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Leadership is a Practice, not a Role

For over 35 years I’ve had the opportunity to be in leadership roles, and that’s not even counting the years I served as the eldest of 5 siblings.  Now there’s where I really began to understand what it means to be out front.  Let me share with you, its not all fun and games!  However, I took on my leadership roles with vigor and responsibility.  People could count on me.  Through my ‘leadership role’ experiences, I came to understand what leadership really is-a daily practice.

We practice many things on a daily basis, which turn into habits and routines – some serving us and some not!  Many of those habits and routines are directed toward the tangibles in our lives; taking care of our bodies, our homes, our families, our work.  However, our behavior and the way we show up in the world is largely driven by the intangibles; the way we think, the meaning we make of things, what we believe and what’s important or of value to us.  It is in the intangibles that I have found my leadership power and the ability to influence others.  Over the next few writings, I want to share these practices with you because they have had such a positive effect on my life and my relationships.

Leadership Practice #1 – Own what is yours to own! 

What is my contribution to the situation I’m in?  Sometimes it is so painful to turn the spotlight on self.  To demonstrate this practice, let me share a recent situation I found myself in.

Recently I bought a car.  Prior to purchasing the car, I’d been in a two week tornado of work catching up from being on a half months vacation.  Going to car dealers and dealing with the ‘sales pitches’ was not on my top ten list of things to do.  However, my car had broke down twice on vacation and I travel a lot for work so it had to be done.  I was in the stress pot of wo991F9CF7-rk; impatient, and generally just wanted to get the whole ordeal over with.  I made a hasty choice!  I bought the car and the next day had to drive 150 miles for work.  I quickly realized the seats were not right for me, in fact they really irritated my sciatica.  Aghhh, so here I was with a car that was not going to work for me.  I started down the road of what was the dealership going to do for me.  I was the victim and the car dealers were the ‘mean guys.’

After a week of wasting time trying to get the dealer to do something, I woke up.  No one twisted my arm to buy this car.  In fact, our sales guy was great.  No pressure, just service.  I made the choice to look for a car when I was stressed and very tired.  I made the hasty choice to purchase the car.  Now, knowing I had a problem with the seats, what could I do?  Solution came much quicker once I took ownership.  The seats will be ‘re-foamed’ by a company that specializes in car upholstery and my bum will be happy!

I have found that when you take ownership and practice it on a daily basis, you get to solution and the positive side of life much more quickly.  Can you imagine how our world would change if everyone engaged with Leadership Practice #1?

The Tipping Point of the Mind

 

Tipping Point of the MindI recently heard a conversation that went like this:

“Get your lazy butt to the gym!  You are missing too much swimming.”

“I know, but I just cannot get up that early anymore.  And then if I go later, my lane is taken and it is more crowded.”

“Look whiner; life isn’t perfect and does not run to your schedule. Now quit whining and get to the gym!”

“Why bother? I can’t do what I want to do anymore without exhausting myself.  And what I do doesn’t seem like much, so why bother.  It wouldn’t hurt to take a few days off.”

“Really? I thought you said exercise was important to you.  And anyway, you always feel better after the swim.”

This conversation was one I had with myself as I was contemplating my workout.  One side of me was trying to help and the other was working to hinder me.   Managing “internal conversations” is not very different from managing people with different personalities.  While you may believe you have one personality, we all have many sides to self.   And often one side is often fighting the other.  Why is that?

As human beings, we crave homeostasis—we want stability.  An example of this is our body’s ability to maintain a temperature of 98.6 internally regardless of the weather outside.   This is homeostasis.  So one side of us wants things to stay the same: comfortable, secure, while the other wants to continue to grow, take risks and evolve as human beings.  Often times our need to stay the same is motivated by fear.  Fear of change, fear of growth, fear of success and the list goes on.

