(+61) 451 886 226

Coaching Reflections

TIME TO JUST BE

img_3400

One of the greatest gifts my profession gives me is the opportunity to observe and learn from others. Without fail, one of the most consistent pieces of feedback I get from coachees is the value they get from taking time out to think. It creates the space for reflection, learning and growth.

Information overload, constant change, multiple roles, competing priorities and the rapid pace with which we live our lives mean that unless we intentionally slow down, we are at risk of living unconsciously. It’s certainly not a new idea, but in our complex, uncertain world it’s become more important to slow down to achieve more.

Research tells us the ‘24/7, always on’ world in which we live overloads our neural circuits. It tells us that creative thinking gives way to process and that our empathy and connection to others decreases. (See this great article in the Harvard Business Review)

So I’m taking time out.

It started as a conversation with my sons, as we idly day dreamed around how fantastic it would be for me to be home with them as they prepared for and wrote their final school exams. Idle day dreaming turned into a simple ‘why not?’ and a few conversations later, I find myself typing this as I am about to take time out for 30 days.

Yes, I have a few work things to do whilst I’m away from the office. And a new house to look for. But I’ve zealously guarded and protected the next few weeks because I know how meaningful and valuable this time is. It’s time for me to connect, to think, to support, to breathe, to reflect … and to just be. It’s probably also the last time that my ‘almost men’ will need me for a lengthy period of time.

I can’t wait. I’m off to sit. And possibly bake some cookies.

Share Button

GROWTH IS NOT A STRAIGHT LINE

When you open yourself up to a learning journey, professional and personal development is a never-ending quest to actualize, to become more of who you truly are as you offer more of your authentic self to your world.

In leadership training, I often ask leaders to plot their career journey so that they can take a step back from their reality and reflect on their journey. This process of reflection is important because our daily lives are so busy that we often get lost in the maelstrom of busyness and so aren’t able to appreciate the lessons we are learning. And as it so happens, reflection is a critical piece in the learning cycle – read more on Kolb’s model here http://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html

I so often hear from the wonderful people I coach that one of the most valuable aspects of coaching is the time devoted to reflection and deepening an understanding of self. Without fail, each one of these leaders have gone through tough times, periods where they doubted themselves, and where they felt like no matter what they did, they got poor results.

The trick is not to get caught up in the spiral, but to step back from it and identify how to move onto the next curve.

The tool I use is really quite simple. And it works not only in a professional context, but is also a tool for personal reflection.

Start by dividing the x axis into segments of time, with the y axis representing your fulfillment / success – however you define it. You then plot your career (or personal) journey over time, which may look something like this …

Career Journey May 2016

The idea is to then take time to reflect on what created the peaks and the troughs. How did the environment contribute / what was it about your boss, the culture, your role that facilitated this ? If you are doing a personal journey, reflect on your stage of life; what was giving you meaning, what were you contributing, what you were learning and who was in your world at the time.

With these insights, it’s onto the real question : “Now that you are consciously aware of what sets you up for success, how can you create the next peak (or indeed extend a peak)?”

You may need to create some change in order to jump to a new curve, or prevent a decline – and that change in itself may create some downward momentum for a while. But the idea is to do it consciously, using the factors for your success and happiness so that you know what you are moving towards and how to create it.

If you are an organizational leader, take some time to look at the success of your organization over time and identify what created success, what role you played and how you can contribute to additional peaks. You can do this for teams, departments, functions, families and relationships.

I’ve placed the basic template in the ‘resources’ section on my website. Please download it, give yourself space and time to reflect and then start planning consciously. I’m really keen to hear what you discover. To your success and happiness !

Share Button

ARE ALL SKILLS EQUAL ?

