We all know that we need to be good at delegating in order to have any traction in our careers. We need to be able to learn how to do something and then teach someone else how to do it, so that we can move on and learn how to do something new. This is as true for creative people as it is for management types.

Yet even though we know this, most of us have trouble actually doing it. Many people think they’re the exception to the rule — that delegating is important, but in their very unique, particular case, it’s impossible.

Newsflash: It’s never impossible to delegate — it’s all in the mind of the delegator. Here are seven ways to get started on the road to all-star delegation:

1. Get over your perfectionist streak.
The key to delegating is recognizing that your ability to do things perfectly isn’t as highly valued as you think it is. In fact, perfectionism isn’t valuable in 80 percent of the work we do.

If you think you’re the exception to this rule — which all perfectionists do — consider that perfectionism is so unhealthy that it’s a risk factor for depression. This should make delegating come easier.

2. Decide what’s most important.
In order to figure out what to delegate, you need to figure out what’s most important to your career. This means you need to know what your specialty is, what you’re known for in the office, and what your unique value is to the company. Anything that falls outside this isn’t that important to you.

Once you understand this, delegating most things will be easier. They’re nonessential to your career, so it’s OK if you don’t leave your particular mark on them.

3. Focus on helping people grow.
Your job is to help make people stars. Management is essentially an act of constant giving and constant patience. It entails giving people a little attention all the time instead of giving them lots of attention only when they mess up. In fact, if you’re managing people effectively they don’t mess up, because you play to their strengths and teach them how to move around their weaknesses.

Hands-off management isn’t respectful — it’s negligent. People want mentoring and guidance from their manager. If you give that in a way that helps them grow while also treating them with respect, they’ll love having you around. And when your direct reports love having you around, they do their best work for you out of loyalty. Even younger workers — those notorious job-hoppers — are loyal to respectful, hands-on managers.

4. Give away your most interesting work.
If you think you’re going to be able to dump your most mundane assignments onto the people who report to you, think again. After all, your job as a manager is to help people grow, so you’re not actually doing your job if you’re asking them to copy and collate all day long.

So consider keeping the grunt work for yourself sometimes. Your direct reports will appreciate it, and it’ll probably give you more empathy in general since you’ll have an idea of how soul-crushing mindless work can be.

The real upside to this, though, is that the people you delegate to stay more engaged in the work they’re doing. So if you pitch in on the small, stupid tasks, you get good results on the large, important ones.

5. Blame yourself if no one can do a task as well as you.

A lot of people don’t delegate because they’re the only person who can do a particular task. If that’s you, you’re probably deluding yourself.

First off, the task probably isn’t as difficult as you think it is; it’s just that no one would do it exactly the way you do, which is fine. But in addition to that, if no one can do the tasks you do, it’s because you’re hoarding knowledge and making things needlessly complicated.

The solution isn’t complicated, though: Share the knowledge and let someone else give the task a try. You don’t need to be the only person doing it in order to feel important.

6. Take a vacation.

If you’re really having trouble delegating, go on vacation for a couple of weeks. When you get back, find who did which parts of your job while you were gone. Then distribute those parts permanently.

If someone didn’t do a good job of it while you were away, it’s not evidence that you shouldn’t delegate. It’s evidence that you need to help the person grow into the job.

7. Practice at home.

The last time I moved, it was a big deal — I had to abandon all my stuff and was out of my mind with stress.

I’m typically good at delegating, but that time I went outside even my own comfort zone: I couldn’t deal with picking the color to paint the walls of my new house, so I told the painters to pick colors that would calm me down. They did. I wouldn’t have picked the shades of yellow they picked, but it was fine — I got used to the yellow. And if I hadn’t been able to delegate as much as I did, I would never have gotten through the move.

We can all get through the good times. The test of our skills is getting through the bad ones. So when you think about delegating, recognize that, done right, it can mean the difference between enduring the rough patches and making yourself crazy for no good reason.

Do you remember the Y2K hoopla? It was a five-year buildup of massively over-hiring COBOL programmers to take care of the impending doom of computers not being able to handle the new millennium. People worried the switch from 19xx to 20xx would crash computers far and wide and we wouldn’t be able to do essential things like charge stuff on credit cards.