The tipping point in the mind is whenever we have a picture of “normal” that is based on judgment or biases, and our life or our person does not match that.  This is when we are most susceptible to a negative way of thinking.  Other triggers can be things like change (even good change), loss, fear, and success.  Basically, all the negative voices kick in when life as we think it “should” go – isn’t!

What is happening for me that I am arguing with myself?  Aging.  The voice that is saying no to the gym is my avoider.  I don’t want to face the fact that no matter what I do, I cannot workout to the level that I used to.  Of course, I still swim a mile or more 3 days a week, do a 2-3 mile walk/run 2 days a week and do yoga 2 days a week. So why isn’t that “good enough”?  Because of the fantasy that I can still work out to the level I did when I was in my 30’s and 40’s.  Because reality doesn’t measure up to my fantasy, I stop myself from celebrating what I am doing to remain healthy and fit.

A few tips in working with your negative internal voices:

Call them out and question.  What do they want, what do they need? What is the fear? What is the frustration? What is the fantasy? What is the folly (non-understanding)? Take the message into consideration, change what you want to and then let it go.

Play with them.  Give them a name and have a conversation with them.  It is amazing how they lose their grip on you when you bring them to the light.

Bypass them.  Go right to your positive side.  For example: when my avoider is saying “why bother?” and giving a million excuses, instead I go right to recognition of what I am doing to honor my value for exercise and then celebrate my commitment.  This works every time!

Most importantly, remember that you have control over what you choose to do with your thoughts.  Balance is dynamic and always in movement, even if it’s slight. Pay attention to when your thoughts are tipping to the negative and use one of the antidotes above to bring your mind to balance.  Keep practicing and before you know it, you will have complete authority over how and what you think!

 

 

 

 

I’m the Boss — That’s Why!

Man Mean Anger Pointing Finger Yelling Casual Bald 640x440Recently, a client was sharing with me a situation he was in where the stern reply, “I’m your boss, that’s why!” was shot back after he asked a challenging question. Being a proponent of Leadership and developing leadership cultures, this type of interaction reall got me thinking! What does a ‘boss’ culture look like versus a ‘leader’ culture? There are many great bosses out there that demonstrate leadership skills at a high level; however, there are also bosses that are not such great leaders.

I asked my client how that comment landed for him. Aside from wanting to punch the guy’s lights out, he said the response felt very punitive: “I just felt my contribution was being diminished.” He perceived that his contribution was challenging because he brought another perspective to what had already been put on the table. He shared with me that the organization touts a culture of win/win and he did not see how the “I’m the boss” comment supported that culture. No one wins after a comment like that. And what type of culture is created out of this type of ‘leading’? I would venture to say that people don’t feel valued and they feel the organization is more interested in outcomes than the overall process. Leaders will motivate rather than dismiss or diminish their team’s contributions….and that includes when they challenge the process.

The book “The Leadership Challenge” by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner demonstrates five exemplary practices of leadership:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process (hmm, guess my client’s ‘boss’ didn’t read this one)
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart

Of course the book goes into some wonderful depth on each of these and includes the research to back it up. One of the reasons I started studying leadership cultures was because I had been in boss structures and they never seemed to work well for me. They may work for some and that’s ok; however, over the years I have experienced both cultures and the leadership culture’s ‘team members’ always seem happier, more productive and more fulfilled…which always supports the bottom line!

Here are just a few quick identifiers based on this wonderful research contrasted by a boss lacking leadership skills: 

Modeling the Way vs. Dictating the Way

  • Modeling the way simply means getting really clear on what is important (values) to the organization as a whole (collective values) and setting an example by living out those values.
  • Dictating the way simply means that one is not interested in the whole. They are consumed by their goals and outcomes and will make sure that those ‘serving’ them will follow their way.