I was working with a creative, innovative leader yesterday, who knowing that I write fairly regularly, asked me for feedback on an article she had written, as she felt unsure of her writing skills.Strengths

As I reflected on her request, it got me thinking about the relative value of skills. In the leadership development space, most of us have at some stage, made use of or referred to Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. This was the theory (and assessment tool) that was developed after 30 years of research that for the first time allowed individuals to identify and leverage their innate skills based on how they naturally think, feel and behave. Not surprisingly, it evolved to include inherent leadership strengths and practices, which led to the concept of Strength Based Leadership. Likewise, the recent Multiplier Leader theory also encompasses the concept of harnessing the genius of natural talent. Even Howard Gardner with his model of Multiple Intelligence in 1983 made the case for difference and the value that diverse talents bring.

But – as with so many models, the application is sorely lacking.

I have coached countless leaders who do not believe they have the skill of x or y, and that they are somehow ‘less than’ a peer who has it. I have even coached an enormously successful (think many million USD’s) Director of a public corporation who believed he was not intelligent in the conventional IQ sense.

Yet all these leaders and executives are ok when they lack creative intelligence – when they can’t draw or paint. (How about innovate?) They’re even ok if they can’t play a musical instrument – musical intelligence. But for some reason “I can’t draw” gets judged very differently to “maths isn’t my strength”. Likewise, having verbal ability is often judged as being less valuable than having writing skills.

Even emotional intelligence (EQ), which is so critical to leadership (and in my opinion, is the most critical competency) often pales into relative insignificance when leaders compare this ability to their mathematical or accounting prowess.

As I see it, there are 2 solutions here. The first is identifying what you’re good at, and doing that consistently until you build an undeniable expertise in the area.

The second is to really believe that no one skill is better. You can do some things better than me. I can do some things better than you. We’re not better than each other. We complement each other. (Which is why diversity is so critical. More on that another day). But until YOU believe it, you’ll never feel equal.

Share Button

OK, WE GET IT …

Female LeadersLast night I had the pleasure of having dinner with an old friend and coachee.

She regaled me with hilarious tales of her latest (female) boss, and reminded me how important it is for leaders to be aware of a couple of things

Ladies, you are not men. You do not need to put ‘it’ on the table. Even, and especially, if you are in the minority, working alongside a bunch of men, you do not need to act like them. If you do, your staff will laugh at you. Period. You look like an ass.

Harvard Business Review’s September 2013 edition, leads with the headline “ Emotional, Bossy, Too Nice – the biases that still hold female leaders back”

Other than the word “emotional”, which does rankle a bit (probably because there’s an element of truth) in it, the other two words can be applied to all leaders.

I’m currently coaching a phenomenal young leader. He made partner at a really young age, and is leading a global team. He’s smart, articulate, considered – did I say smart ?  As part of my Executive Coaching Programmes, I request key stakeholder feedback – this is what one of his direct reports had to say : “ He likes to be the boss. That is fine. But he is already the boss”.

We get that you have arrived. Everyone can see you are the boss. Stop showing off and trying to prove it.

All it shows us, and what both examples have in common, is a lack of self-confidence. Ladies (and guys), please remember that when viewed from the outside, all others can do is guess the motives for your behavior.

At best they may guess that you’re trying to prove yourself. At worst, they may guess that you’re in over your head; that you lack confidence and thus need to throw your weight around to ‘stamp your authority’ on those whom you don’t really know how to lead.

And because they don’t really know what the truth is, they’ll test you until they get you or until you get real.

Share Button

BACK TO BASICS

Having just returned from a 12 day trip to Bali, where I assisted as a Team Leader on the Meta-Coach Mastery Training, I find I have renewed appreciation for the basics.

As in any profession, coaches define their skills (their ‘how to’) in concrete terms. We need to know what to do, why, when, where, with whom and how. It’s not a random conversation – but a fierce one that is structured to really get to the heart of the matter. And so, like in any profession, continuing education is vital to maintaining our edge and skill level.

And I have just had a skill fest. Not only was there a requirement to model the skills, competencies and attitude of a coach, but as a team leader, I had the opportunity to step up and lead a strong group of leaders in their field. People who are used to leading, not following. And then I got to benchmark their skills, looking at the structure of their coaching sessions, stretching their skill level and supporting them as best I could. And in return, they taught me.

In so many different ways, every person I interacted with taught me about disclosure and reminded me how vital emotional connection is.

