Oak Communications
October 2011
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Atul Gawande wrote a fascinating article in the October 3, 2011 New Yorker Magazine, entitled Personal Best: Top athletes and singers have coaches. Should you? 

Gawande writes, "Professional athletes use coaches to make sure they are as good as they can be. But doctors don't. I'd paid to have a kid just out of college look at my serve. (Earlier in the article he describes hiring someone to play tennis with him who ended up coaching him on his serve.) So why did I find it inconceivable to pay someone to come into my operating room and coach me on my surgical technique?"

He decided to ask a retired surgeon and former respected teacher to watch him perform surgeries and give him feedback. What this "coach" noticed proved invaluable. He observed that for a half hour the operating light was not focused on the wound. He also pointed out that the way Gawande draped the patient made it difficult for his surgical assistant to do her job well. These were among the small but significant observations of this coach. "That one twenty-minute discussion gave me more to consider and work on than I'd had in the past five years."

Gawande also wrote about a research study of teachers who had attended skill-building workshops. The study found that the teachers used the new skills in their classrooms fewer than 20% of the time. However, when a colleague watched them try the new skills in their own classroom and provided suggestions, they began using the skills regularly 90% of the time.

I have found this to be true with personal and management training sessions as well. How many of us have gone to a training on stress management, effective listening or management skills and thought "that was interesting" but then forgot all about it when we got back to the office? Most people are not able to hear a great idea in a workshop or read it in a book and then begin to apply it effectively in our work.

That is where a coach can be helpful.  The coach will ask questions to help you figure out what about an idea appeals to you and how you would go about implementing it.  Perhaps you would practice the new skill or idea in the coaching session prior to trying it in real life. The coach is then on your side to hear how it is going, ask you what went well and what you would want to try differently the next time. This ongoing relationship gives you the opportunity to experiment. The coach will challenge you to think in different ways and open up options and ways of perceiving a situation.

Last week I received a call from a woman on the west coast who had been invited for a Skype job interview. She had never done an interview via Skype and wanted to practice and receive feedback prior to doing it for real. A business client asked me to come to one of his company meetings to observe him lead the meeting and give him feedback. These are just a few of the ways that coaches can be helpful to people wanting to learn and grow.

If you are curious about how coaching might help you be your personal best, please give me a call.

Best regards,  


Sue Schleifer


Monrose Row stairs
Atul Gawande was also interviewed on Talk of the Nation.

Here is the link to listen to the interview or read the transcript of Athletes Have Coaches. Why Not Everyone Else?


Writing Down Dementia: A Writing Workshop  
spiral cactus
A new Writing Down Dementia Workshop is beginning in Lafayette, LA

Thursday, October 27, 4 - 5:30pm

Please call or email to learn more about the workshop and to express your interest in joining this writing group.

And, we are accepting new participants in our ongoing workshop that takes place in Oakland, CA. I join that workshop via telephone as does one other member of the group.


Writing Down Dementia is a writing workshop for people who have or have had a loved one with dementia. It is also designed for caregivers and professionals working in the field of aging services. The workshop offers participants a rich experience of creative expression and emotional support.


"Your gently guided free writing exercises combined with reading what I wrote aloud and discussion was a powerful way to get some clarity on my daily dilemma arising from my caregiver activities. It was also great to be reminded that I am not alone." Jean 


"I felt camaraderie with the other people in the workshop. I found humor in what was going on. It gave me a perspective that I found invaluable. And, I realized that I had the ability to write." Bernice


Group members:

  • discover new ways of relating to a family member still living with dementia
  • access long-forgotten family stories that they now may view through wiser eyes
  • let go of guilt and shame about not being the perfect caregiver
  • learn who they are separate from their caregiver role
  • emerge and grow stronger from the pain of the loss of a loved one

Writing prompts are carefully selected to evoke reflection and inspire writing. Group members then free write for five to ten minutes.  


Writing and coach-facilitated conversation create an atmosphere where group members feel safe in sharing their stories, laughter, tears and healing.


Through the writing experience, especially over time in a supportive environment, we work through our confusion and grief to discover understanding and joy in ways we had not imagined.  


No writing experience is necessary.


Please call 337.534.0954 or email Sue@Oak-Communications.com 


Coaching Services  

Headshot Sue

Have you been thinking about working with a life/career coach?   


Give me a call to schedule a complimentary coaching consultation.

Below are what some of my clients have said about the coaching experience.


"Since I first hired a coach I have been a happier person and a more successful businessman. My company has become much more successful, our employees have had the opportunity to grow to the fullest of their capabilities and everyone seems to enjoy each day of life much more than in the past."


"I was drawn to Sue based on her philosophy and background and knew I made the right decision when we 1st met.  She helped me work through ideas and thoughts and got me moving in the right direction.  

She even helped me re-connect with someone from my past that has now been instrumental in my current growth.  I am truly thankful!"   
Chief People Officer

"Sue truly cares about her clients' goals and brings that passion to her work as a life coach. With her fresh perspective and eye for possibility, she helps me find creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
Sue adds her wide array of skills and rich life experience to my own, expanding my box of problem-solving tools. She helps me set priorities, identify goals, and push toward fulfilling them---all while keeping me honest with myself.
Plenty of professional and creative people would benefit from working with Sue, and I particularly recommend her to anyone who needs to get 'unstuck'."
Medical Editor and Fabric Artist

"Doesn't everyone need a coach? From working with Sue, I'm convinced of it. I am spending more time on the activities that are most important to me and have set aside some old patterns (like worrying too much!) that got in my way. Sue is helping me achieve my interpersonal as well as career goals."
President, High Tech Management Consulting Firm
"Sue is an excellent listener and an astute observer. I sought her help at a time when I was dissatisfied with my business, had some vague idea that changes needed to be made, but couldn't see the way forward.  
In our coaching sessions, she provided tremendously useful feedback, helping me to uncover and understand the sources of my dissatisfaction, and guided me towards making many positive changes.  
If you want to make changes in your personal or professional life, and need coaching to help you find your way and follow through, then I would strongly recommend working with Sue." 
Small Business Owner
"Whether in my work or private life, Sue has an uncanny ability to see situations from many different angles. Her attention is complete; she really makes you feel like you matter. If I circumvent an issue, she brings me back to what is important.  

Sue has become one of my most important teammates. I can tell her anything, never feel judged and always feel supported. It doesn't get better than this!"
Co-Founder, Co-Director, Non-Profit Organization

I would love to be a resource to you too! Let's talk.


Sue Schleifer, M.A.


510.316.3319 - cell
Oak Communications

Lafayette, LA and throughout the country

510.316.3319 - cell

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