Inspire a Shared Vision vs. You’re on a Need-to-Know basis

  • Inspire a Shared Vision is what connects team members to the bigger picture of why they are even there in the first place. When team members have a voice, know the direction of the whole and understand the motivation behind certain decisions, strategies, etc., they are more likely to feel and take ownership of their part in it.
  • You’re on a Need-to-Know basis keeps team members in a space of instability. Fear and power struggles increase as team members will be more inclined to feel that they are in survival mode. With no sustaining voice, no clear direction; it is difficult to maintain motivation. Ownership of the organization’s direction rests solely in the boss’ lap.

Challenge the Process vs. Do As I Say, and Keep Quiet

  • Challenge the Process is all about expanding the range of the organization by embracing differing perspectives, supporting innovation and new creations, and being open to new ideas and allowing some risk.
  • Do As I Say and Keep Quiet may keep the team ‘in line’; however, it is going to do little in supporting the synergy of the team or the movement of the team. The outlook of this type of practice is simply maintenance — team members will maintain the status quo. (And the organization will probably have a low retention rate!).

Enable Others to Act vs. Here is the box you belong in — now get back in there!  

  • Enabling others to act requires that you know your team members! Leaders take a personal interest in their team members and what would support them as individuals, as team members and as a part of the organization. In knowing their team members, leaders help support collaborative efforts and interdependence in mutually respectful relationships. Team members are supported in becoming leaders.
  • Here is the box you belong in — now get back in there; well, you can imagine how de-energizing this may be! In this scenario, the boss holds the power and the team member is dis-empowered. The boss chooses; the team member does not have a choice. The relationship is one of dependence — the employee dependent on the boss.

Encourage the Heart vs. You are here to support my goals

  • Encourage the Heart is demonstrated through recognition. Whether a leader is recognizing a team member one-on-one, in a team meeting or in front of the company, recognition always speaks to the heart. Recognition is about saying publicly that your contributions matter and make a difference. You are a valued part of the organization.
  • You are here to support my goals means just that — you are a means to my end. This may not be said overtly; however, a lack of genuine recognition of contribution demonstrates the attitude.

Zig Ziglar, Management Guru Extraordinaire, stated these comparisons that I will leave you with. Which culture do you want to create?

Boss vs Leader

Click to Enlarge

Your Life Manifesto

Open A Blank White Notebook, Pen And Coffee On The DeskI recently had an interesting experience where someone reflected to me their perspective of how they ‘want’ me to show up. Their downright mean comment really hit me below the belt. What was interesting was my response. Because I do not immediately react, another person jumped in and said “that was below the belt”, to which I responded with “yes it was.” And while I did not feed the comment with comebacks that would have put this person ‘in their place,’ I did respond with a statement of centeredness in my value system that clearly stated my standard in verbal play. And it was then that I realized just how powerful a personal manifesto has become in my life. One of the statements in my manifesto is “I will always honor the human spirit” and in this situation, I did. I honored the spirit of the person who made the mean comment by not beating them into the ground for being mean and I honored my spirit by standing in myself.

My point is not that I am something special, because believe me: I had some great comebacks in my head! My point is the power of a personal manifesto. A dear friend of mine, a fellow coach, encouraged me to write a manifesto when I was first starting my coaching business. I had no idea the impact that this document was going to have on me. However, that being said, it has taken me a number of years to come to the realization that written word + intention + attention = manifestation. First, let me say that my personal manifesto more addresses how I want to ‘be’ in life versus what I am going to ‘do’ in life. In an age when we tend to focus on the ‘do’, my manifesto did not address this at all. I have to be honest; in the moment that I wrote it, I was frustrated with myself. I was seeking guidance on what to do with my coaching business and yet all that came out of me was how I was going to be! How was this going to help me? Ha! Boy, did I receive life guidance.

How it helps me is acting as a guiding light when I make choices. Our life is determined by our moment-by-moment choices. Does the choice allow for me to be the person I want to manifest? Is my choice supporting me or adding stress because it is not in alignment with who I propose to be? Life is dynamic and doing is dynamic, ever changing. Focusing on who I want to ‘be’ regardless of the change around me allowed for the stability of centeredness, the constant of my truth. That doesn’t mean my ‘being’ does not change; quite the contrary. I am changing, growing, and learning every day. However, each change brings me closer to my authentic self. When I wrote this document in 2006, I do believe that my higher self was guiding me. I asked for it and I got it! In the moment, it was not what I expected; however, in retrospect it was exactly what I needed.