For a few months, I have been aware of a discontent deep with in me. Not for anything material – but for the return of my essence. I have taken myself and what I do so seriously that it’s given me a hard edge.  So whilst my intention to contribute as much as I am able has been good, it has resulted in a dis-ease at my core.

I realised this week that I could sum up in one word how I’ve been feeling. And that word would be ‘impatient’. It stops me from living in the present as I continually focus on ‘what else’ I need to or want to do.  It sets my body on edge and stops me from connecting lovingly and joyfully with my world and the people in it.

I remarked last night to Michael Hall (co-founder of the Meta-Coach Training system, and trainer of the program in Bali), that the Indonesian people leave me humbled at their ability to connect and live life wholeheartedly. Time after time this week, I observed people jumping into each other’s photographs, dancing without inhibition, hugging each other with full embraces, and laughing from their toes. I felt so welcomed into a community of people that I’d never met before and received gifts of love from so many special people, that I leave this beautiful island filled with a sense of peace and love. I leave with special memories as to how precious our hearts are, and the value that truly suspending time and connecting with another human being brings.

And yes, I also leave with coaching skills that have deepened and sharpened – and I’m ready for some serious action.

Share Button

HOWZIT!

Sometimes inspiration for this blog comes from the most unlikely of places. Last Friday night my husband and I were talking about the joy of understanding colloquial language. I had just finished a coaching session via Skype to a Client in South Africa, and the Client mentioned that if he didn’t do the self-awareness work that was staring him in the face, that the ‘tokoloshe’ would still be ‘under the bed’. OMG, how to explain that to non South-Africans … basically it means that the fear / danger would still be present. My insight when recounting the story was that if I had not understood the colloquialism, it would have taken quite a bit of explanation on my Client’s part to explain the concept. And our rapport and shared experience would have been lost. I would have been ‘different’ to him, having ‘not got’ what he was saying.

And so my husband proceeded to tell me a great story about his arrival in Singapore. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting James, let me just say that he is not known for his introverted nature. The man is loud ! And as is his way, he greets people effusively with a big smile in the morning. But when he started work at Ogilvy Singapore, no-one greeted him back. He initially figured that people were a bit more conservative than his Saffa counterparts, until one day he said ‘good morning’ to someone – and was greeted with a big smile and a ‘good morning James’ in return. And then the penny dropped …. Our custom is to say ‘howzit’ when we greet someone, irrespective of the time of day. It means ‘hi, how are you, I hope you have / or have had a good day, what’s up?’. But if no-one understands your colloquialism, you’re not communicating.

And that is why multi-cultural awareness is so important. I’ve just read a report by Korn/Ferry stating that one way for leaders to broaden their skills base is to work overseas. Last year, The Journal of NeuroLeadership published research on how the culturally intelligent brain not only detects – but can bridge cultural differences. And with the world becoming smaller – and business challenges more complex, I think it is critical not only for leaders, but for all global citizens to understand how to operate effectively in a globalized world.

I see it on a daily basis in my practice, as I coach leaders who are French, British, American, Swiss, Australian – and how one of their primary challenges when coming to Asia is not only understanding the Asian context and environment, but that of the myriad nationalities who live and work in Singapore. My guess is that it would be no different in New York, London or Abuja.

I hear it in my children’s voices when they easily say hello in Mandarin, French, Zulu, English or Japanese. Even if they don’t know what to say after ‘hello’, they are immersed, without knowing it, in a polyglot of cultural differences – and my wish is that they assimilate an intuitive understanding of all of them. My wish is that it makes them better global citizens, and that the lesson of multi-cultural acceptance and understanding that was born in South Africa, continues and serves them in whatever journeys they take.

This exposure to difference – different culture, different values, different food, different languages – this difference make us all so much more. There IS strength in diversity, in flexibility and in being comfortable with the new.

And life of course is so serendipitous – today I saw the great pic that ends off this post on Feel Good Lifestyle’s facebook page. Not all of us can experience working and studying abroad; not all of us want that experience. But we can all travel. If not you – encourage your children to.