The clock struck twelve. The century changed. Nothing happened.

I feel like the same thing is happening with the hoop-la over the baby boomer exodus. HELLO OUT THERE! Do the people who write the press releases about baby boomer retirement not understand that this is the most overleveraged generation in history and they will work till the day they die?

The new glass ceiling is the gray ceiling. And how do you get a leadership job from baby boomers when they won’t get out of the way? Act like them. Sure, this means working 60 hour weeks, because that’s what baby boomers do. But it also means exhibiting the leadership qualities that baby boomers look for when they promote people.

Jo Miller teaches people how to make the shift into corporate leadership positions. She conducted interviews with more than 1000 people and she identified the 12 skills that are most essential to have if you want to get promoted into leadership roles. Her top four are:

1. Exuding an aura of credibility and authority with your presence

2. Making your accomplishments visible, instead of working hard and hoping the work will speak for itself.

3. Becoming a person of influence

4. Building a powerful network with the key players in your organization.

To see how many of the 12 skills you have, you can take this test.

Jo focuses on coaching women because she says that men do these things more intuitively than women do. She teaches a seminar on how to get these skills at companies like Intel, she has an online course, and she does one-on-one coaching for people who want to develop these skills.

This week’s Coachology offer is 90 minutes with Jo. You’ll be a good match for her if you are in a corporate job and you want to get to the next level but you are sort of stuck. She can help you get unstuck. You should already have good emotional intelligence because that is what it’s going to take to make the changes Jo will recommend that you to make.

If you’re interested, send an email to me with three sentences saying why you want to work with Jo, and she’ll choose a winner. The deadline is Sunday, August 5.

By Ryan Healy – As much as I enjoy the company of my supervisors and consider many of them my friends, we still work in a professional environment and they are a step above me on the food chain. So I watch what comes out of my mouth around higher level co-workers, but it’s just as important for them to watch what they say, too.

Here are five things you should never say or do around any young workers who you want to keep around:

“Put your iPod away.”
Want to see your young workers jet to a new company after a few months? Tell them they aren’t allowed to listen to their I-Pods in the office. I feel naked without mine. I work out with it, walk with it, attach it to my car stereo and listen to it when I’m working or writing. An old supervisor once told me to put away my I-Pod. I did. Until he left the room!

We all see the stories about small startups and Google’s working environments. These companies are the gold standard for twentysomethings. Employees wear jeans and T-shirts and work from rainbow colored bean bag chairs. If the office I’m at doesn’t even let me listen to an i-Pod, they are obviously behind the times. Who wants to work for a boring, outdated company?

“Pay your dues.”
I understand the logic behind this way of thinking. There’s certainly something to be said for putting in your time and learning the ropes before jumping into a management position, but watch your wording.

Ryan Geist once put it this way: “Don’t tell me to pay my dues. Tell me to sell myself.”

The point is, youngsters are not stupid. We know a few years of grunt work is to be expected, but we don’t like to think of it as “paying dues.” Young workers will respond better if you say something like, “develop your skill set” or “ build your brand.” These are two positive ways to imply the same message. “Paying your dues” is not entirely false, but its significance gets lost in translation. It screams negativity. .

“Don’t you wish we were on vacation all the time?”
No, actually I don’t wish I was on vacation all the time. I plan to accomplish many things in my short time on this planet. Getting a great tan on a life long vacation is right above swimming with sharks on my to-do list.

If a manager that I plan to replace one day said this to me, I would have more than a few second thoughts. Desiring to be on vacation all the time implies that you don’t like your job and you have little ambition. I don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t keep their employees happy, and I don’t want to work for a manager who has no aspirations.

“Before I was at the top of the food chain…”
This is my all time favorite. Please do not talk about your days as a low-level cog in the corporate machine. For one thing, those days are now my reality. It’s not necessary to remind me about the late nights and crummy hotels you were stuck in.

But also, I know you’re the boss. I do not need to be reminded. I have seen the corporate reporting structure, and unless you’re the CEO, you’re not at the top of the food chain. If a manager needs to talk about their status as “the boss,” this gives the impression that the company is apprehensive about status and titles. Young people really don’t care about titles. My goal is not the corner office and I’m not awestruck by a high profile executive. We’re all people.

