Metamorphosis of Mystery Ms.

Some of the most important work I do is supporting individuals who are making the courageous and often frightening metamorphosis from one way of being to another. One client, a woman just barely fifty-years old, exemplifies both humor and bravery in a manner I have come to admire. Let me introduce her to you as Mystery Ms. I believe her story is best told from her point of view rather than mine. And so, please meet Mystery Ms:

I recently left a career from a company that I helped build from the ground up. Even though I know this was the right decision it left me a little lost. In the same year I have also said goodbye to a best friend and family members who have passed on; maybe it is best to say that they have started a new journey. In the mix is also the loss of close relationships at work and other more personal yet related connections. I again believe that these too have transformed in ways the Universe sometimes knows is best for all involved. But really, did it all have to be topped off by losing Oprah as well? (I just don’t see Dr. Phil filling her shoes.)

So I am looking at the world differently than ever before and wondering what brought me to this new place where I’m asking a huge question:

Where do I go from here?

All this has found me reflecting on my childhood and even though it wasn’t always great, childhood influences are coming up and I am reconsidering the people who gave me memories. Like cream rising in a jar, my Swedish Grandmother “M” (I’m her name sake) comes to mind. She taught me so many things that I am grateful for. She taught me to pray. She taught me how to read. She taught me how to eat! Could this woman cook! Not only could she cook, she cleaned, farmed, read and made every single grandchild feel like her favorite. I secretly know that I truly was the favorite so don’t tell my cousins.

Of all the culinary skills Grandma “M” had, my most favorite was her “rolling ups” which were pancake-like crepes served with three ingredients: butter, more butter and sugar. Next in line were her chocolate cookies. Cooking and all the other activities took place while she wore one pristine apron after another. She was an ample woman so nothing but the heavy duty type could keep up with her. Each apron circled her neck and came equipped with big pockets. Wonderful things were captured and held inside these pockets – candy, gum, Kleenex, clothespins, bobby pins, band-aids and more. It seemed as if anything a little girl wanted or needed to solve an emergency came out of those pockets.

Grandma “M” only exchanged her apron for one other accessory and that was a pair of earrings. This jewelry was reserved for Sunday Service. Trust me she never went to church without her hair done and those big clip-on things dangling from her ears. I don’t ever remember her missing a Sunday Service and when the sun hit those earrings, it was nothing short of amazing! Rap-stars step back because you couldn’t match her bling even though that set of jewels probably cost her fifty cents at the time.

In my search for finding a different road I have stumbled onto several books about vintage linens and aprons and perhaps this is also the reason my Grandmother’s memories are flooding back to me. I think she is sending me a message and I’m not able to discern it quite yet.

She has reminded me of a set of dish towels given to me by a wonderful Mother-in-Law. They were those novel kind called “Days of the Week” flour-sack-make-over dish towels. If you really know your vintage linens you call these D.O.W.s. My Mother-in-Law must have spent hours stitching away making these and to me that makes them priceless. I need to remember to tell her next time I talk with her how much they meant to me. No! I take that back I’m picking up the phone when I finish writing this and I’m going to tell her now. Life is too short to wait.

So this is where you find me. I’m trading in my Ralph Lauren suits and my  Cole Haan Shoes and I’m thinking of getting a sewing machine and some gingham fabric and investing in embroidery floss as well. While I’m at it I might need some Birkenstocks to go with my favorite pair of worn-out-jeans. Can you still purchase Birkenstocks?

In addition I’m buying an Airstream trailer and I’m stocking it with vintage table clothes, napkins and of course an apron or two. If you see me coming down Route 66, pull me over. Maybe we could do some tradin’ even if it only ends up in swapping stories.

One thing I know for sure at this juncture in the road is this:

Some apron strings should never be cut!

–       M


P.S. I wonder how my new H.O.A. feels about me installing a clothesline in my backyard. I’m just saying…


A New Working Identity

This section of my blog is dedicated to documenting and expanding on the concept of personal and/or professional reinvention. Documentation is delivered through the stories of current coaching clients while expanding the concept is delivered in entries such as this offering hints or resources.

Working identity metamorphosis is often a complex blend of excitement and fear. It undoubtedly benefits most from persistence and the acquisition of a support system. It cannot be rushed if you want the best outcome. I have found a single starting point that I would offer here as a key piece of free advice. That would be to read the book Working Identity.

