Kibitzing in Kitzbuhel

March 16, 2011


Gary Lyons – Senior Coach

 KIBITZ: To chat, converse – from the Yiddish “kibitsen”- from the German “Kiebitzen”

You never quite know the impact you have on a client…

It was September 2010, I was sitting in my office at home working on my expenses when my phone rang, “Hello Gary! This is Hubi!”

Hubi is one of my favorite clients. He works for a consulting company in their Hamburg office and his star is most certainly on the ascendant! Hubi is an extraordinary young man. He runs the Sahara Marathon. He loves the ballet, art and literature. He plays piano and the cello and is part of a chamber quartet with his wife. They have 4 kids: 2 boys and 2 girls. I finished my 8 session Speaker Development Program with Hubi in May 2009 and the last I heard from him was an e-mail exchange in Oct 2009…

Dear Gary,

Hope you are fine.
A quick question for help: I have been nominated for the election to a seat on our Executive Global Committee. Very surprising to me…

I am not surprised

…I am one of 10 candidates who have been asked to write a statement saying why they think they should be on the committee and what they will bring to it. I thought I’d send it to you, because I thought a lot about our sessions writing it. I have to file it tonight. Any input from you I will be happy take on.

It was Columbus Day in the US so I had time to read Hubi’s statement. It wasn’t bad. BUT the Hubi I know and love is not there. He has shied away from the work we did on his values to guide and support him. I remind Hubi of his declaration of values and ask him which of those values connects most to what he wants to say.

Almost a month to the day, I get an e-mail from Hubi – in the subject box it says “EC Election – Ballot Results”. He had forwarded me the e-mail that has been sent to all of the 568 partners at Hubi’s company.

Dear Partners,

This email announces the results of the final election round for the open at-large seat on the Executive Committee.  Hubertus (Hubi) Xxxxxxx was the highest vote recipient and therefore will be nominated for formal election at Thursday morning’s meeting of the Board of Directors.

Congratulations to Hubertus and our thanks to all of the other nominated candidates for their participation in the election process.

There is a P.S. from Hubi.


Thanks for your coaching and training and reminding me of my values! Good pay back. I am now on the Executive Global Committee, the only non-senior partner. This stuff really works!  See you soon.


That ‘soon’ turned out to be Jan 13th 2011 and me kibitzing in Kitzbuhel, a swanky 5 star Ski Resort in Kitzbuhel in Austria – I do not ski.

That phone call from Hubi was asking me if I would be a part of a 2 day event he was organizing for his company about “Connecting with the Client”. He wanted me to give three 45 minute talks about the work we do. My calendar is says I am free on that date, so I say “Yes.”

I am given the VIP treatment and arrive at Kitzbuhel. And so I kibitz about “Connection not Perfection” to an audience that includes the ex-Defense Minister of Germany, Volker Ruehe. I tell them that no matter if the audience is one or one hundred they want to feel seen and involved; and if you can connect who you are, your stories and your values to your content you will have a unique ownership of it and it is easier to make that connection and have the impact you desire.

At the meal later that night, in a quaint Austrian chalet, Volker Ruehe gives the after dinner speech. He is full of fascinating stories about the people he has met throughout his career. Volker declared his values up front and made them the message of his speech. It was heartening to see such an experienced speaker use what I had been kibitzing about earlier in the day, but I knew this was not new to him. He had been doing this for some time from instinct or experience. But to my surprise, during his speech, he said he had learned from me to really see his audience – so it seems you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Later that night Hubi has his arm around my shoulder, he is very pleased with how the event went, and is disappointed that I won’t be joining him on the piste the next morning. I’m not. Another round of drinks is ordered and we toast Hubi, the new year and then…start kibitzing.

Gary Lyons is a Senior Coach at The TAI Group leading individual engagements and group workshops in Leadership and Communications.