If you want a life of intention that you are willing to pay attention to, reach out and I will help you write your Life Manifesto. You will embark on an adventure you won’t forget! See my Life Manifesto here.

It’s All a Matter of Perspective

A bicycle, a beautiful day, and a mobile office

^^ Getting unstuck.

How many times have I heard this line in my life?   Truer words were never spoken! I am a pretty open person and yet, I too fall into perspectives that keep me closed to possible opportunities.

Now that I have become more aware of the power of choice in perspective, I am living my life differently. Today I am experiencing a workday in a completely different perspective. Instead of spending 8 hours in my office checking off my ‘to-do’ list (routine), I decided to take my office mobile (a change). I did this because I am feeling ‘stuck’ and movement always opens space for me. I packed a backpack with my Mac air and lunch, then hopped onto my bike for the day!

I am currently sitting at Lincoln Marsh in Wheaton. This is part of my old ‘stomping grounds’. I am appreciating the warm breeze, listening to the weeping willows blow in the breeze, the bullfrogs calling out and numerous birds in chorus. I use my iPhone for a hot spot if I need internet access and away I go……working, playing, and getting inspired.

Making the switch from the point of view of staying committed to the ‘routine’ to a new perspective of ‘create an adventure’ also helped me to challenge myself to entertain other perspectives around my ‘stuck-ness.’ Such as, “I’m not stuck — I’m simmering.”

I have often asked myself what creates stuck-ness in perspective? Of course, I come up with a number of brilliant answers. For me, it is all about certainty. I love my certainty! If I’m certain about something, I feel safe and I know what I can count on. However, my experience has shown me that little in life is 100% ‘certain.’ Trying to make things ‘certain’ is futile and more importantly, if everything is certain in our lives, where is the joy of discovery? (It’s not just meant for children.)

So as I am on this journey, I am discovering that when I expand my way of thinking, look at my life with curiosity, and explore new perspectives — discoveries abound!   The prairie path I took today I have probably traveled a million times over my lifetime. However, because I was not just out for the ride but was also looking for places to stop and work, I discovered some beautiful areas ‘off-road’ to stop and work. New discoveries!

Then, at one of the ‘off-road’ spots, another biker appeared and we started up a conversation. It turns out he is a consultant doing work I am aligned with! A new alliance perhaps, or simply discovering the connection in humanity — either way, discoveries and opportunities abound!

Entertaining new perspectives is sometimes a challenge when somebody else is not there bringing in their difference of opinion (new perspective). Sometimes, I think of people in my life, or even animals, and entertain what perspective they would bring to the table on this topic. I know if I had asked my dog Toby what to do when I got stuck-he would say, “Let’s go for a walk, please, please, please!!!” and you know, that would certainly open the space for me and help me to perhaps embrace a new perspective!

At one time or another we all experience a feeling of ‘stuck-ness’ whether it is mental, emotional or physical. Entertaining different perspectives affords you more possibility and opportunity.   Empowering yourself to choose which perspective you want to create from will give you complete ownership of your direction!

What Are You Becoming Aware Of?

leaf on a water. blurred.  ** Note: Slight blurriness, best at smaller sizesCoaches, this is a great question for ALL coaching sessions!  I know all too often we want to go right to the action item — it is tangible, measurable and gives us a sense of accomplishment in the coaching session.  However, the first indicator for the ICF Core Competency D:8 Facilitating Learning and Results is Creating Awareness.  Boy, that just is not as exciting and concrete as getting into action…or so I thought!