And if you ever meet me and I say ‘howzit’, know that I’m simply saying ‘hello & I care about you’ in another language.

Share Button

WHY ALL THE FUSS?

You know how when you’re not in an industry it can be bemusing, sometimes even ridiculous how people go on about what they do and why it’s so important / fascinating / special ???

Well, why the fuss around Leadership ? What’s so special about Leaders ?

Surely they’ve got to the top, they get paid a fortune – do they really need any more attention ?

Well, actually – yes, they do. Because the more effective your leaders are, the more successful your organization is going to be.

So, I hear you say, I am an entrepreneur …. Yeah, well …the more effective your leadership skills, the more successful your business is going to be.  I am a manager – let’s say it again ….. the more effective your leadership skills are, the more successful your team is going to be. ¹

So, for me, this is a fuss worth getting.

If you’re really serious about being successful (however you define that is up to you), then look at your leadership skills. Skills like relating to others – your interpersonal skills. Do you get on with people ?  Do you develop them ? Just because you are a technical expert, doesn’t mean you are a people expert .

Are you self-aware ? Or are you oblivious to your strengths and your shortcomings ? Do you have a healthy understanding of the system in which you operate, the big picture and the causes – not just the symptoms of the challenges you face? Do you collaborate – or compete ?

Most importantly, are you Authentic ?

One of the leadership effectiveness skills most highly correlated with business performance is … not ambition, not control, not perfection … but Authenticity. ²

When you know who you are and you know what you stand for, you demonstrate integrity. You walk your talk, you can be trusted to do what you say. You’re willing to take a stand, have the tough conversation, not duck the issues. Why ? Because you know what matters to you. And a leader without an internal compass has no hope of setting a direction or vision for his or her team. And whether it be crystal clear, or smudgy and blurred, your results will be a direct reflection of your vision.

So in whichever context you lead … as a manager, as a manager of managers, as an Executive, as a parent – start by leading yourself. Start by aligning who you are with what you do and say – and then humbly give gratitude for the success that comes your way.

(If you’d like to know more, and are curious as to how developed your Leadership skills and competencies are, as well as gain insight into your habits and behaviour patterns, drop me a line – I’ve got a phenomenal process to share with you)

¹ http://www.theleadershipcircle.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/12_OrgPerformance.pdf

² Figure 3. http://www.theleadershipcircle.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/13_TLC_profile.pdf

Share Button

DREAM BIG. THINK SMART

I love synchronicity. And yesterday a few of my worlds collided when I received a mail from a client (and friend) around Seth Godin’s education manifesto. I love Seth Godin. I wish I had written Linchpin. I’ve recommended it to so many Clients. And now I’m going to recommend that you download and read his education manifesto @ www.stopstealingdreams.com

But first, read on and find out why I care so much ….

You see, education and coaching are pretty similar. They both involve potential. And they both involve dreams. Dreams that ignite passion, which result in skills and knowledge. Not dis-empowering, unrealistic pipe dreams, or belittling,  shameful, settling for second best dreams, but dreams that are based on possibility, opportunity, self reliance, self worth – bold dreams where the person has to push themselves to create a new reality.

3 years ago I was invited by my children’s then headmaster to give a talk on self-actualization for children. My presentation was based around the premise contained in one of Dr. Seuss’ less well known books, Diffendoofer Day. The story involves a school where the teachers make up their own rules and teach ‘stuff not taught at other schools’. One day the children have to take an impromptu, external test which could result in the closure of their beloved school if they fail.

As the story tells it :

Miss Bonkers rose “Don’t fret” she said 

‘You’ve learned the things you need

To pass that test and many more –

I’m certain you’ll succeed.

 

We’ve taught you that the earth is round

That red and white make pink,

And something else that matters more –

We’ve taught you how to think !!!

The feedback I got from this talk was interesting. In particular, one of the teachers likened it to a Psych lecture. I think she missed the point … the point was about instilling a love of learning and thinking in our children to create independent, aware, actualized, creative thinkers as opposed to obedient, rote, humanized machines.  How many schools and teachers are still missing the point ? Education is not about testing facts or pushing data, systems and processes down children’s throats – it’s about teaching higher order, creative thinking.

