Coaching Toward Happiness - June 2007


Strong social support is the single most robust correlate of happiness and well-being.  Period.  Professionally, a rich support system also leads to learning, stimulation, opportunities, referrals, and fun.  But can you connect with others in a powerful way that is congruent with your own values and personality?  Here we’ll learn the approach of one warm, brilliant, internationally known executive coach.

To hear two extraordinary interviews with Catherine Fitzgerald (see main article below) taped on June 15, 2007 and June 28, 2007, please click here.

In This Issue:

1.  How a Revered Executive Coach Creates Social Networks

2.  Three Live Teleconference Q&A’s

3.  Positive Psychology Coaching – Our New Book Is Here

4.  Upcoming MentorCoach Training Programs and Speaking Engagements
     in NYC, Boston, Bethesda, & Philadelphia


Dear CTH Colleagues,

I’ve known Catherine Fitzgerald since graduate school.  I was at the University of Texas at Austin; she was at SUNY Buffalo, and ironically, we met in a new social network of 60 graduate students selected for a two-year National Training Lab Professional Development Program (GSPDP).  GSPDP met for 30 days over the next two years including a wonderful week each summer at Bethel, Maine.  Over the two years much the same kind of intense social network developed that Catherine has duplicated so brilliantly in her professional life.

In the intervening years, Catherine has become an internationally known executive coach.  See below for her inspiring approach to collegial networking and social support. 

Until next time,


Ben Dean, Ph.D.

PS – For our three upcoming calls – one with Catherine & me on Creating Social Networks (June 15th) and two with me (June 6th & 8th) – please check #2 below.


1.  How A Revered Executive Coach Creates Social Networks

By: Ben Dean, Ph.D.

Relationships and social support are so essential to happiness.

In A Primer in Positive Psychology and in his teaching, Chris Peterson gives this three-word summary of positive psychology:  "Other people matter."

But how do you acquire the community you need?  It’s useful here to study someone who's extraordinary at it.  And I know of no one more extraordinary at acquiring social support than Catherine Fitzgerald.

Catherine is one of the most gifted and revered executive coaches in the US and author of Executive Coaching: Practices & Perspectives (with Jennifer Garvey Berger, 2002) and Developing Leaders (1997).

A Ph.D. psychologist, she did her graduate studies at SUNY-Buffalo and Yale and currently lives in Bethesda, Maryland, a Washington, DC suburb.  Much of her work now involves coaching C-level and senior corporate executives and leaders.

Last week I said to her: "You have more social support than anybody I know” (and she a mile) -- "How do you do it?" 

She said, "First of all, I need a lot of support.  So I go out of my way to create it."

Look at what she does.

The 15-year Collegial Support Group

Fifteen years ago, Catherine and two other consultant/coaches, two men as it turned out, decided to meet on a regular basis to support each other’s developing careers and consulting/coaching practices.

All three were Ph.D. psychologists who focused on organizational development and executive coaching. 

They have now met in person at least one full day a month, every single month for the last 15 years.

They talk to each other constantly and every six months they go to the beach, rent an ocean-front house, and spend the weekend brainstorming, problem solving, and planning. 

It may be no accident that the other two members of the group have become nationally known in organizational development and coaching as well.  They share resources and referrals, constantly support each other, and have become deep friends.   

Connecting with New, Fascinating Colleagues

When I asked her, "How do you decide whom to connect with?" she told me that when she meets someone who's interesting and very bright, someone she could learn a lot from, she asks them out to lunch or dinner.

If they hit it off, she will freely share ideas and resources and will really get interested in what they're doing.  Her generosity is striking -- she's a fascinating friend, a font of cutting-edge ideas, books, and enthusiasms.

Here's a key -- If her potential colleague reciprocates with even roughly equivalent generosity, they will often go on to have a great relationship.

When the potential colleague doesn't respond in kind, she keeps her distance.  

Collegial Consults

Catherine has also designed an approach to supporting colleagues during times of intense professional change, such as a new entrepreneurial venture or a new book that is really taking off. 

She arranges a day-long "collegial consult," to which she invites six to eight savvy, experienced, creative, and generous colleagues. 

During that day, the person who is in transition describes his/her current situation and his/her hopes, concerns, and questions. 

The group asks clarifying questions and brainstorms ways to help the transition be as successful as possible. 

People who have had collegial consults have found the day-long attention of wise and supportive colleagues to be invaluable. 

And, by the way, Catherine doesn't charge for arranging and facilitating collegial consults for her colleagues.

Conversation Groups

Finally, Catherine convenes monthly conversation groups.  I went to one 10 years ago where we read "Deep Change", a book which has subsequently become a classic and deepened my life, as has Quinn's later work.

I've since realized her conversation groups are not unlike some 18th century European salons, but focus on deeply examining a single subject through multiple lenses.  She sometimes has had two or three groups going at the same time.

Currently Catherine loves her ongoing conversation group focused on cutting-edge approaches to "creative" aging.  She convened this group three years ago, and it is attended by an ongoing group of eight senior professionals -- some nationally known -- who all are very happy to be there. 

Every month, she hosts a delicious, three-hour dinner meeting, beautifully catered by an assistant. 