This core competency is the Kingpin!  It is what coaching is all about because when awareness is created, consciousness is raised to another level.  From awareness, a client can choose consciously what they want to do with that awareness.  When we are ‘unaware’ or ‘blind’ to an area within us, we will tend to spin our wheels trying different ways of making something happen.  What needs to happen is an awareness of what WITHIN us is keeping us from what we want!

How can you, as a coach, best support your client in creating awareness?  The first and most important indicator is staying focused on your client’s ‘being’ and not on the issue.  As coaches, we are not ‘fixers’.  If we truly believe in our client’s resourcefulness, we are called to get curious about their being so as they respond, they discover their resourcefulness.

What is getting curious about their ‘being’ really mean?  I believe it means being curious about their drivers: values and beliefs.  In any given situation or issue, they are either in dissonance or resonance with their values.  Values are integral to who your client is.  Helping clients to become more aware of their values helps them to consciously choose their next steps.  If they become aware that they are in dissonance with a specific value and want to move toward resonance, they can now consider specific options.

Beliefs are also a driver; however, beliefs can be inherited or learned and may or may not serve a client.  Oftentimes a client’s beliefs show up in their language patterns, such as ‘but it doesn’t matter’.  There is a belief here that whatever this client feels or thinks, it doesn’t matter.  Reflecting this pattern and using an inquiry such as, “where else this dismissiveness shows up in your life” may unlock some doors.  They may become aware of an underlying inherited/learned belief system that is not serving them.

Another way to help to support awareness is to check in with the 3 brains: head, heart and gut.  Once I had a client whose head and heart were in conflict, and going to the gut really helped them to move away from the conflict and gain clarity.  The head was attached to a belief system, the heart was attached to a value and the belief and value were conflicting!  As soon as the client went to the gut, she had a level of awareness that helped to sort through her belief and value conflict.  However, the question that really opened the space was, “where do you find the most energy?”  This helped her to clearly see that she wanted to follow her heart.

As a coach, we use many tools and techniques to help our clients gain awareness; however, the most powerful tool is self-awareness.  The more self aware we are, the more we are able to walk side by side with our clients on their journey of awareness.  Our insights and intuitiveness are derived from our own internal work and being.  “What are you becoming aware of?” is a question that can be asked not just to our clients but also as a daily practice in our own growth as coaches.

Direct Communication

Man at Peace Between Two Yelling Women 600x400I use to think of Direct Communication as being harsh; it felt like an order being barked at me.  At least that was within the framework of what I thought direct communication was.  By the International Coach Federation definition, Direct Communication is “the ability to communicate effectively during coaching sessions, and to use language that has the greatest positive impact on the client”.  What strikes me about this definition is the phrase ‘to use language that has the greatest positive impact.  I was confusing harsh directives with direct communication!

In Our Profession
I went deeper into this core competency to explore what the indicators were saying.  These are my thoughts:

  1. Is clear, articulate and direct in sharing and providing feedback
    1. In order to be clear, judgment cannot be part of the equation.
    2. In order to provide direct feedback, we have to be careful about managing those thoughts that come up such as “I don’t want to hurt my client, or “I am afraid of what they will think”.
    3. When providing feedback, make sure it is in service of your client.
  2. Reframes and articulates to help the client understand from another perspective what he/she wants or is uncertain about
    1. When we reframe, we give the client something to bounce off of.
  3. Clearly states coaching objectives, meeting agenda, purpose of techniques or exercises
    1. Direct communication is CLEAR communication.  Taking the time to clarify objectives, topic, and exercises throughout the coaching is supporting direct communication.
  4. Uses language appropriate and respectful to the client (e.g., non-sexist, non-racist, non-
technical, non-jargon)
    1. Learning how to neutralize your language is key in high-level communication skills.
    2. ‘Dis-charge’ charged words that carry heavy judgment. (For example: Dis-charge YOU SHOULD with “How could you…?” or “What would you…?”.)
  1. Uses metaphor and analogy to help to illustrate a point or paint a verbal picture
    1. Metaphor often paints a picture for your clients.  For visual learners, this type of communication is very effective.
    2. Analogies take an intangible concept and tie it to something tangible, so the concept is more concrete and understandable.