Published by Harvard Business Press, this book has become a bible for me and my clients. It is the best resource you can if you are changing out an old career for a new one.

Get the book. Read it. Review it often to inform your transition.

Victoria in the Marketplace

When approaching the market with a new working identity, there are several things one needs to keep in mind. Victoria is doing well on three such items:

First she is watching for responses to her marketing efforts. One obviously needs to regroup if smart marketing practices are not being responded to. In the early stages of putting herself out there what we are looking for is a connection between her perceived need in the market and an actual need in the market.

Victoria reports that she is getting this affirmation. She had three potential clients contact her from one single marketing effort and she has already set meetings with each one. Way to go Victoria!

In addition she is getting positive accolades about her marketing structure and operational structure from her marketing class instructor. Again, thumbs up Victoria.

Next, Victoria is learning how to NOT take it personally if people opt out of her database as she markets her new offerings. In our last session, Victoria reported on the internal response she had to the first “unsubscribe” to her email messages. She acknowledged that it can feel like a personal rejection. But she also knows that it is really about someone making a choice to reduce email clutter.  In Victoria’s words, “The person who opted out may not want to receive future emails, but she may have also mentally “filed away” the information that I provide these services to people in our industry. Opting out doesn’t mean she won’t refer clients my way in the future if she is asked for recommendations.”

Finally, Victoria is working on her bridge. In this case, building a bridge means that she is not expecting to earn all her living right now from new clients who attach to her new identity. She continues looking for work that is compatible with her skill set so that she can continue to have an income while she’s building her new practice.

No career transition or reinvention ever happens right out of nowhere. We have to make things happen. Keep it up Victoria. I believe in you.


To read the next entry of Victoria’s story click here.

To start at the beginning of Victoria’s story click here.


Victoria Gets Greater Clarity

Our coaching session today immediately evolved into a report about how one of Victoria’s discoveries turned into a powerful marketing document. This past week Victoria got quite clear around what she does and does not do in her new working role.

Victoria’s has always worried that when people hear that she is a coach she will be perceived as new-agey or guru-like. She has struggled with how to describe her more pragmatic orientation to coaching in her marketing efforts. Recalling a frustrating coaching experience that used the very approach she finds distasteful, she sat down in a burst of energy and identified what she DID NOT WANT TO BE for her future clients. The net results can be seen below:

When someone says professional or personal coach what comes to mind? Dream boards and discussions about finding your bliss? There are coaches out there who provide those important services for those who need them. However, if you are looking for someone who will spend the first 5-10 minutes of your coaching session reading you through a guided meditation to help you visualize success… I’m not your coach.


I am not touchy-feely. I am fiercely supportive.


I align my professional practice with my personal values – creativity, integrity, self-reflectivity accountability, teamwork and humor.


I am a deeply practical and pragmatic person who can help you use your hard earned investment wisely to pursue career and personal goals that align with your values.


If you’d like someone who can support you in your new leadership position, work with you to examine your professional path in light of your changing personal values at mid-career or just find a way to be more productive in spite of your constantly shifting day, then I’m the one you want to talk to.


Are you an overwhelmed first time executive?  I can help you navigate the complexities of your leadership role while setting realistic goals for your organization.


Are you experiencing a career transition? We can use your “in-between time” meaningfully, creating and implementing a plan that prepares you for your next position.


Or maybe you are re-evaluating your life’s work at mid-career and need someone to help you clarify your values, align them with a personal mission and create a plan for tomorrow.


I will never ask you to close your eyes and imagine your perfect anything.


I will ask you questions that lead to good old fashion dialogue and a plan that will help you successfully address your most pressing needs.


Let’s work together. Call me for a free coaching consultation.



Now that you have read this entry, if you or someone you know needs Victoria’s help I suggest you connect immediately. You can find her at: 619-540-2925 or

To read the next entry of Victoria’s story click here.

To start at the beginning of Victoria’s story click here.


April 18th Session with Victoria

Victoria came into the session with two home-runs! She had completed all of her accountability items and had made some key discoveries:

Override the Inner CriticWhile I was hearing voices from my past warn me about being too “pushy” in my approach when marketing myself, I began to realize that these voices where more about the person who said them to me, than my own reality. This helped me override them and get back in touch with the normalcy of needing to put myself out there in front of my audience. Plus the feedback I’ve gotten from some of the people who received the email has been so supportive. That really helps.