“I wasted a huge part of my youth doing what you are doing.”
Yes, somebody actually said this to me.

Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.

By Ryan Healy – According to adults the world works in a centralized, hierarchical structure and that’s the way it will always be. They say young people will eventually adapt and accept things for how they are, despite the fact that decentralized websites and organizations have defined our childhood and early adult years.

I don’t buy it. We grew up with open source websites like Napster and Kazaa. Now we use Wikipedia and Craigslist daily. All of these sites have one thing in common; users control them. I don’t need permission to post an apartment for rent on Craigslist and I can make up any word I want and create a definition in Wikipedia.

Now there is undeniable proof that Gen-Y is bringing decentralized organizations mainstream…

After turning down $1 billion, 23 year-old Mark Zuckerberg took the user controlled Facebook to a whole new level by allowing everyone to create applications without pre-approval. If you really think about it, Facebook allows anyone to work for them without the hassle of reporting up the ladder, attending pointless meetings or even leaving their living rooms. With a good idea, a little programming knowledge and a small amount of money, anyone can make money through Facebook while simultaneously increasing the company’s bottom line.

Facebook’s revolutionary new concept is just a glimpse into the all inclusive, non-hierarchical, “out of the box” future that generation-Y will continue to invent and embrace. My friend and web designer, Devin Reams reaffirmed this thought when he told me about his experience at Startup Weekend.

The event began on a Friday, when 70 people showed up above a bike shop in Boulder, CO to vote on their favorite previously submitted business ideas. They decided to create a business that allowed people to take quick polls of their friends’ opinions.

“We broke into groups based on ‘expertise’: business development, PR/marketing, user experience, design, front end development, back end development, and legal. The groups allowed for quick action,” says Devin. “We had seven-minute update meetings every hour and the each hour flew by. On Sunday night we had a business model, website, and marketing campaigns ready to go for a product launch.”

The company was successfully started but no product had launched to the public. “This was frustrating,” says Devin, “since the world was every move on live video from Ustream. But, the project has continued beyond the weekend and a launch is expected next week. We’ve been playing with it internally and it’s amazing what a decentralized group can accomplish.”

After this amazing weekend, the group ended up with a “fast polling” website called Vosnap. The site allows you to send out a quick poll to friends via email or text messaging. For example, if a bunch of friends want to meet up for lunch, but all work in different places, they can send out a poll and meet at the restaurant that receives the most votes. Sounds pretty cool to me!

Sure, Andrew Hyde is technically the “CEO,” but he doesn’t have to approve everything, and the majority can vote him out at any time. This is strangely similar to Wikipedia’s structure of open source use based on a community of trust, rather than checks and balances. Can you imagine a typical company trying to agree on a product, design a website, create marketing campaigns, and draft contracts and legal arrangements in three days? It would take me three weeks to jump through the bureaucratic hoops just to pitch an idea to the person in charge. On a weekend; forget about it.

When you put a group of talented, motivated young people together for three days without bosses, titles or egos, things seem to magically run very smoothly. Watching Facebook evolve and hearing stories like Devin’s excite me. They are proof that young people are not only motivated and capable of working together, but they show that we don’t have to adapt to the status quo of the corporate world to succeed. Hopefully big business starts taking a few lessons from these progressive young leaders.

Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.

After a week of posts about generational conflict, you’ll be happy to hear that Alexandra Levit is a professional bridge builder (and blogger at Water Cooler Wisdom). Leaders in the Fortune 500 call her when they can’t cope with young people anymore. She teaches people how to stop annoying each other by gaining a better understanding of generational differences.

Deloitte has a program that offers free, confidential career counseling to all employees. The counselors can talk on any topic (including how to get out of Deloitte). So I asked, “What do the older employees talk to a coach about?” And program founder Stan Smith, told me, “A lot of them use the career coach to ask what do I do about these kids?”

It’s clear this cuts both ways, too. Generation Y is not an insolent bunch. They have been treated well by older people their whole lives. They follow rules, and respect their parents. Young people are looking for ways to work well with management — ways that won’t crush their dreams.