In our Businesses
We often think of our coaching clients as our only customers.  However, we have internal and external customers.  Our clients are our external customers and our ‘alliances’ such as our accountant, lawyer, vendors, other professionals, etc. are our internal customers.  If you adopt the following core competency as a way to communicate with your internal customers, it will help you to build a strong business foundation.

What would that look like?  It may be that you establish some customer service standards for your internal customers that look like this:

  • I will give my alliances clear, articulate and direct feedback on how our alliance is working.
  • I will offer other perspectives freely if I feel that it would benefit the alliance.
  • I will be clear on our alliances’ objectives and purpose.
  • I will frame my communication in a positive manner using neutral language.

These customer service standards give ‘intention’ to the level of communication you want to establish with your business alliances.  Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report highlights findings from Gallup’s ongoing study of the American workplace from 2010 through 2012.  In that report, the findings stated that 70% of U.S. employees are not engaged, which costs the U.S. $450-550 billion per year in lost productivity.  In a further study by SMB Communications, the findings support Gallup’s report by stating that $26,041 is the cumulative cost per worker per year, due to productivity losses resulting from COMMUNICATION barriers.  It is clear that there is a need for Direct Communication to support the navigation of relationships on many levels.

In our Lives
Practicing Direct Communication across the board, whether it is in life, business or coaching will help to elevate your communication skills.  A few more tidbits on Effective Communication:

  • Take it to the source first; meaning, if something happens that creates tension, go directly to the source and approach the topic.
  • Keep your communication where it belongs and heighten your awareness to who is in the space.
  • If the communication would be harmful to someone else, don’t put it out there until you are in a confidential space.  (This includes around small children as well — they have ears and are always processing!)

Communication is a very powerful tool — we can build up or tear down with our communication.  My belief is that most people want to build up and these are some great guidelines to support you on that path.

Powerful Questioning

Woman Older with Glasses Thinking 600x399

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I attended coaching school and was introduced to powerful questioning, I was in the life stage of having 3 teenage sons and my most-used powerful question was “WHAT were you thinking!?!?” It starts with a ‘what’ and it’s short!  I have come to learn that perhaps it would have been better received if I posed the question more like this: “What were your thoughts here?”  Yes, aside from the rules there is an art to asking a powerful question.  Let’s review the rules:

  • Start with a What, How or Where.
  • No longer than 5-7 words; otherwise, you are explaining, adding opinion or stacking questions.
  • Steer clear of ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’, which often feel heavy with judgment.
  • Steer clear of ‘why’ questions, which sometime puts people on the defensive.
  • Powerful Questioning addresses the person and not the situation, issue or problem.

What makes powerful questioning an art? One simple word: Heart!  Jack Canfield and Dr. Peter Chee wrote the book Coaching for Breakthrough Success, and in it they break coaching into Heart, Mind and Energy of the Coach.  I enjoy the model and I couldn’t agree more that masterful coaching comes mainly from the heart.  What is the spirit in which you coach?  How do you establish relationship and trust? How do you ask questions that empower? And the list goes on to demonstrate that the art of asking the right question at the right time comes from your heart being in the right place.

In order to truly ask powerful questions beyond the rules of structure, you have to be willing to tap into all your inner resources.  One of the ways to develop this is to practice asking yourself powerful questions in your everyday life situations.  Besides tapping into your coach for powerful questioning, use the practice of powerful questioning everyday as situations, issues or triggers show up.  Create questions that may tap into your heart, head, and gut.  As you practice on yourself, you will get a ‘real’ sense of what the question feels like.  Here are a couple more practices that you can incorporate in your everyday life to help you develop the art of powerful questioning.