Work with Someone You Trust (like a coach) – Working with someone I trust like you Lyn helps me believe in the action I am taking. You would not let me do something that would be silly or harmful. This trust assisted me to affirm, again, that “this is how we market ourselves.”

Looking BackAfter I had taken the action I had committed to and sent out my e-mail and reached out to confirm the free sessions I said to myself, “This wasn’t as big of a deal as I had hyped it up to be.” I had to stop and look back on what I had just done to be able to see it is a more true perspective. This will make projects moving forward not as daunting.

As we worked through today’s session we discussed the necessary momentum (there’s that word again) that Victoria might need in order to keep her e-mail announcement fresh and relevant. Victoria is a genius when it comes to thinking big. On our call she devised a wonderful, deep, rich project that would result in giving three lucky individuals Executive Coaching at a tiny fee in trade for research Victoria can use to write an article.

Once again from the sideline I could see that this genius generated idea might take longer and more energy to develop than would be timely. I challenged her to continue to plan out her idea and to brainstorm two more, smaller projects that would send value to her database and keep the notion of “Coach Victoria” fresh in their minds.

That’s where we concluded the session and off Victoria went full of energy and brilliance to take on another week’s-worth of activity sure to birth her new Hedgehog (a.k.a. working identity).

To read the next entry of Victoria’s story click here. 

To start at the beginning of Victoria’s story click here.



Between Sessions With Victoria

In our last session, Victoria came up with two strong actions to take which we are using as her main accountability items for this week.

One was to send out an e-mail message to her database in order to alert these folks about the new direction of her new career.

Second Victoria wanted to confirm and act on an invitation she had been given earlier to offer some free sessions to her key audience.

While coaching sessions are imperative to moving a client closer to meeting their goals, they are not the only means by which coaching occurs.

Here you’ll find e-coaching occuring as Victoria and I stayined in touch through e-mail.

Tuesday, April 12th, 4:33 p.m.: I got in touch with both people at Americans for the Arts that I was trying to reach about marketing opps. The coaching at the conference is a go. I will also get pre-conference “publicity” in their conference marketing materials. Second, was talking to them about online advertising. This is something they are just starting to make available – it would include options to have small ads on the right side of their blog, or in their monthly and/or weekly publications. This is cool because they reach thousands of people a week these venues. Figuring out how best to use the opportunity is my next need.




Tuesday, April 12th, 5:15 p.m.: Excellent! This is a great report! How about if we down shift the comment: “Figuring out how to BEST use the opportunity” to a more realistic gear?


What if you used the words: “figuring out BEST how to begin to use the opportunity in an excellent, not perfect fashion?”


What are your thoughts on this Victoria?






Wednesay, April 13th, 1:36 p.m.: We could evven say “figuring out how to use this opportunity in an excellent not perfect fashion.”

I can see that the language we use is important isn’t it?






Wednesay, April 13th, 1:58 p.m.: Yes, it is very important. What we want here is to use your energy in the most effective and efficient manner. Your new language seems more organic, inviting, and do-able.”


Nice work here Victoria.



To read the next entry of Victoria’s story click here.


To start at the beginning of Victoria’s story click here. 

Victoria: How Does One Gain Momentum Again?

Victoria and I used bicycle imagery in brainstorming to her question – How does one gain momentum again? One of the first things explored was how many gears she already had to help her gain momentum. Victoria answered firmly that she had, “One, solid gear in place.” This came in the form of signing up for an eight-week marketing program offered by Marcia Bench.

I‘ve heard positive accolades for this program and knew Victoria was in good hands. But she also indicated that another gear, clarifying who she served with her coaching/consulting practice and what this audience needed from her, was also in place.

Indeed this is a very strong gear and a primary place to start for most people looking to get momentum in a new practice. So we delineated what this meant and Victoria came up with two clients she serves:

Individuals who are part of what she called Arts Managers and who within in mid-career are experiencing the following:

  • “I’m burned out and need to recharge.”
  • “I need to move up. Help!”
  • “I need to move out of my current position and re-invent my career.”

