, Salem, MA

January 3, 2013

Life coach's book focuses on positive people skills


---- — SALEM — After 12 years working for nonprofits, Salem life coach Carrie Stack started her own consulting firm, and whenever she spoke, she would ask people to describe their “nightmare boss.”

Then, she would ask them to share stories about their “dream boss.”

Over and over, the lists she would compile in her workshops would be the same. The nightmare boss would be hypocritical, be self-important, have favorites, be a poor listener, snap at others, micromanage things, act aloof and never say: “thank you.”

The dream boss, on the other hand, respected, listened to and trusted employees and was hands-off, accessible and appreciative.

Stack, a certified life coach and founder of the Say Yes Institute at the Enterprise Center at Salem State University, compiled these lists into a book published in November called “The Dream Boss: Powerful, Positive and Professional,” published by My Life List Publishing of Boston. Stack will be the featured speaker at a two-part Essex County Community Foundation workshop starting Tuesday.

“The lists were always the same, and that’s where the book started coming from,” Stack said.

The ideas about how one leads effectively are not just confined to the nonprofit world, but to anyone leading an organization.

“Not to minimize what this is, but this isn’t rocket science,” Stack said, “it’s just perspective. It’s helping people regain their footing, get some traction and to be able to regroup.” Her goal for readers and clients is that people will learn how to go through their day with a sense of happiness without being in a “constant state of agitation” both at work and at home.

Stack grew up on the South Shore and lives in Lynn. She has worked as a teacher, a counselor and a program director working with state and federal governments on prevention work, working for the state Department of Children and Family Services, Northeastern Family Institute and Healing Abuse Working for Change. She was also the director of the Lynn Youth Neighborhood Coalition.

Eight years ago, Stack, who has a master’s in education in training and development, founded the Say Yes Institute, and, after opening an office in Newburyport, she moved to the small-business incubator the Enterprise Center at Salem State University five years ago. She’s now coaching clients both in the nonprofit and for-profit world to develop their “emotional intelligence skills.”

“The skills and tools I use in this book, their emotional intelligence, it’s people skills. It’s basically how do you work with people,” Stack said.

It was the response she got from her talks that gave rise to the book. After all, Stack said, relationships are what causes the most stress in people’s lives.

“In every training I do,” Stack said, “there is someone sitting there who raises their hand and then says: ‘this is great for work, but this is going to change my relationship with my 17-year-old daughter, my husband, my sister-in-law.”

While her strategies for becoming a good leader are not confined to the nonprofit world, it helped that she worked in that environment where people skills are especially important, where people feel overwhelmed by the constant demands of the job.

“It’s key that nonprofit staff show up, and they are able to be fully present for what people they work with,” Stack said. “It’s a tough job. You have to be able to give, and give and give and show up and keep showing up, and it’s not easy, it’s not a linear process. So people need to have skills and tools to do. And I was dealing with a lot of burnout.”

The title for the book, “The Dream Boss,” comes from the phrase that kept coming up in workshops to describe the perfect leader, Stack said, the kind of boss you would work nights and weekends for.

“These people did not just descend from another planet,” Stack said. “Their lives are not perfect, they still have a whole host of things that go wrong. Why is it they can show up and be incredible? It’s emotional intelligence. ... They know a lot. They are positive. They are able to find what’s right, what’s working, what’s going well, and they can focus on that. And they are professional. They have a sense of boundaries, clarity, roles, responsibility. And it was consistent.”

And was there a dream boss in Stack’s career?

The book is dedicated to her first boss out of college, Paul B. Jay, or PBJ for short, who was her boss for two years at a diagnostic residential facility in Everett. He made the staff feel important and was someone who was “powerful, positive and professional,” Stack said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.

If you go

What: Essex County Community Foundation’s two-part series “Leadership Skills in the Nonprofit World”

Presenter: Carrie Stack, author of the “The Dream Boss” and certified life coach in Salem

When: Tuesday, Jan. 8, and Thursday, Jan. 17; 8 a.m. registration; program takes place from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. both days.

Where: North Shore Community College, 1 Ferncroft Road, Danvers

Cost: $75