On an individual basis this comes down to problem solving and negotiation. Working with someone is actually a series of hundreds of small negotiations. If you do them well, things go smoothly and all issues are small. If you mishandle negotiations, problems grow, and road blocks pop up.

What Alexandra can do is help you troubleshoot problem areas in your work life that are a result of generational differences. It’s a skill to learn, and you can use it over and over again. You can also use Alexandra to blow off steam. Deloitte finds that you will do better work if you have a person like this in your life as a sounding board.

This week you can get 90 minutes free with Alexandra. You’ll probably use it in 30 minute increments. Most of you can benefit from this. A place like Deloitte doesn’t offer free coaching willy-nilly. They offer it because the idea of handling everything yourself is outdated; having someone to go to for a problem drastically improves your ability to succeed at work.

If you are having generational problems at work, send an email to me with three sentences about why you want to work with Alexandra, and she’ll pick one of you to work with. Deadline is Sunday, July 15.

What’s the point of baby boomers complaining about Generation Y at work? First of all, it’s a cliché, because people over 40 have been complaining about “young people” since forever.

Even worse, it’s a losing battle. Generation Y is huge. It’s one thing for boomers to verbally squash Generation X — that was no problem. Gen X is tiny and the baby boom was huge.

But in Generation Y, baby boomers have met their match. And in the demographic catfight of the century, Gen X aligns itself with Gen Y over baby boomers, which means that the workplace gripes boomers have about young people are going to be moot in a matter of years.

Generation Which?

So maybe the over-40 crowd should spend less time talking about trying to “bridge the generation gap” — which is really a euphemism for “get Gen Y to be more like us” — and more time celebrating the great things that Generation Y brings to the workplace. Gen Y isn’t going anywhere, and it’s not like they’re about to conform to baby boomer demands.

But before you continue reading, understand that the world doesn’t actually adhere to demographer datelines: The generation you fit into is more a function of the choices you make than the year you were born. So if you want to know where you truly fit along generational lines, take this test.

And if you want to know why baby boomers should ease up on Generation Y, consider the ways that these youngest workers are making life better for everyone:

1. They won’t do work that’s meaningless.

These kids grew up with parents scheduling every minute of their day. They were told TV is bad and reading is good, and are more educated than any generation in history. They just spent 18 years learning to be productive with their time, so they’re not going to settle for any photocopying/coffee stirring job.

But that’s good, because we all want meaning in our jobs, and we all want to understand how we’re contributing to the world at large. Why should anyone have to wait until retirement age to start demanding that?

These days, the workplace can be restructured so that we all do a little coffee stirring in exchange for each of us getting to do some meaningful work. And if work can be in some way meaningful for all of us, then the workplace in general will be a better place to spend our time.

2. They won’t play the face-time game.

We’ve known forever that it isn’t necessary to be in the office from 9 to 5 every day to get work done. But many of us have missed family events only to sit at a desk all day getting pretty much nothing done because of the stress of missing a family event. And there didn’t used to be any option — if you wanted a successful career, you made sure co-workers saw that you were putting in the hours.

Generation Y wants to be judged by the work they do, not the hours they put in. And what could be more fair than this? In fact, a good portion of the workforce has been requesting flextime for decades, but the requests have gone unheeded.

We have Gen Y to thank for forcing the switch, because if Gen Yers can’t leave the building whenever they want, they’ll walk out the door and never come back. Face the truth: Boomers weren’t willing to go that far, but they sure are benefiting from it. Now they have more opportunities for flextime, too.

3. They’re great team players.

If you’ve climbed a corporate ladder your whole career, then it’s probably inconceivable to you that Gen Y doesn’t care about your title. But it’s true — they don’t do rank. Chances are they saw their parents get laid off in the ’80s, so they know how ephemeral that special rung you stand on is and they don’t want to waste time trying to get there.

Generation Y played on soccer teams where everyone participated and everyone was a winner, and they conducted playground politics like diplomats because their parents taught them that there’s no hierarchy and bullies are to be taken down by everyone. And Gen Yers take these values to work — they expect to be a part of a team. Gen Y believes that no matter how much experience an individual has, everyone plays and everyone wins.

