both feet, I tend to be a risk-avoider, cautious and tentative about what risks I take. 

No, the trainee wasn't glad I told them about my self-doubt and slow-adopting stance, what he was glad I said was that "sometimes you have to do something so that it is hard to deny that you can do it."  Which brings me to processing firewood . . . .

It's that time. Time to get everything buttoned down before the "snow flies" in my part of the world. This means, among other tasks, getting the firewood pre-positioned, stacked, and ready to feed the stoves and fireplace that helps heat our home. So yesterday, my 11 year old son and I stacked firewood onto our porch (see below).

For my son, stacking the rack full was a "can't do." He just couldn't imagine that we would be able to stack the entire rack full. Despite this, he hung in there until I released him with the job about 85% complete--and finished it up on my own. (Story of how a "power struggle" almost led to dire consequences.)

I can't blame him. This whole "wood thing" is a lesson in things I couldn't do at one time. 

Porch Wood.JPG

Another cord under cover. Mack helped fill it. I topped it off. This is mostly Maple. Okay, but not great.

"Couldn't do," I say, because I didn't grow up in a home where running chain saws, log splitters, or stacking firewood was part of the culture. No, I grew up on a college campus, cloistered away from such folderol. It's not that it wasn't in my heritage, in fact, my Dad, felled, transported, cut up, split, and stacked 9 cords of wood - 9 cords! - to get his high school class ring--and he did it by hand with mules, chains, and an axe. Maybe, that's why I grew up on a college campus and why I had little experience with processing firewood.

Today, running my Stihl saws (story about a broken screw and getting a second saw) ) the log splitter, and processing the winter supply is routine. But there was a time where I didn't know it would be. That the thought of trying to use or maintain a chainsaw or splitter seemed daunting if not possible. What has changed? My experience. But that only comes after one musters the courage to try -- to do the thing before knowing you can do it. To take that leap of faith.

 

Wood Garage.JPG

 

 

All Locust in the garage. Miserable to process because of the thorns but good wood--all ready for the snow!

So it is with becoming a consultant . . . and with each new project where you walk in an expert with experience in other organizations . . . but a complete novice with this new culture. You must move into the unknown, not knowing what you can do, then learning what you can achieve. The repetition of this process leads you to trust that even when you don't know what you can do in a given situation, this learning has taught you that you can do!

 

 

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Hubris or Grandiosity?

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My "Goal Slide" for our upcoming Institute at the AAMFT Conference in Atlanta on October 5th. I'd doubt my own thinking except that it has already been done. We'll be training MFTs how to use our IMPACT Model as a guide to develop contracts and act as a human systems consultant with organizations and businesses.

 

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