by Orit Ramler Szulik, published at

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”   -Hellen Keller

 “I’m overwhelmed” – my client, who works in a high-profile leadership position said, almost breaking down. “It feels that I’m doing everything by myself. My support staff is either new, they all have an attitude, or I simply can’t trust them to do things the way I need. The systems in place are not working. I can’t even see anymore where I’m going and when I do I feel I will never get there because I get distracted by other things that I need to take care of!”.

I’m almost sure that by now you’ve heard about U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, who became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. She swam for 53 hours without a break, more than 100 miles in the open ocean! At first I thought the news was about a crazy lady, and I didn’t pay much attention to this huge accomplishment. For some reason, when my client said  “I don’t see where I’m going”, I mentioned Diana Nyad to her, and I realized that I do actually admire her, not only because of her endurance and perseverance to go after what she wanted – at 64 years old!, but  also because among the many important decisions she had to make, she knew that her goal couldn’t be achieved by herself.  When Diana waded ashore she said  “… it looks like a solo sport, but it is a team”, her victory was a true team effort.

After each try, over the past 35 years, Diana consulted with experts on how to do better the next time so she can remain focused on her goal, and that’s how she started building her team.  The support team accompanying her included coaches, physicians, technical personnel, a boat crew, accompanying kayakers, and equipment that generated a faint electrical field around her to keep sharks away. There were also divers standing by to deal with sharks in case they came close, and researchers who developed a topical anti-jellyfish cream especially formulated for the long hours she would spend in the water.  A boat also dragged a line in the ocean to help keep her on course. A pulmonologist was part of her team to help her with asthma she had developed on a previous attempt. There were also observers recording everything, handlers who put food in her mouth and wrapped her ankles with tape at night, kayakers handled her water bottles, divers adjusted the hood on her protective jelly fish suit, and a navigator and operations chief among others. This team of professionals made sure she was focused on her goal and nothing interfered with her mission, they kept the waters clear of sharks, jellyfish, distractions, and currents, all for her. Thanks to her team, Diana Nyad always knew where she was going, and she remained focused on getting there.

Bottom line, you can jump into the unexpected and giant ocean alone, with the intention to get ashore safely, but the chances are you will be hurt, exhausted, lost and even might drown in the process. You heard this many times and you know it, great achievements demand more than what one person can deliver. With no exceptions!

Think of the talent you need to bring together in order to achieve success. We all face some sort of currents, storms, jelly fish and sharks. No more excuses: yes, the reality is that a team approach may take longer, but in the long run teams achieve better results than going alone. Yes, it is true that you don’t choose everyone on your team and many times you inherit them, but there is training and checklists to assure efficiency. Yes, there is attitude, but it can be addressed. Yes, not everyone is motivated, so motivate them. Yes, you don’t always have a budget for a good team or a team at all, but you can be creative and outsource  some of your work or work with volunteers and if you can’t do even that, be your own advocate by planning ahead and don’t jump in the ocean if what you can do well is jumping into a pool. Yes, you think working with others is one more complication, but really? Be a good leader and make it work, or just know that it is your choice to feel like drowning, but it is an option you can change as soon as you decide.

From my experience working with my own teams in the past, I learned a few things that are important to remember:

– Move from support staff to a team mind set. Ownership and knowing that my success is yours, motivates everyone.

– Every member of a team has a different role, but what makes it a team is that everyone adds to the success of the mission. Collaboration is key, and helping each other is a must, but for everyone on a team to be focused on one specific area is what guarantees success.

– Surround yourself with people who know what you don’t know, who are subject experts. Hiring people that add to your success is a no-brainer.

– Respect your team and listen to them. Trust is key in every team, and a precondition for any team to succeed.

– There should be people on your team for different stages of the process, those who will help you get ready, those who will be with you during the journey, and those who will follow up. Make sure to have support all along the way.

Nyad came out of the ocean with her face bruised, swollen and sunburned. Even though she had the best possible team, her journey was extremely challenging. But who said it would be easy? The main thing is to be prepared and know that regardless of how difficult it will be you have a team ready to weather the circumstances with you and they know what to do to help you accomplish your mission.

Diana shared  with the media that she was determined with each stroke forward to “push Cuba back, and push Florida towards” her. Think about the following questions:

– Which one is your Cuba and which one is your Florida? Be clear from where to where you are going.

– Who do you need on your team to keep the sharks and jelly fish away? Who do you need to fight currents and storms? To make sure you don’t get lost? To keep you doing what you need to do without distractions?

– What will it take for you to make it happen?

Just as Diana Nyad, the speaker for the USA Oracle Team, who recently had the greatest comeback in the history of sailing and won against the Emirates Team New Zealand tweeted: “On your own you’re nothing, but when you’ve got a team like this around you, they make you great”.


A few years ago, I made sure I let my family know that I wanted to really, truly celebrate the upcoming Mother’s Day. In my mind, I was expecting breakfast, served in bed, as a perfect start. The day arrived, and, like any other day, breakfast was sitting on the kitchen table. No delivery. No bed tray. Nothing special. Everyone was too busy with sports or homework, and I was disappointed that my special request wasn’t met – until I realized that I had never actually articulated my desires. I had “breakfast in bed” in my head – but the request never made it out of my mouth.