Maybe it’s annoying to you that you don’t get to be team captain, or worse, the bully on the playground. But you’ve read the Harvard Business Review’s decades of research on how essential workplace teams are and how older people have little idea how to be good team players, so relax: Gen Y is doing the teamwork for you. In fact, there’s no way to work with Gen Yers except on a team. They go to the prom as a team, so they’re certainly going to go to product reviews as a team.

That makes us all lucky. We don’t need any McKinsey person coming to our company for $10 million a minute telling us how to promote teamwork. We can just follow Generation Y.

4. They have no patience for jerks.

Generation Y changes jobs every two years, typically because the work isn’t a good fit, or the learning curve isn’t steep enough, or they don’t like their co-workers. And Gen Yers will disengage from a jerk before trying to get along with him or her, according to a report by Stan Smith, national director of Next Generation Initiatives at consulting firm Deloitte. They have no desire to bother with somebody they don’t like.

This is really how we all should function. After all, according to research by Stanford professor Bob Sutton, the cost of putting up with a jerk in a company is about $160,000. Moreover, Harvard researcher Tiziana Casciaro found that people hate working with high-performing jerks so much that they would rather work with someone incompetent who’s nice.

Nobody likes having to deal with jerks, but we’ve always believed it was asking too much to have a workplace full of decent people. Generation Y sets a new standard for this, and companies are having to dump jerks quickly or risk losing their ability to recruit and retain Gen Yers.

Don’t Fight the Future

So let’s get off our high horses and stop evaluating whether or not we like working with Generation Y. Its members have incredible leverage in the workplace right now, and they’re not going anywhere.

It’s time to admit that the workplace is changing and that we’re lucky to have a group as optimistic and self-confident as Generation Y leading the way.

When I discovered Deloitte has someone in charge of figuring out how to recruit and retain the new workforce, I knew I had to talk with him. It’s Stan Smith, and his title is Director of Next Generation Initiatives. I was amazed to hear how forward thinking he is in an industry known for being old and stodgy.

Based on his research, he wrote a paper called Connecting Across Generations in the Workplace. I could reference that paper every day. Here are some gems:

Gen X will finally have their moment: The shrinking workforce actually creates more demand for Gen-X than Gen-Y. The baby boomer retirement will create a 2% drop in the workforce among 24-34 year olds, and a 31% drop among 35-45 year olds.

Women will drive change in the consulting business: Women have more consulting-oriented skills than men do, they will make up the more than 60% of the workforce by 2010, and they will only work at companies that accommodate their need for flexibility.

Deloitte backs up the revolution with data: Deloitte’s data shows it is men and women in Generation X and Y. “The real revolution is a decrease in career ambition in favor of family time, less travel, and less personal pressure.”

I wrote about Stan in Time magazine, I wrote about him in the Boston Globe, and I put the articles on my blog, and every time I’d mention him, there was no link, which is so annoying to me. I scoured the web for a link to his paper, and I looked for his bio. Nothing.

I am not the only online publisher who is annoyed. I wrote about his study for my Yahoo Finance column that runs tomorrow, and my editor emailed me: “Why are you linking to Deloitte’s home page? Where’s the study?”

Nowhere, of course. Well, on Stan’s desk, probably. And in a lot of CEOs’ in boxes. But not online. And to a significant portion of the world, if it’s not online, it doesn’t exist.

So I’ve solved the problem. You can now download Connecting Across Generations in the Workplace right here. And I think this encapsulates where we are in the publishing world: A blogger publishing a document from the Fortune 500 in order to be able to link to it from future blog posts.

Companies are having a hard time recruiting and retaining young talent, and as a result are accommodating what would have once been considered extreme demands. “The scales have tipped in favor of knowledge workers, creating a seller’s market for the next 5 to 10 years,” writes to Stan Smith, National Director of Next Generation Initiatives at Deloitte.

Here are some reasons why so many younger workers have gained the advantage when it comes to negotiating the terms of a new job.

The workforce is shrinking.
The Department of Labor reports that from 2000 to 2010 there will be a 30 percent decrease of workers in their 30s and 40s. In addition, many Generation X parents are choosing to leave the workforce or cut back on hours in order to be home with their children. This trend is so pronounced that it’s creating a shortage of managers already.

