Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville, NC

January 2010

A new year; a new business plan. This year, I have two goals, and I would like to ask for your help.

I'd like to find a college or university in New York where I could offer my Engineer Your Career and PowerHouse Presenting workshops. As many of you know, I teach both workshops for the University of Georgia's MBA programs. I have also taught similar workshops for Georgia State University's MBA program, the MBA program at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, and Duke University's Nonprofit Management Institute. Do you have a contact with a college or university in New York, and if so would you make an introduction for me?

The second goal is to conduct more workshops for professional associations. I have worked with too many associations to list here. A few include American Society of Association Executives, ASAE, and the Center for Association Leadership, the American Museum Association, and the National Association for Chronic Disease Directors. Does your professional organization use outside speakers and trainers, and if so would you make an introduction for me?

We all get by with a little help from our friends, and I could sure use yours. Thank you!

On another topic, is it just me or do a lot of relationships seem strained these days? This month we'll explore friendship and divorce.

Dividing the Silver, Dividing the Friends

Shards of blue glass were all that remained of one of my favorite glasses. Pistachio shells were ground into the Mexican tile floors, and the house smelled of smoke. Two of my oldest friends had just left my home, and I felt violated, sad, angry, and confused.

It had been close to four years since I had seen them. Although we had stayed in touch during my divorce, it was at arm's length. I needed space. I needed to deal with my divorce as well as coming out.

My friends initiated the meeting sensing that we needed to see each other soon or our friendship would dissolve. They were right.

They had found out about the divorce by calling the house after I moved out. My ex-wife answered. She had never been one of their favorites, but as she tearfully told her story their attitude changed.

They became players in our drama. From the dividing of the silver to the final financial settlement, they offered her advice.

Now they were sitting in my kitchen downing martinis. As the alcohol took effect, the conversation shifted. They wanted to hear my side of the story.

I initially declined. I felt that by telling my side of the story, they would become judges, and friends don't make good judges. Despite my best intentions, my resolve failed, and I began to defend myself. Once on that slippery slope, it wasn't long before I was covered in mud. They made accusations; I became defensive. I said things about my ex that I never should had said.

They felt better; I felt battered, bruised, and angry. I had fallen back into old patterns: I cared too much what others thought.

I was furious. Friends do not punish friends, and I felt punished. At the same time, I was sympathetic. No one ever wrote the definitive manual on dealing with divorce.

It's hard when close friends go through a divorce. It's hard to listen and not get involved. It's hard not to take sides and stay friends with both people.

I learned a lot from that experience. The best thing we can do for friends going through a divorce is to love each person unconditionally, and love the individuals as we loved the couple.

As divorced people, we need to be patient, realizing our friends need time to learn to deal with us differently. More importantly, we should never demand that friends take sides. We should respect their right to remain friendly with both parties.

Like my treasured blue glass, our friendship did not survive that evening. Seven years later, I still grieve that loss.