Victoria also offers strong support to people who are new in their positions as executive directors within Arts Management. The move from being in charge of single projects to being charge of multiple, complex projects and a whole organization can be tricky. Victoria supports such transitions by:

  • Assisting on how to resolve work-place issues
  • Consulting on how to effectively work with a Board of Directors
  • How to deal with staffing
  • Offering a confidential place to get advice
  • Support when in need of finding useful training
  • accountability

At this point in our coaching call I was confident that Victoria was about to get her momentum going. I simply suggested that we go back to the image of riding a bike and asked, “If you are about to go for a ride Victoria, how would you get your first burst of momentum?”

“I would stand up over the bike. I’d turn and lift my foot and place it on the pedal. I’d push and in that first push, I’d have some momentum to work with.”

“Great!” I answered. “How about if you were already moving a tiny bit, how then would you be able to increase your momentum?” This question led us into a discussion about coming up out of the seat while pedaling and gaining a renewed piece of momentum from this position. Then I asked, “So, now that you have the idea of what you could do on a bike to get momentum again, how can you give that same sense of forward motion in your work?”

Victoria came up with two strong action items. One was to send out an e-mail message to her database in order to alert them to her new direction. Then she announced that she also had a chance to offer free, twenty-minute sessions to her key audience via a networking event that was already planned. She simply needed to confirm that she was interested. Bam! We had a plan for momentum.

I took a moment to check on what might prohibit her from accomplishing her goals over the next week. Victoria announced that “time management” was probably the only thing in her way. So, we spent a minute or two planning some mitigation against that threat and actually scheduling realistic time-frames for each action item.

We set our next appointment for a week from today and Victoria is off and running with a plan, a schedule, and momentum. Stay tuned.

To read the next entry of  Victoria’s story click here.

To start at the beginning of Victoria’s story click here.

Real-Time HedgeHogging It: Victoria, an introduction

I met Victoria several years ago as she participated in a coach training class I was leading. We have stayed in touch since. And I believe we’ve remained in touch due to mutual respect and mutual interest in one another’s work.

I live and work in the entrepreneurial coaching space. This is the place where Victoria has mainly earned her living as a free-agent consultant within the non-profit portion of the art scene.

What I find most remarkable about Victoria is how she uses her keen intellect as well as her passion for the arts as key reference points in her quest to reimagine her working identity. I also praise her for reaching out to coaching as part of her support while making such huge transitions in her career.

What follows are Victoria’s words that describe how we’ve arrived at this intersection again. She has reconnected for further insights and support. Posting this and subsequent entries about Victoria is our joint effort to support those of you out there similarly reimagining how you will earn a living.

Victoria Plettner-Saunders:

I am a consultant to the nonprofit arts and culture industry. I am also a certified coach who left her coaching work in the back of the closet 7 years ago when it felt like starting a coaching practice was harder than launching an arts consulting business.

In the last 2-1/2 years I have moved from my two bedroom condo where I lived as a single woman for over 10 years, into a new home with my then-boyfriend. Within a year, I was engaged and we were looking to buy a home. Six months later I was married and we’d bought the home we were renting. Three months later I hired a professional coach to help me make sense of my career-related malaise. I had become tired of being pigeon-holed as a grantwriter which was not satisfying but easier work to get. I was getting cranky about my clients and dreaming of doing more of the work that I enjoyed like issues research, planning and leadership development. With my coach I made the bold step of ending my grantwriting contracts so that I could make room for new opportunities to come in the door. The problem was they didn’t come waltzing in the way I’d hope they would. During all that time I spent transitioning my identity from being the single woman to the married woman, I’d sort of lost touch with my career identity. It got placed on the back burner. I had done it because I was less enthusiastic about my work and more enthusiastic about experiencing that massive change in my personal life. But I underestimated the role that the change in my personal identity would have on me. It took a ton of energy and when I emerged, I had no energy left for putting up with work that wasn’t fulfilling anymore.


Now I was in the middle of a new transition, from the old consultant to the new consultant – but what does my new consulting practice look like? Hiring a coach helped the analytical list maker side of me. We set goals and used all the books and introspective processes I could find to help me figure out what I wanted my future working identity to be. I found that I wanted to re-engage with my coaching work and connect it with the part of the consulting work I loved that was around leadership and professional development for nonprofit arts managers.


