Monthly Archives: May 2012

Down Time? Maybe it’s Up Time.

I’ve just finished reading Duanna Pang-Dokland’s Inspired and Prosperous. Her interviews with eleven coaches include some wonderful ideas for revitalizing your life, whether you’re a coach or not. One theme that stayed with me was the ongoing discussion of the ebb and flow of business.

Do you have down time? Is that what you call it? How do you view it? It strikes me that calling the lulls in my business “down time” is a bad beginning. Many people spoke about being resilient and keeping a positive outlook. Donna Karlin’s   response spoke to my heart. She doesn’t see it as down time. She sees lulls in client traffic as the perfect opportunity to write, to work on projects, to renew.

I loved this – a lull in traffic? It’s an up time! Shifting to the perspective of the gift of time for other pursuits epitomizes abundance thinking to me. I plan to look forward to those breaks in the frenetic pace of meetings and appointments to turn to my unfinished project pile. What a great opportunity to read more, to write more, to try that new recipe, clean out the closets, meet friends for lunch or a walk. I might even meditate. I might even finish knitting that sweater.

The possibilities are limitless.

Madness as a Leadership Asset

A while ago I attended a Womansphere event honoring Linda Cureton, CIO of NASA, who has recently published a wonderful book, The Leadership Muse.

During her presentation, Linda mentioned that a good leader probably needed to be a little crazy and cited S. Nassir Ghaemi’s A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness. It’s on my Kindle and I haven’t been able to put it down. Ghaemi describes a group of leaders, including General Sherman, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill, who suffered from mental illness. Yet each was an excellent leader.

Ghaemi feels that a certain madness is essential in turbulent times, while sanity can be an asset in times of calm. He cites the creativity that comes with mania and the greater sense of realism that comes from depression. Early disappointments, he feels, (echoing Chip Conley’s thinking in Emotional Equations), can result in a realistic attitude towards life and therefore better judgments.

Perhaps sanity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. An interesting thought. And a great read.

Everyone Can Be a Coach?

Thomas Leonard, called by many the father of modern coaching, always said everyone can be a coach. I’m not altogether sold on that. What I do believe, though, is that everyone can and should use coaching skills. The kind of clear, open communication, deep listening, and support that exist within a coaching relationship can be learned and would enhance all our relationships.

The International Association of Coaching created nine Coaching Masteries™ that create a framework that describe excellence in coaching. They also describe a set of skills that could enhance the work of managers, health care professionals, teachers, parents, and, in fact, anyone who interacts with other people.

Here’s a quick look at the IAC Coaching Masteries™:

1. Establishing and maintaining a relationship of trust.

This is about creating a supportive relationship and a safe space for personal transformation. What would it be like if every teacher practiced this skill? How much more would our children learn?

2. Perceiving, affirming and expanding the client’s potential.

This one could change the world if we all tried it. What can you notice that’s special in everyone you encounter/ Do you let them know?

3. Engaged listening

Most managers have had training in Active Listening. And many forget to use the skills. Are you paying full attention to the conversations you’re in? Are you attuned to the subtleties? Body language? Intonation? There’s valuable information there.

4. Processing in the present.

How often do you drift in a conversation? How often are you focused on anything but the present moment? Staying in the present helps us avoid judgements. It stops the act of putting things off and the fantasy that all we need to do is wait. Processing in the present keeps coach and client, manager and staff, teacher and student focused on what is really going on.

5. Expressing

Sounds simple, right? This is about going beyond simple talking to being aware of all aspects of communication.

6. Clarifying

How can we communicate in ways that are clear, simple and direct? How can we help someone else set and maintain clear goals? Managers should have this as an integral part of their skill set. Health care workers could use this Mastery to work towards real health.

8. Inviting possibilities.

Are you curious? Do you wonder, “what if?” Do you explore not only all the available options but invent a few more?  this is expansion a its best.

9. Helping clients create and use supportive environments.

How can we all help each other develop and maintain support networks? How can teachers, managers, parents, friends encourage growth?

