What Is Coaching Anyway?
Coaching sessions are about an hour or more on the phone or in person and involve extensive dialogue. The purpose is not to offer therapy, relaxation or coping mechanisms but rather to find a pathway that works specifically for you, so you can apply it every day to your life.
Language is important because a word or phrase that triggers understanding in one person may confuse someone else. There is no script, just a mutual connection. Fit is important.
One of my favorite quotes that echoes this philosophy is:
"The teacher and the taught create the teaching."
As a coach, my goal is to try another tack when there is confusion and to continue deepening the exploration when there is understanding.
Being A Client
Most of my clients have a strong desire to learn and grow. They want to be better versions of themselves.
The focus is often on work: being a better leader, managing time, communicating effectively. We also cover other areas such as work/life balance, having a stronger sense of purpose and meaning, being a better listener, partner, and even parent. There's a notable commitment to self-understanding.
This is ultimately a path to self-awareness. How can it be any other way? Only you know the path towards the goals you identified. I serve as a brief companion on that long journey of self-reflection.
A Peek Into A Coaching Session
Below is a sample of how a session could go:
Client: can you give me ways to be calm and focused when I'm at work?
Coach: tell me about a time when you were completely relaxed and comfortable just where you were.
Client: it was at my best friend's house when we were talking about our kids.
Coach: what exactly was comfortable about it?
Client: there was a natural ease to the conversation where I didn't have to struggle to be myself. I wasn't wearing a mask, the way I feel like I do at work.
Coach: why a mask? Do you not feel like yourself at work?
Client: in a way. I feel out of place, like I have to try to be someone else.
Coach: where does that thought that you have to be someone else come from?
Client: doubt, I guess. Because I feel like I don't know what to do to take care of the situation.
Coach: why don't you feel doubt when you're at your friend's house?
Client: because I'm completely accepted in that environment.
Coach: Okay. So what can you do to create acceptance of yourself at work?
Client: I suppose I can express myself truly.
Coach: just as you are?
Client: yeah I suppose.
Client: and then I'll be at ease because I'm myself.
Coach: now let's talk about ways you can remind yourself of that when you're at work...
The conversation continues until we figure out triggers that work in different environments, such as at work, home, or in stressful situations. We work together to identify habits that enable self-awareness and situational awareness.
This is only 10 minutes out of a 60 to 90 minute conversation, where we discover tactics, techniques, and methods that make sense for the client. Figuring out a path specific to them holds greater value because in fact they themselves discovered it.
An Opportunity To Reflect
We rarely give ourselves the opportunity to have these conversations about self-growth, self-improvement and self-reflection. We might have done this when we were younger, perhaps in college, but our busy lives don't allow us this luxury often, if ever.
That is the purpose of coaching. Typically, my clients start with a commitment of 3 months so they can experiment and see results, but clients have stayed on for years because they see continual growth. Sometimes, my clients take breaks for 3-6 months. I hear from them if and when their path has wavered or when they are looking to grow along a different path, or perhaps deepen their knowledge of themselves.
Everyone needs a place for reflection, whether it's your daily journal, your religious institution, your community or a good friend you talk to regularly. Reflection makes you better, not tomorrow but today.
Being A Coach
I have had various roles in corporations - executive, consultant, employee, entrepreneur - and I continue to work in healthcare to improve the system of care for patients. I live the life my clients live, which tunes me into the daily struggles we all face at work or otherwise.
Coaching is more than a role for me though. I revel in it. I cherish and respect this process. It's what I think about naturally. It's who I am, and what moves me. I get energy from every phone call and meeting.
Hard questions need attention and time, which is the point of coaching. We get that time to step back and evaluate, and build strategically towards the future. What comes out of it may completely change how you do things, or just tweak it a little bit, depending on what's right for you.
Regardless, you learn something about yourself through the process. Gaining in-sight that is invaluable to how you see and interact with the world.
What would you work on if you had a coach? If any of this appeals to you, click here to learn more about my work, or simply email me. I always start with a free 30-minute session to see if there's a fit.
Does Leadership = Power?
There is a strong, even evolutionary association between leadership and power. It's coded in us to see those that take charge as those that are somehow more than us, better than us. We applaud the Steve Jobs' and Elon Musks of the world, emulating their habits, hoping one day we can be like them.
Startup founders perhaps suffer more from the illusion that leadership = power than most people, especially because of the media hype around successful rags to riches founders.
When you translate this ego-based viewpoint to the social good space though, it feels off, and not aligned with the ethos of what social entrepreneurship represents.
This "granted power" can seem uplifting, but it is problematic in its very nature.
Problem #1: Granted power can lead to an authority complex
A title by itself will grant you authority over others. Regardless of who you are or what your credentials indicate, if you walk in as a CXO, people will listen that much more closely to what you have to say. This is dangerous, because like anybody else, you can be wrong.
Solution: Use the "obligation to dissent" to allow colleagues to speak up
To correct for this, great leaders allow for the "obligation to dissent". This allows others the leeway to disagree with you regardless of your authority. Those "under" you no longer feel that way, rather they have right as equal as the leader to say "no" to something.