Today I am specifically interested in those who are either at mid-career and transitioning or experiencing the role of executive director for the first time. I’ve done a lot of research about these two points in the career spectrum over the years, written several articles and talked to a lot of people. I know that coaching and support for people at these career stages are needed, but not provided in our field. While it seems obvious to me as I write this, that hanging my shingle out as a career transition coach makes logical sense given my training and experience, my internal voices make it hard for me to feel confident selling myself in this way. I will back up here and say I stopped working with my coach when she took a full time job training other coaches and I felt that coaching wasn’t what I needed. I needed to just create and work the plan. But in that time, I’ve felt a little lost too.


Gaining Momentum

At Lyn’s recommendation a few weeks ago I returned to the work of Herminia Ibarra (Working Identity) and William Bridges (Managing Transition). I’d read their work 8 years ago when I was thinking of leaving my full time job to start a consulting business. But I’d forgotten how helpful it would be when I started a new period of change. In these books, I had a huge AHA. Ibarra and Bridges would say I am in the neutral zone, the in-between place in which I am trying on a new style and seeing how it fits.


At this point, the ambiguity and some lack of clarity are to be expected. I am between the end of my old working identity and the beginning of my new one. The way to use this time wisely is to experiment with concepts for my future practice and see how it feels. Test out the hedgehog concept if you will. What do I like to do and what do I do well? And what of what I like to do and do well, sells? There are all kinds of ideas for career transition coaching services in my mind, but which ones will catch fire with people? And what is the best way to get those services out? And more importantly, how do I get started experimenting. Sometimes I feel like I stopped the bicycle I was riding and now I have to start the wheels again from a dead stop… without the aid of momentum. How does one gain momentum again?

And this is where you come into the story. Our next entry will explore the coaching session Victoria and I held based on her final question – How does one gain momentum again?

If you’d like to get in touch with Victoria, she has given us permission to post her contact information as well as her picture: ,(619) 540-2925.


If you’d like to get in touch with me please respond to this blog or leave a message on the SoulSalt Inc. company phone: 801-463-5239.

To read the next entry of Victoria’s story click here.


Change Is Indeed The Constant When Coaching Individuals Through The Hedgehog Process

Change is indeed the constant when coaching individuals through the Hedgehog process.

It would be simply dandy if the innate capacity to quickly navigate change was as commonly found in mankind.

We are not wired to change quickly. However, human beings do have neuro-plasticity in our favor so we can indeed evolve and grow when deemed necessary.

In order to support individuals through processes of productive transition, I constantly look for tools to assit my clients. William Bridge’s Transition Model is one of the most helpful assets I’ve found. In this video clip we pair Bridge’s model with Dana Zohar’s strategies found in Rewiring the Corporate Mind.

If you are moving and shaking up your world, you’ll want to watch this:


Genesis of Finding Your Hedgehog

For over a decade, I’ve been taking clients through a process I call Finding Your Hedgehogs. The genesis of my work started in 1998 when I began coaching. About 30% of those who came to me for coaching were seeking support while making a career-based transition. I took note and started to study unique and effect ways to “walk the sideline” of such clients.

In 2001 I read Jim Collin’s newly published Good to Great. Collin’s described the “hedgehog” concept as the convergence of three main business elements: Passion, World-Class Ability, and Economic Drivers. As I studied Collin’s book I realized that what was universal for companies, could be specifically applied to individuals.

That same year I also discovered Now, Discovery Your Strengths by Donald Clifton, the father of the Strength’s Finder Assessment, and Marcus Buckingham. Their research made sense. The Strength Profile that came with the book as an online test quickly showed me a correlation between their work and the “World-Class Ability” Collin’s spoke of. I started using the assessment with clients to help them uncover their potential “world-class” offerings.

Two years later in 2003 I read an article in Harvard Business Review about Herminia Ibarra’s new book Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career. Immediately I ordered a copy and devoured each page at least three times. I made extensive notes on legal pads (notes I still review on a regular basis) and combined all these findings with some methodologies of my own.

Today I have a successful system for assisting people who are reinventing or reimagining their working identities. This portion of my blog is dedicated to the testimonials, stories, downloads, and real-time reports from the playing-field of those who have, are and will be changing the way they earn their livings