  1. When in everyday conversation with people, play the 2 question game: make yourself ask 2 powerful questions prior to giving an advice, comment or opinion.
  1. If you are in a ‘charged’ situation, before you respond give yourself a time out and ask and answer as many powerful questions about the situation that you may ask a client in the same situation.  Record your answers as a way to take the ‘charge’ out of the situation and give you clarity in responding.

Remember the guideline when you are coaching clients: WAIT (Why am I talking) and LET (Listen, empathize and trust) YOUR CLIENTS SPEAK!  The Empathize space is where you step into your heart and the heart of the client. Let your questions be informed from that space.

Now how do you take WAIT and LET within? It is said we have 3 brains: our head, our heart and our gut.  When one of these is taking over, it is a good practice to WAIT and LET the other speak!

If you lead from your heart, WAIT and LET your head have a few words. It needs to sort out the facts. Ask yourself: what is your sense of the situation? Lead with your gut — which is your sense — then cross check with your head. What are the facts and how does your heart feel? This is the art of powerful questioning…inside and out!

Communicating Effectively: Active Listening

 

“WAIT!” This word in my coaching circles acts as a trigger and acronym for ‘Why Am I Talking!’ It is a gentle reminder that we, as coaches, serve at a higher level when we are actively listening to our clients. Listening is one of the fundamental skills of a professional coach. Regardless of the coaching school you graduated from, listening in one form or another is taught. Deep listening, active listening, committed listening, listening at level 1, 2 or 3 and the list goes on.

Woman Listening Hand to Ear 440x400Listening is a commitment to your client that you are present and giving them your full attention and support. Listening informs what powerful questions you may ask your client to support them in self-discovery of their own answers.

When we are listening, we are experiencing language, tonality, body language, feelings, and energy. In his book, “Coaching for Breakthrough Success”, Jack Canfield gives us a description of the difference between hearing and listening. He states that “hearing is a physical act and listening is an intellectual and emotional act. Hearing acknowledges sounds, whereas listening requires that we understand what was said. If we are really listening intently, we should feel a bit tired after our client has finished; effective listening is an active rather than a passive activity.”

Using the core competency identifiers of Communicating Effectively: Active Listening, I will offer some practices I use to continue to hone my skill of Active Listening.

  • I clarify the client’s topic for the call and restate the client’s agenda. I spend the first 10% of the session clearing from our last session and clarifying the focus for the day’s session. Throughout the call I refocus the client on their topic/agenda if we go off course.
  • I pay attention to the emotional field of my client, watching for subtle energy shifts during the coaching and using those shifts to inform my questions.
  • Being tuned into the client’s agenda and focus for the session, I pay particular attention to the use of language and question around the meaning to the client. This practice in particular has been the catalyst to shifts for my clients.
  • As a practice, I am always listening for unidentified values, beliefs and perspectives. I will help the client to identify the value, belief and/or perspective to add to their clarity of choice.
  • I train my coaching clients in self-coaching skills so they are also exploring their own language, discovering or uncovering values, beliefs and perspectives.

Most importantly, practice the skill of listening with yourself! Everything I outlined above, I practice on myself. Practice this Mantra when you are with your clients and you find yourself doing more than 20% of the talking: “WAIT (why am I talking) and LET (listen, empathize and trust) your client talk!

Presence…. In Coaching, In Business, In Life

In the International Coach Federations Core Competencies, Co-Creating the Relationship addresses the 3rd and 4th competency. This month we will explore the 4th competency, “Coaching Presence.” And again, we will explore this core competency through 3 lenses: your Profession (actual coaching), your Business (business practices), and your Life!