Many young people want their own businesses.
The barriers to starting an Internet business are low. Viral marketing via a personal e-mail list and a few key mentions on prominent blogs can potentially catapult a good idea into a successful business. Since young people can effectively fund their own companies this way, many do not want to pay their dues by working for someone else and learning the ropes. The flexibility of owning a company is not only appealing, but also a way to avoid menial labor at the bottom of the corporate ladder. In fact, many young people are choosing the excitement of entrepreneurship over the stability of a good salary.

If entrepreneurship is the first choice, a corporate job is a backup plan. Matt Humphrey, 20, and three friends just founded SlapVid, a company that cuts the cost of providing video content online. Humphrey thinks of the MBA program he is now in as sort of a backup plan in case SlapVid does not take off at the end of the summer. And in the event that he does not have another idea for a company before he graduates, getting a job at someone else’s company is a second-level backup plan.

Parents are a safety net.
More than 50 percent of college graduates will move back home with their parents this summer. And most parents will like it. It used to be that returning home after college was seen as a sign of failure. Today, however, economists and sociologists see such homecomings as a smart response to exorbitant housing prices in big cities, and entry-level wages that do not cover living expenses.

Three out of four of the founders of SlapVid are getting financial help from their parents. And Humphrey’s parents are typical in their enthusiasm for their child’s adventure, and the tight relationship they share. “They know they might have to support me for longer than they planned for,” Humphrey said. “They’re definitely up for that. If I want to do something really, really cool, they’ll support me all the way. They call me every day to see how I’m doing.”

With such parental support, there is no need for a company to play the parenting role, which is what happened when baby boomers entered the workforce. And if there is no paternalism in corporate life, it becomes a scramble to figure out what businesses can leverage to scoop up young employees.

The intimidation factor is diminished.
“People going to college today are working harder than I ever did in school,” says Bill MacGowan, chief human resources officer of Sun Microsystems. “These kids will find work easier than I did.” In return for their effort, they expect to be well compensated by employers. As consummate consumers, they use technology to customize the way they view information, and they expect the same kind of customization when it comes to selecting jobs. They negotiate for vacation time, mentoring and training, flexible schedules, and even tricked-out laptops.

And when it comes to negotiating, young people assume the adults at the office are on their side. Generation Y has been raised by parents who often acted more like friends and mentors. In fact, often a wide community was involved in helping a Generation Y child succeed — including teachers, coaches, and private tutors. As a result, young people bring unprecedented confidence to the negotiating table. Some even have their parents in the room for added help, and many respected companies are willing to engage parents in the hiring process if that’s what the candidate wants.

Indeed, the scales have tipped and young people are in charge. For people who have been in the workforce for a long time and expected to be in charge, the new reality is difficult to accept. But it’s possible all employees will benefit from some of the changes. After all, demands such as more flexible schedules, are appealing to all employees, regardless of age.

With 85 million baby boomers and 50 million Gen Xers, there is already a yawning generation gap among American workers–particularly in their ideas of work-life balance. For baby boomers, it’s the juggling act between job and family. For Gen X, it means moving in and out of the workforce to accommodate kids and outside interests. Now along come the 76 million members of Generation Y. For these new 20-something workers, the line between work and home doesn’t really exist. They just want to spend their time in meaningful and useful ways, no matter where they are.

The first challenge for the companies that want to hire the best young workers is getting them in the door. They are in high demand–the baby boomers are retiring, and many Gen X workers are opting out of long hours–and they have high expectations for personal growth, even in entry-level jobs. More than half of Generation Y’s new graduates move back to their parents’ homes after collecting their degrees, and that cushion of support gives them the time to pick the job they really want. Taking time off to travel used to be a resume red flag; today it’s a learning experience. And entrepreneurship now functions as a safety net for this generation. They grew up on the Internet, and they know how to launch a viable online business. Facebook, for example, began in a college dorm room.

Read the rest of this article at Time.com.

I just spent two days at TAI Resources getting speaking coaching. I was pissy about it the whole week before. I decided I didn’t have time to go. I mean, two full days away from the kids costs about ten thousand dollars when you add up the babysitter and the Happy Meals and the ten trips to Target for toys.