Why do we want to do that? So that our workforce becomes creative, engaged, innovative, solutions-focused and independent. So that we can create industries that never existed 10 years ago. So that we can self-actualize and fulfill our potential. So that we can help grow our economies. So that we can give back. So that we have the worth to dream boldy and the confidence to turn our dreams into a new reality.

Facts are facts – anyone can find facts in what is being called the ‘connection revolution’. Do we really need to spend our childhood memorizing them when we can access any fact in 0.1 seconds ? Facts are no longer a valuable currency. People like me and countless other business owners give away facts, information and literature for free. Why? Because facts on their own mean nothing. It is the interrelation, pattern detection, understanding, synthesis and innovative thinking that come from wrestling with the facts that is valuable

I am currently coaching an amazing young woman who is studying for a law degree. Yesterday she shared with me that knowing the facts was ‘not enough’. She admitted that being able to supply the required data would get her to pass – but in order to excel, to do really well, she realized that she has to interpret the facts, use them to find solutions to problems and create new thinking.

At the same time, I have been working with my children this week on the skill of essay writing. They are going to Vietnam on school camp in a couple of weeks and were required to write an essay on how Communism has shaped the identity of the Vietnamese (This, at 13 years of age – gotta love the IB programme !). And as I worked with them, I repeated one phrase over and over. “So what ?” I wanted to know what those facts meant, why they were relevant, and what new thinking they could result in. That’s called Learning.

So what does all this have to do with coaching – leadership coaching in particular ?

One of the key dimensions of leadership is being a visionary. It’s about going where no-one has gone before. Call it intelligent dreaming. It’s about seeing a new future and having the strength to take others there. Leadership is about many things, but without creativity, innovation and original thought, you’ll always be a follower. Waiting to be told what to do, rather than figuring out new things to do and new ways of doing them.

So if you’re tired of being told what to do, how to do it, and following the same process to ‘do it right each time’, maybe it’s time you started thinking.

And read the manifesto. If not yours, it could change a child’s future.

Share Button

RELOCATION 102

Whilst this blog is generally about insights and reflections gained from my coaching practice, I occasionally post something of a personal nature and share my lessons with you. In February of this year I wrote about how the process of relocation felt. And today, it felt like the right time for an update. If that was my Semester One report, then read on for Semester Two’s progress.

One of the things I love about living in Singapore is the multi-culturalism and absolute acceptance and celebration of different religions. So far this year, we have celebrated Chinese New Year, Easter, Buddha’s Birthday (Vesak), Hari Raya Puasa (the Muslim festival marking the end of Ramadan), and today is the Hindu Festival of Diwali (Deepavali). The festival gets its name from the lights that are lit during the Festival which symbolize the inner light that protects us from spiritual darkness. It is also a time where Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, bestows blessings and abundance on her faithful.

So with light all around us at the moment, I got to thinking and reflecting on the last 8 months. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you’ll be familiar with the term ‘meta-program’. When I am coaching, one of the first things I do is check the person’s motivation for change – because the function of a coach is to facilitate change. No desire for change = no coaching. And the desire or motivation to change is either away from what we don’t want, or towards what we do want.

And I think it’s fair to say that for the last 8 months my motivation has been one of ‘away from’. And this thinking pattern has kept me away from the light. It has been a time of trying to come to terms with all that is new – a new country, a new place to live, new cultures, new ways of doing business, new friends, a new school, new sports groups …

Some of the newness has been easy to embrace, but some aspects have been particularly difficult. It’s great making new friends and being welcomed into a social circle – it’s hard when those whom you love drift away because of geographical excuses. It’s exciting starting a new business, but so frustrating to realise that it’s about starting all over again. It’s amazing living in the land of efficiency, but sad to witness the effects of superficiality, transient relationships and conspicuous consumerism.