How many times do you make requests that end up in disappointments? Or even worse, you expect something that you never even asked for in the first place? It can be breakfast in bed, asking a co-worker for a copy of a document (over and over again), asking for a report and getting half of the information you needed, expecting others to know what to do without any specific guidance, or getting advice from your boss but not really the advice you needed to get the job done.

As the song tells us, “you can’t always get what you want” – but here are five good tips that can tip the odds in your favor:

1- An effective request requires a committed speaker and a committed listener. Always ask for what you want and how you want it, rather than assuming that it is obvious to others. Make your request clear, and make sure you get the full attention you need. Stop making casual requests in the hallway, while distracted looking at your screen, or “by the way” requests. How you ask for things will determine how you will receive it in return!

2- An effective request must include a clear and shared understanding of your standards for satisfaction.  Share your conditions of satisfaction in order to have your request fulfilled exactly as you expect it to be. Provide all the details you are thinking of, unless it is a situation in which you are flexible and open to surprises. When I asked my son to clean his room, without going into details, he did just that. Later I learned that “clean” meant one thing to me and something totally different to him (hiding things in the closet or under the desk). Yes, after a while, people learn routines and they know how you like your coffee or what you need in a daily report, but until then it is important to be as clear as you can.

3- An effective request must include a clear deadline and a realistic agreement with those being asked. Let others know the time frame to meet your request. Things such as “at your earliest convenience”, “as soon as possible” or “promptly” are not precise enough. What seems obvious to you might not be to the other person.  It is always good to pre-establish checkpoints for long-term requests to make sure things are on track.

4- An effective request must include the right context and mood shared by all parties involved. Make sure the right mood is set for your request. It is a fact that the right conversation in the wrong mood is the wrong conversation. It is preferable to wait to make a request than to just make it when the context or the emotions are not the adequate ones. In this case is better to take a break – this could be a request in itself – and come back for a fresh new start later on.

5- An effective request needs that those you are involving are capable of delivering. Verify that those you are making the request from have the capacity to fulfill it the way you expect. Don’t just assume; check and verify with them.  This is good practice. If you are asking someone with a broken leg, on crutches, to go to get you a coffee with lots of milk from the busy cafeteria down the block, and bring it to you in the next 5 minutes before your next meeting, you might end up getting a late and cold latte!

The following Mother’s Day, I knew better. Sitting around the table, paying full attention to each member of my family, and in the right mood, I said, “I have a request to make for Mother’s Day. I want to have breakfast served in bed on a tray with a red rose, with fresh squeezed orange juice, 2 scrambled eggs, 1 wheat toast with fat free butter. I want it at 9:00 am”. Then I checked that everyone’s schedule would allow for it, that they understood what I wanted and why it was important to me, and that they were ok with it. Every year now I get my tray in bed, and unless I want something different, I don’t need to request it anymore. The rest of the day is filled with surprises, which is always good too.

I didn’t want to leave my requests for my special day to chance – and now, using these five tips, you don’t have to leave any day to chance.

Written by Orit for  blog, March 2013

Blog post from a client who understands the essence of coaching… Thanks Liz!


Coach Craig

I have two running buddies: T, who was the inspiration for me to start running in the first place, and a friend of ours we like to call Anonymous Craig. T likes to say that AC  and I are kind of like the devil and the angel on her shoulders. It’s a little true.  I’m the one who encourages stopping, nursing injuries, slowing down.  AC? He’s the one who pushes us, makes us run instead of walk, tries to beat the red lights.

Which is why I call him Coach Craig.  He’s my running coach.  Calls me a whiner.  Gives us the post-run fist bump.  Is pushing us to do the Brooklyn half (for the record, it’s not happening).  Makes fun of my visor (wait, they both do that).
I never had a coach before.  I was never an athlete, never played a team or individual sport.  They didn’t really have reading coaches for nerdy kids like me.
Yet, earlier this year, I had two.  I did a few months executive coaching with an extraordinary professional.  I can truly say it completely shifted my perspective on my career.
When I started interviewing coaches, one of the questions that I asked was what they saw as the differences between coaching and therapy.  They had different answers, and it was a question that remained in my head as I (somewhat skeptically) began working with my coach.
Here’s what I learned: coaching moves us forward. Therapy helps us understand where we are and how we got there.  (That understanding is also key to moving us forward, of course).  Coaching says: okay – you’ve got issues, we all do.  OK, the people around you have issues – so what?  What areyou going to do about your life?
Coaches push us.  They make us set goals and stick to them.  They do it in a nice way or in a not-so-nice way depending on what we need.  They help us make sure that tomorrow is different than today.
I run faster because of Coach Craig.  Sure, there are days when I would rather walk, but his friendly combination of teasing and just continuing to run if we stop works for me.  (So much so that I keep telling him he should have a personal training business on the side).  If you don’t have a coach (or two, or three) in your life, find one.  Doesn’t have to be someone you pay.  Just has to me someone whose role it is to keep you moving forward.  Even if he or she does it while wearing the ridiculous toe shoes.


Anonymous said…
Liz, it was an honor and a pleasure to partner with you in accomplishing your intention to live life fully. We are on a journey that constantly presents new opportunities for us to flourish. Keep moving forward always enjoying every step along the way. Your description of coaching is tight on target. Thanks for your words! -Orit

November 3, 2011 3:10 PM