Profession-Coaching

In coaching, one of the greatest gifts we give our clients is presence. The ICF defines coaching presence as the ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, and confident. Within the competency there are 7 quantifiers for presence which can be found on the ICF website.  I want to share some practices I have developed over the years that have helped to support my presence with the client:

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  • Prior to the beginning of the session, I read over my notes from previous coaching sessions with this client.
  • I clear my desk so there are no distractions in front of me.
  • I have a little mantra I say to myself-No-where but Now-here is what my client needs.
  • The only thing I use my cell phone for is a 10 minute alarm that lets me know that the session is coming to a close. However, I put my phone on silent (the alarm still sounds) and I put it out of sight or face down. I let my clients know at the beginning of the session so they are not surprised when it goes off. That way we are both triggered to bring the coaching to a close.
  • I practice transparency with my clients-if I get lost and am not sure where we are going, I let them know.
  • I do regular check ins to make sure we are resonating.
  • I allow for whatever shows up in the session without agenda or judgment.
  • I go where the client leads and match their energy and language.
  • Even if the client chooses not to be fully present, I continue to hold my presence practices.

I have found these practices help to steer me towards giving my full attention to my client. These practices combined with the quantifiers that the ICF lays out, assist in establishing a co-created relationship grounded in trust and intimacy.

Business – Business Practices

Practices within my business that support ‘presence’ are demonstrated by my customer service standards. Again, the ICF emphasizes “the ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, and confident” and can be demonstrated by establishing your customer service standards. These may be communicated in your introductory letter. Customer Service standards could begin with an “I will” statement. A few of mine are:

  • I will maintain a flow of communication that lets my customer/clients know I care.
  • I will return all phone calls to my internal and external client/customer within 24 hours.
  • I will bring all communication to completion with a response even if it is just to say thank you.
  • I will be honest with my clients, delivering communication in a gracious way.
  • I will keep my client informed throughout whatever process I am engaged in with them.
  • I will treat my clients as lasting relationships

These translate into being fully conscious in the relationship, allowing for flexibility and openness through a high level of communication.

Life

The most impactful shift in my life has been one of mindful presence. I wish I could say that I gently flowed into mindful presence however, that would not be the truth! I CRASHED into mindful presence! In 2010 my world came to a screeching halt as I underwent two back surgeries in less than a months time. Very long story-shortened; I could not move more than a few steps a day for almost 3 months AND it took me almost 2 years to recover to what I would define as ‘slowski’s pace.’ Prior to my crash, I was the type of person that was always moving on to the next thing, planning for, setting goals and running, running, running.

What my slowski pace brought me was a deep appreciation for the gift of the present moment and all the pleasures I was missing by running right past them! A dear friend gifted me a mindfulness course based on Jon Kabat Zinn’s work which changed me forever! Mindfulness as defined by Jon Kabat Zinn is the practice of nonjudgmental, compassionate, moment to moment awareness. He lays out 7 mindfulness practices:

Non Judgingcultivating the stance of being an impartial witness to whatever we are experiencing, breaking out of the habitual categorizing and judging of experiences which lock us into automatic responses/reactions.

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Patiencea type of wisdom, recognizing that, at times, things must unfold at their own pace; letting go of the tendency to be impatient with ourselves, our efforts, etc.

Beginners Mindcoming to each experience as if for the first time; freeing ourselves from preconceptions and biases so that we may see things in a new light and perceive new possibilities.

Trustlearning to have faith in ourselves and our own intuition, honoring our own feelings, our native wisdom; following our own path, not imitating someone else.

Non-strivingnon-doing, with the intention of creating space for simply being who we are, being with what is already here; realizing that, in mediation, the best way to achieve our goals is to back off from striving and focus on seeing and accepting things as they are, in the moment.

Acceptanceseeing and accepting things as they really are in the present, which reduces the energy drained by denying, suppressing, or resisting what is already here, thus freeing and focusing our energies for positive change.

Letting Gonon-attachment, letting go of our investment in particular thoughts, feelings and experiences; not elevating one thing while rejecting another, but accepting whatever is here in the moment.¹

If you have not explored mindfulness and you find that you struggle with getting present – even to yourself, I encourage you to explore these mindfulness practices.

 

¹ Adapted from Jon Kabat-Zinn. (1990) Full Catastrophe Living; Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness.  New York: Delta. pp.33-39