Whilst I could go on about how it feels to keep looking at what you don’t, I am instead going to share a core insight that has crept into my awareness over the last couple of days. And that is that the spiritual me has become a shadow of who it was. I seem to have lost touch with my depth, peace and calm. I’m finding it hard to meditate. My energy and health have been unsettled. I realise now how important solidity, stability, a sense of community and deep roots are to me. And that one day, somewhere, I will recreate the external stuff. The first step is to realise that focusing on the ‘but’, the ‘away from’, and the ‘difference’ has taken me away from my internal roots.

One of my closest friends who relocated to Australia keeps reminding me that the difference is the motivation, and that moving literally means that it cannot be the same. But it’s a bit like having a baby. I didn’t really understand it until I went through it.

So with that awareness now on paper, what I ask for today on this Festival of Lights is for the mental strength to cultivate a deep sense of inner peace, acceptance of what is – and the discipline to cultivate living in the present. And to look forward instead of back. I also ask for enormous patience to keep putting one small step in front at a time, not worrying about the outcome, but knowing that I am doing all I can to move forward. To celebrate each victory.

So what do I have to look forward to?

I have some great potential work projects and associations in the pipeline for next year. I am thinking of starting another division with LEAD (my coaching practice), called Leading Ladies – focussing on Leadership skills and empowerment for women. And to run a few public workshops for women who have wings they have not yet discovered.

In 10 days time, my husband and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary in Pangkor Laut – a bucket list item for a long time. And in 6 weeks time, we will be winging our way home to celebrate the holidays with our beloved friends and family.

Travel to Vietnam and Cambodia with my amazing family are on the list for next year, as well as a little trip to Australia with a new friend (and to see an old friend).

I intend doing my PCC certification (an International Coach Federation accreditation), and bring Meta-Coach training to Singapore during 2012.

But mostly, I am looking forward to turning the corner and being at peace. Yes, there are lots of special people and communities that I miss. But it’s time to look forward – time to move towards what I want to create. I’m off to go light my flame again.

Share Button

BEING – A LESSON IN SELF WORTH

I am currently coaching an amazing entrepreneur. She is successful, accomplished, organised and focussed and is on her way to building a great business. She knows her strengths, passions and skill set.  Yet she takes on more than she can handle, constantly goes out of her way to do things for others and ends up feeling overwhelmed.

Why ? Because she wants to feel needed, valuable and recognised.

If this is striking a familiar chord, you may want to know what we uncovered and how you too can change your pattern. Read on …

Many of us learn through the course of our lives that our focus ‘should’ be on performance and achievement. We are told to achieve good marks at school, that university results are critical, that we must strive for a promotion. That climbing the ladder of success is critical. And in turn, we pass this perspective on life onto our kids.

Maybe you’re thinking – “ok, so what’s the problem, success is good … or …. “Well, I want my kids to be winners, what’s so wrong with that?”

Well, there’s no problem with winning, with being successful. It’s our birthright. Self-actualisation (being the best you can be) is the whole point of the journey we call life. But if your focus is on what you do (achieve) rather than who you are, you may just spend your entire life trying to prove that you are ‘good enough’.  See, if your focus is on doing, performing and achieving – then in order to feel good about yourself you need to do more, achieve more; work harder, longer, faster.

What if we turned that equation around, and started with the premise that you are not only good enough, you are amazing. Your Being (who you really, truly are deep down inside) is miraculous, magical and unique. And if you stop to look at yourself, you know that too. Your Being is perfect. We call this unconditional positive regard. Unconditional worth.

Now your Doing (your behaviour, your skill set, your knowledge) … well sometimes that’s not so good. and so at times you may not feel confident in what you do. That’s ok. All it takes to improve a skill or a role is learning and practice. And every master started off as an eager beginner. The key here is to recognise that it’s simply an external skill, not the internal you.

The following diagram describes this relationship …

When you operate from your Being, and think of yourself as worthy and valuable, your doing will reflect that. There will be no need to prove that ‘you are good enough / knowledgeable enough / valuable enough’.

And you no longer need to DO things to prove your value, or to get validation from others.. You simply recognise your worth and value as a given. It’s all right there within you.

Share Button