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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.

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INTEGRITY. UNDERSTANDING YOUR HEAD TO LEAD FROM YOUR HEART.

A few days ago I was telling some friends that research is currently being conducted on the neuroscience of integrity. Which initiated a discussion around whether integrity can be ‘acquired’. The prevailing view was that someone is either ‘integrous’ (not a real word, I know), or they’re not.

That’s a bit black and white for me. It’s like saying someone is either born a leader. Or they’re not.

Working in the field of human development, that view would negate my very raison d’etre.

So it got me thinking …. And what I thought about was what I do and how I do it.

Most people enlist a coach because they want to change something. Or someone has suggested they change something. And that something is generally speaking, a behaviour – to listen better / be more assertive / treat people with respect / be more collaborative / be more trusting / be more authentic … it could be any number of behavioural skills.

So that’s what I do.

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HOW BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE HAPPENS

How I do it is best described by enlisting the little man in the accompanying visual.

The change people want to see can generally be measured by a change in behaviour – because it’s the only part of the system that is external. But what I don’t do is work on the behaviour. You read that right.  The reason for this is that behaviour is simply the last visible sign in a series of thoughts and attitudes. Behaviour (what we say and what we do) is preceded by the way we think (and what we feel). And changing behaviour without changing thinking is only going to generate short-term change. So it would seem to make sense to work at the level of thought.

But it’s not enough. You see, what is needed is to go up even higher – to where we form our values, beliefs, attitudes, our cultural norms – our frames of meaning.  Because they determine our thinking. So if you wanted to exhibit integrity … to be more authentic, your behaviour would have to be congruent with your frames of meaning.

As a first step, you would need to unpack your head in order to examine your beliefs and values –to determine if they’re really yours. Secondly, to choose whether they’re really right for you. And if they’re not, to decide what your optimal beliefs are. This is the process of truly understanding yourself, of building self-awareness.

Then when you understand who you are, and you know what you really believe in, it becomes easier to think about things and take a stand. So often it is hard to act with integrity because we espouse values that are not really our own. And because we do things that we have been instructed to do – without really believing in the course of action.

On reflection, whilst integrity may be classified as a combination of cognitive and perceptual skills, and  by definition can thus be learned, I think more importantly, it is a consequence of having what the Dalai Lama calls ‘a solid sense of self’. As coaches, what we do is facilitate the discovery of that knowledge of self. What we ask of our clients is that they have the courage to go there and unpack their heads, examine what’s inside, decide whether it’s really meaningful – and if it’s not, change it. Or face the risk of behaving in accordance with someone else’s beliefs.

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