During and after dinner, members of the Creative Aging Group discuss a leading–edge book and shares resources they’ve discovered in the past month.   (The resources and approaches the Creative Aging Group discovered have proved so valuable that last year she set up a year-long Executive Forum on Creative Aging for her senior executive clients.)

Catherine charges her colleagues nothing: they all do it for the joy, the friendship, the connection, and to deepen their understanding of this emerging field.  Her groups have gone on for years.  One member regularly flies in from Boston for each meeting. 

Catherine is someone we can all learn from.  If we do even a little bit of this, we can infuse our lives with some of the important ingredients that can help us and other people to be happier.

(A secondary benefit of deep connections with other professionals is that it can lead to our being known, trusted, and the recipient (and maker) of referrals.) 

Chris Peterson once said, in passing, to a class of coaches: "Perhaps, don't worry so much about positive coaching interventions.  Instead remember that happiness follows a well-lived life with important people in it…."  And to paraphrase his final sentence: 

So be an important person for your clients and (like Catherine) for the colleagues whom you would support.

You will be happier for it.

Coda -- 3 Points

A.  Be Congruent

I think Catherine would agree that we should build social networks only in a way that is congruent with our own personality, interests, and values. 

Catherine is an extravert, the second child in an Irish American family of 11, and a natural leader.  You might modify her approach to fit yourself or a particular client. 

B.  Understand the Complexity

Similarly, networking varies greatly with the arena.  Catherine's approach favors face-to-face collegial contact.  For connecting virtually or with specialized virtual communities, say, an academic network within a sub-discipline, other strategies are needed.

C.  The Coolest Resource

For an unparalleled networking guide for graduate students and academics, see Phil Agre's "Networking on the Network" Available on the internet "Way Back Machine."

The guide has great generality.  I found valuable nuggets there; you may as well.

Like to learn more about Catherine’s approach to social support in a no-cost teleconference call? See #2 below.

Catherine Fitzgerald, Ph.D.

Catherine Fitzgerald, Ph.D. is principal of Fitzgerald Consulting, a company that offers executive coaching to senior executives.  MORE.


2. Live Interview with Catherine and Ben

Like to hear more from Catherine and a member of one of her conversations groups (a senior executive)? Join us for our live teleconference interview.

WITH: Catherine Fitzgerald, Ph.D. & Ben Dean, Ph.D.
CALL'S TOPIC: Catherine's Approach to Social Networks Design
WHEN: Friday, June 15, 2007
TELECONFERENCE BRIDGE #: Sent to you after registration
TIME: 12:00 pm to 1:20 pm Eastern (New York time)
9:00 am to 10:20 am Pacific (San Francisco time)
International Times:
4:00 pm to 5:20 pm GMT/UTC
5:00 pm to 6:20 pm British Summer Time (London time)
2:00 am to 3:50 am EST (Sydney time) on Saturday 6/16/07

During our call, Catherine will talk about her experience in creating intense circles of social support. She’ll also be happy to describe her executive coaching practice. She looks forward to responding to your questions.

REGISTER: To register, send an email to In the subject line, put in all caps: CATHERINE: CALL ON CREATING SOCIAL NETWORKS


3.  Just Published!  Positive Psychology Coaching--Putting the Science of Happiness to Work for Your Clients (Wiley, 2007).

The first book to address the intersection of positive psychology research and coaching.  Positive Psychology Coaching: Putting the Science of Happiness to Work for Your Clients provides concrete language and interventions for integrating positive psychology techniques into any coaching practice.


Here’s the Table of Contents:  

Chapter One. The Coaching Paradox and the Positive Psychology Solution.


Chapter Two. Happiness: The Goal We Rarely Talk About.

Chapter Three. Choosing Happiness: Goals, Relationships, and Positive thinking.

Chapter Four. Solid Happiness Interventions.


Chapter Five. Strengths Coaching.

Chapter Six. Coaching to Personal Strengths.

Chapter Seven. Coaching to Social Strengths.


Chapter Eight. Helping Clients Craft a Perfect Job.

Chapter Nine. The future of Positive Psychology Coaching.


4. Upcoming Training, Workshops and Speaking Engagements

Two New MentorCoach Foundations Programs:

  1. Thursdays at 8:00 pm Eastern, begins 6/14/07 (MCP 106)
  2. Thursdays at Noon Eastern, begins 6/14/07 (MCP 107)

For full information.  For a detailed program description.


Upcoming Coaching Workshops in NYC, Boston, Bethesda, and Philadelphia:


Ben will be speaking on coaching and positive psychology in New York City, NY (6/8/07), Boston, MA (6/10/07), Bethesda, MD (6/29/07), and Philadelphia, PA (7/15/07).  For detailed information, please click here.


Upcoming MentorCoach MasterClasses include:


Ethics & Risk Management with Eric Harris, JD, Psy.D., starts 6/20/07 - will meet Wednesdays at 6 pm Eastern.


Small Business Coaching with Ann Durand, MCC, starts 8/14/07 - will meet Tuesdays at 5 pm Eastern.


For Fall Master Classes in Ethics, Strategic Career Design, Executive Coaching, ADHD Coaching, Small Business Coaching, and our Blue Sky Visioning MasterClass, click here.




About Ben Dean

Ben, Editor of Coaching Toward Happiness, is a coach, psychologist, founder of MentorCoach, and...More.






Copyright 2006-2007. Coaching Toward Happiness.  All rights reserved.

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