I told myself that I should be doing book events, not going to coaching sessions. I told myself that there is no way I could learn enough to justify two days of not answering the onslaught of email I get from my blog.

But every day I would see the “cancel TAI” on my to do list, and I didn’t cancel. You can learn a lot about yourself by looking at the stuff you don’t do on your to do list. Deep down I know that if I want to have a life where my job is to connect with people then I have to devote time to learning to be a good at genuinely connecting with people. I need to make room in my schedule for my big-picture goals. And TAI teaches people to connect. So I went.

When I got there at 8:30 am the first day, I had residual pissiness. And I stayed at my mom’s apartment in New York City the night before. I used to be the type of person who could not get along with my mom long enough to spend the night at her apartment. But I decided I was too old for that, and now we get along. The price I pay is that I didn’t tell her no when she made us a big breakfast even though I said I didn’t have time.

So I was late for day one of my training. There were eight of us. We sat in a front row of chairs. Behind us was the professional peanut gallery of people who critique speeches.

Gifford, the facilitator, told us to write for ten minutes describing our best speaking experience. “If you finish early, just keep writing,” he said. “Just write anything.”

I was relieved. Great. I wrote for about six seconds about my best speaking experience and then I wrote stream of consciousness. A writer’s dream.

I don’t know how I could be so dense, but I didn’t realize that we’d have to use what we wrote as a speech. At first I thought I could quickly rewrite something before it was my turn to speak. But I was totally captivated by Gifford helping the speakers before me.

Each person who spoke was a little bit terrible, to be honest. I mean, we are talking about stuff that is not that interesting, and we don’t really even know who each other is. But Gifford found a way to make a small change in each person that totally transformed them into an engaging speaker. So it was fascinating to watch this happen.

He changed one person’s tone of voice by having him do ape calls to the audience. He changed someone’s body language by having him hold his hands behind his back. He changed someone’s eye contact by having him play catch with the audience while he spoke. You’d think each of these things would make a person look insane, but Gifford knew the perfect thing for someone to do to learn a new skill about connecting.

When it was my turn, I had nothing to do but read what I wrote. I described my favorite speaking experience: My stepmother’s funeral. (I know, funeral. I know. But let me tell you something, I really captivated the mourners.)

Then I stopped.

Gifford said, “Did you write any more?”

He has me read it, of course. So I stood there in front of the room reading my stream-of-consciousness stuff about how I don’t want to be in the room and I hate group activities and I wish I were blogging.

And this is what Gifford did. In a matter of minutes he showed me how to take my speech about how I don’t want to be learning to give a speech, and make it engaging. He showed me how if I admit to my feelings and say them honestly, and with integrity, people will actually like hearing the speech.

All this in the first hour of a two-day training course.

We spent a lot of those two days “learning to land”. Everyone in the room knew that we were supposed to look at the audience when we talk. But there are so many different ways to look at an audience. Most people look without connecting. They don’t actually talk with a person because landing your eyes on someone and really talking to them is really, really hard.

And the amazing thing is that you’d think that if you are talking with just one person then the rest of the audience feels left out. But in fact, the audience feels more connected to you if you are connecting with someone – anyone – in the audience. One of the most valuable things about this coaching is that you understand what people do as an audience member so that you are better able to read an audience.

My favorite part of the class is that the room was full of people who are high up in their organizations and respected by their peers, yet here they are doing things that are very difficult – like, giving a speech about an essentially boring topic and trying to make it meaningful by connecting with people. Everyone looks awkward learning something new. I liked that part about all of us becoming vulnerable together.

I am a much better speaker from this course. And, because the course focuses on authentic communication, I am better at talking with people one on one, too; I notice more often the times that I am talking with someone but not totally engaged.

But there’s one more thing I learned from this experience. We need to make time in our life for coaching. Mentoring is one of the big differentiators between the people who get what they want and the people who don’t. And coaching is mentoring on steroids – very specialized and very effective. This is why I have the Coachology feature on my blog, because coaching has made such a huge impact on my life, and I want to share it with you. It makes a huge difference. And even yours truly, Coachology girl, almost didn’t make time for the coaching. So focus on the big picture goals in your life, and get coaching to meet them faster and better than you could do on your own.