Problem #2: Granted power can lead to imposter syndrome
At times, you will feel like you don't know what you're doing, maybe even most of the time if you're new to a leadership role. But people will look to you to make decisions. The truth is you can't know what to do all the time.
Solution: Hire smart, subject matter experts
To correct for this, you appoint people smarter than you in the subject areas you're unsure of and lean on them on a regular basis. You are no more an imposter than anyone else who was or will be granted that position, but you can't allow the pressure to be "right" to lead you into making poor decisions.
The Emergence of Self-Managing Organizations
Knowing these problems are inherent in leadership, some organizations are even eliminating leadership roles entirely. Instead, these new type of organizations are relying on teams themselves, not those that lead them.
The idea of self-managing organizations isn't as radical as it used to be and companies like Zappos, Medium, and Morning Star are well on their way of achieving great successes without leadership.
Self-managing organizations is a topic worth an article of its own. Till then, be mindful of the relationship between leadership and power.
Who are leaders you respect, and why? Do you believe leadership and power go hand-in-hand?
Share your thoughts with me over email. (These emails only come to me and are never shared with others. In fact, I often write future posts based on some of the questions and ideas from these emails.)
I am excited to continue publishing articles for Conscious Magazine. Below is an article initially meant for business owners that applies across the board to anyone who hopes to uphold a set of values in their work.
There's a code at the Open Society Foundations (OSF) that reimburses employees for bringing a housewarming gift if they choose to stay at a friend's house during their work travels.
A simple alpha numeric code allows the company to make an act of gratitude possible for saving money for lodging.
OSF doesn't have to do this, most companies don't.
But an alpha numeric code serves as a reflection of their code of values. Values passed on to employees to continue or defend if they move to another company or start one of their own.
In order to bring your values to life and make them actionable, you must first define the code you want your company to live by.
Start with your identity as a company:
These examples are based on real-life companies that I have encountered or worked with.
When you step back from the situation, the blind spots seem remarkable, but when you're deep into running a business, it's easy to overlook your most important value-based codes.
Take a moment to check in with what your organization represents today and what you'd like it to represent tomorrow. Discuss openly with your colleagues what you'd like to prioritize.
This is not one person's decision, but rather a collective agreement on what you hope to espouse in the world.
Codifying those values into your business makes them a reality.
What identity does your organization have or hope to represent? How does it align with your core professional and personal values?
Share your thoughts with me over email. (These emails only come to me and are never shared with others. In fact, they often help me come up with ideas for future posts I can share with a broader audience.)
Originally published on Conscious.
When you attempt to solve a problem, are you thinking with a clear, open mind, available to any solution that presents itself? Or are you thinking from your own lens of experience, education, and beliefs? Is it even possible to think outside of yourself?
Why is an open mindset so important? Like a marketing company selectively using data from one study versus another to push their product, we are all culprit to lean towards information and people that support our views and avoid those that don’t. This is the exact bias we must be wary of.
We must to be open to the best solution, not just our solution. No solution is completely your own, but you’re in the unique position of being the one to execute that solution.
Being open to even better solutions than the ones you come up with shouldn’t be a dangerous or vulnerable place. You makes things happen, not just their ideas.
We can’t avoid approaching a situation from our conditioning; our accumulated understanding from the past helping us reflect on the present. A businesswoman with an MBA and 11 years of experience in insurance has certain ideas she carries with her. A civil engineer from the Midwest with three kids brings with him a specific way of thinking.
Our jobs even hire us for our past conditioning, reinforcing the idea that what we have done is more important than how or why we’re doing it. We have to be especially alert as entrepreneurs who sincerely believe in the idea we’re developing.
How are we then to approach a difficult, complex, wicked problem from what we know to be an inherently biased perspective? How can we avoid being a hammer looking for a nail when our education and experience have prepared us so well to be a great hammer?
Approach it with the scientific method. Prove yourself wrong. Test your hypothetical solution from all angles. Be completely attentive to what is present before you, attuned to both what you notice immediately and alert to any details available to you, not just the ones you’re trained to see.
You are already the accumulation of your past acting in the present moment and that is unavoidable. It’s when your past conditioning is used as a crutch to support assumptions that make you right that another problem is brought into the equation.
You are not right, rather there is a right solution. Are you looking for it, or looking to be the one who finds it? Please share your thoughts over email.
Originally published on Conscious.
By equating a boss with a leader, do we limit the potential of everyone to be a leader?
A "boss" is just a title, whereas leadership shows up in a variety of forms in all people. By limiting leadership only to the bosses, is the organization limiting itself?
Leaders care about why things get done. Bosses just want things to get done.
Bosses maintain order for the sake of order. Leaders introduce order for the sake of progress.
“What’s this person going to think of me if I don’t get this done?” vs. “What am I going to think of this person if they don’t pick the right thing to get done?”
Leaders facilitate. Bosses manage.
Boil it down to the most basic level, and even “boss” and “leader” are just labels. The true question is this, “Is everyone in the organization facilitating progress towards what matters?”
Is your boss a leader? If not, what can you do to challenge them to be a leader? Since this can be a sensitive topic not easily shared via public comments, email me your thoughts. I'm curious about transforming bosses to leaders from the bottom up and I'd love to hear from you.