That’s a quick glimpse of a system that can work for all of us. How can you incorporate these into your life?

You Might as Well Laugh

It’s May on the calendar and it’s been winter outside my window forever. Pretty much winter in my office too – I’ve got three layers of clothing on and the sandals in my closet are mocking me. No one I know actually saw the epic full moon Saturday because the cloud cover was so dense.
I started my morning and ended my day with two spectacular coaching calls. both clients had incredible breakthroughs and I was dancing. I’m still smiling.
But what I want to talk about is the time between those two calls. When I spoke to my own coach, I had a long, long list of complaints. And I just let loose with them. The list was so long that it made me laugh – and that’s how the call ended – with both of us sharing a lovely, long laugh. Sometimes, when things seem really bad and you can’t see a way out, you might as well laugh. So we did.
It was a very full day. I had six client calls that followed the same pattern. The clients all work for the same organization and are suffering various degrees of stress and overload in the wake of several significant retirements and two waves of layoffs. One has a boss who is prone to shouting. Another has an ever-increasing workload. A third has a subordinate who has taken passive-aggressive behavior to new levels. We’ve been working through these and similar issues with varying degrees of success. Today, though, was pretty much about complaining.
I let everyone vent. Sometimes, that’s the best coaching – just listen and go along for the ride. And I encouraged it. Exaggerated it. Egged them on. Until they laughed. Six depressed people became six people who were able to find some humor in their situation.
Sometimes – often, really, we can work on ourselves or with our coaches or with our clients to craft brilliant action plans. Sometimes we can take some baby steps towards change. And sometimes, we just can’t. And when you can’t, you can at least shift the mood.
When the going gets tough, you might as well laugh.

Previously posted on the Expanding Your Comfort Zone blog.

Overburdened? Put-upon? Why?

In the past few months, more people than usual have been asking me to do things. Sound familiar? Somehow, projects seem to come in clusters, don’t they. And somehow, it’s easy to forget how many projects I’ve already said yes to. And somehow, it’s hard to say no.

So, sometimes I feel like this –

Put-upon. Very, very put-upon. And resentful. Very, very resentful. Why?
It’s so easy to go to a negative space. Why me? Why couldn’t they ask someone else? Don’t they see how busy I am?

Sometimes I feel resentful. Especially when the person asking doesn’t seem willing to take no for an answer. Or tells me that they’ve managed to fit one more thing into their busy life. Or tells me I’ll have lots of support. Or tells me it will be good for me to take on this responsibility.

I knew that I had work to do if I wanted to say no cleanly to the latest request. So, of course, I called my coach. We teased out my reactions. We looked at the motivations I was ascribing to other people. We eliminated several pounds of unwelcome mind-chatter.

I had been feeling tricked because the scope of the project was revealed in bits and pieces. I had been feeling angry that other people seemed to feel they knew what was best for me. As we peeled away the levels, I found myself laughing about the situation.

No one was acting out of malice or bad motives. They simply found a way to solve an organizational problem. They were putting the organization first. And, having found a workable solution (from their viewpoint) were not willing to move on to another. With my coach’s help, I was able to see that that was them. Not me. The solution works well for them. Not me. And, essentially, their need to move on is really not my problem. It’s theirs.

So, I’m going to use that word I’m always telling my clients they need to use. No. Yes, I am flattered; yes, I do understand why you asked me, but no. I can’t do this right now. Thank you for asking.

If they are disappointed, they will deal with it and move on. I will not hold their disappointment. I will not feel guilty for taking care of myself. In fact, I’m absolutely delighted to acknowledge my capacity and – yes – limitations.

I knew what I wanted all along. With a little great coaching, I was able to be comfortable with my decision – to make it without guilt or resentment.
Taking the time to examine my feelings and separate facts from stories and reframe made all the difference.

And now I feel like this –

*Previously posted on the Expanding Your Comfort Zone blog.